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Busy Weekends Too!

I am about to begin a run of five fully booked weeks. That means visiting 25 different schools all over Yorkshire and beyond, as six different characters. Still, that hasn’t stopped me visiting the past during the last two weekends too.

Last weekend I was back in 1647 being a New Model Army soldier in Hampton Court Palace guarding King Charles – as in making sure he didn’t escape.

Here I am firing my musket as part of our drill session. I reckon the photographer must have the fastest finger in the world to catch this particular moment! (Thanks John Beardsworth – see https://www.facebook.com/john.beardsworth.56)


And here I am reading the Soldiers’ Catechism to enlighten my comrades as to why they are fighting, what makes them good soldiers and how they can be more godly. (It made a change from complaining about arrears of pay!)


Then this weekend, today in fact, I went back a little further into the past to 1605, becoming Guy Fawkes at Sandal Castle, explaining all the details of our very carefully worked out and – hopefully – fool-proof plot to rid England of the Scottish tyrant King James and put the world right again.


It was a great chance to practise how exactly to describe all thirteen plotters and a plan involving everything from gunpowder to galloping horses, kidnapping princesses and inviting Spanish soldiers to come to English Catholics’ assistance. The crowd seemed to enjoy all the grisly bits too! (It was a Halloween event so my descriptions seemed entirely appropriate!)


Now all I have to do is keep my voice working until December. Oh, and remember all about the Gunpowder Plot, the Civil War, Drake’s Circumnavigation of the globe, the Great Fire of London and every pirate from Morgan to Blackbeard, and more besides.

I still have a couple of days available in December, and loads up for grabs in 2016. To see which of my characters you might like to visit your school, please take a look at my page of Characters. That page includes links to describe each character in more detail. I hope to hear from you.

Shivering Those Timbers!

The start of the term has been a busy one for several of my characters: Sir William Petty has been telling the story of the Great Fire to rapt audiences, John ‘Swift Nicks’ Nevison has had to hide himself from the hue and cry in a number of schools already, and Captain Burwash has been preparing for a new cruise.

On Thursday the pirate captain managed to find a company of scholarly and artistic children to help his preparations. In return for tales of piratical derring do, and a chance to see the captain’s possessions and weapons, such as learning how to load a musket and scrutinizing the numbers, words and pictures on fifty stolen pieces of eight, the children were happy to work for the captain. They designed new jolly rogers, much scarier than the one Burwash’s friend had painted, and they made a great pile of advertisements for a crew, with a big picture of Burwash in the middle.

Here you can see Burwash posing for the portrait on the advertisement. He was not sure how to stand but in the end thought that as he was recruiting in Hull he might as well have a tankard in his hand, for he reckoned he often would.


The children wanted to know how he planned to find his way around the West Indies and along the Spanish Main, so he showed them one of his maps. It turned out that although the children were dressed as every species of pirate – from buccaneers to privateers, from Sally Rovers to Flibustiers – they only knew four of the thirty two winds on a compass. The captain began to wonder if it was possible that they were really land-lubbers in disguise.

Showing the Way

The children had a LOT of questions – so many that the captain decided he could stay a whole week and still not answer them all. They asked about all sorts, even his hat. After telling them all about his very fashionable tricorne, he admitted that very few sailors and pirates wore them at sea, mainly because they were likely to blow away in the wind. Then he showed them the sort of hat much more usually worn by English seafarers.

A Sailor's Hat

It was not the sort of hat the children expected to see. It seems pictures in books and reality can be quite different.

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, click here.

To see which of my other characters you might like to visit your school, have a look at my page of Characters. Or click on the highwayman to find out more about John Nevison, or click on the Great Fire of London to find out more about Sir William Petty.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Weekenders too!

This weekend I had great fun delivering two different characters at two different castles. On Saturday I was at Pontefract Castle being the Colonel Sir Richard Lowther, governor during the first and second sieges of Pontefract castle 1644-1645. The wind blew my tent away but not my hat (I buried under a weight blanket), and I told my many stories about events at the castle during the wars ‘al fresco’.

On Sunday I told an audience ranging from about three to seventy three years in age all about the Great Fire of London in the visitors centre at Sandal Castle.

It was another chance to use my new, improved 1658 map of London, although I had other maps to show also …


My session was mentioned on the Sandal Community Association Facebook page and I was very glad to read the comment how children loved it. The adults told me they enjoyed it too!

I am now taking bookings for the Autumn school term (although I still have bookings coming in for this term too). To see which of my characters you might like to visit your school, please take a look at my page of Characters. I hope to hear from you.

Pirateering Again!

Armed with my new waistcoat (‘clothes maketh the man’) I recently visited Highfield Prep school where I met with a crew of sea rovers and scurvy scallywags, seasoned with a smattering of privateers and buccaneers. I spent the day telling them all about my adventures at sea, and showing them all sorts of artifacts that pirates like to use.

I told them some scary stories about Blackbeard, let them all study a pile of pieces of eight, and demonstrated more weapons than, frankly, a man should really attempt to carry – a grenado, musket, pistols, cutlass, boarding axe, roundshot, chainshot, etc.

As so often happens, it turned out that one of the petty pirates was a bold sort of lad, and willing to test my mettle in the deadly business of a pistol duel. Well, what could I do? I could hardly stay captain if I proved so cowardly as to refuse! Thus it was I showed the lad in question what he needed to do (which I think was very kind of me considering the circumstances) …


And then the duel commenced!


Luckily the two of us proved to be appalling shots and we both missed. Glad to be alive we decided to be friends again and put our differences behind us.

All in all we had a lovely day, and only the other day I received a bundle of letters thanking me for visiting and telling me what their favourite parts of the day were.

Since then I have managed to get even more things for my pirate character, including black leather belt and baldrick (it’s the details that count), and I have even sewed up a brand new shirt too. I reckon soon I’ll be the fanciest pirate this side of New Providence.

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, click here.


A Lot More Than Nine Stitches

I have just completed another sewing project for my characters – this time a sleeved waistcoat for my pirate Captain Burwash. As always I ensured it got done by setting a deadline – before my school visit tomorrow. Thus the task involved several 2 am bedtimes! I am happy with how it turned out.

I wanted a waistcoat just like that of an early 18th century sailor. I did some research and these were the sort of images I found.


This was years ago! Two years passed before I could find the cloth – woven-in blue and white stripes, 100% linen. Then many more months passed whilst I let other jobs get in the way.But last week I finally began (during a temporary lull in bookings.) And as of midnight yesterday …


It does have the shape of the first picture, but it doesn’t really hang on a hanger in such a way as to show it. I am very happy with it, and admit I will be a little bit excited to wear it tomorrow (as I usually am when I make something new).

I had fun converting my only ‘pattern’ for a coat – four constituent shapes taken from a late 17th century coat and from which I have converted every coat and waistcoat since. Cutting a pattern from striped fabric was new to me. It was easier in some ways, more difficult in others. I made it in one of the ways clothes were made back then: each piece was made separate (front and lining sewn together as one). 8 pieces in all, sewed inside out then turned right way out. Then I joined it all up by sewing the inside seams (the lining), then sewed the outside seams, then sewed the edges all around. All by hand, and all with real linen thread. If you’re going to go to all this effort, might as well use all the right materials.

I then sewed the button holes by sewing 24 little lines in pairs, allowing me to cut between them and have a gap that would not fray while I sewed the button hole stitch. I am very proud of my button holes. Here is one …


I am now itching to do some more sewing. Maybe some new shirts are in order?

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, click here.