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By Bailey Herndon
British Naval Officer Lt. Robert Maynard had a big role in the Blackbeard saga, and it’s high time he got more recognition, says Ocracoke Preservation Society.
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the day on which Maynard killed Blackbeard on Nov. 22, 1718, off Ocracoke marking the end of the “Golden Age of Piracy.”
“Everything that can be said about Blackbeard has been said and done about Blackbeard…and then some,” said Ruth Toth, an OPS board member and chair of “The Battle of Ocracoke 1718,” a Thanksgiving event intended to highlight the British role.
The three-day event from Nov. 21 to 23 will be a solemn remembrance of the Royal Navy sailors sent 300 years ago on a king’s errand to vanquish Blackbeard.
Toth hopes the event will restore a balance in this story in which the myth of Blackbeard has been over emphasized.
In her view, the significance of these sailors who died in the effort to defeat Blackbeard, who was considered a criminal, has been overshadowed.
“We have festivals in Blackbeard’s honor but then I realized that we had British sailors who were on a mission trying to enforce a law,” Toth said. “There is so much romanticizing of pirates that we forget they were criminals. If we lost even one law enforcement officer today on this island in trying to apprehend a criminal, would we be holding festivals in honor of that criminal?”
Toth hosted an OPS Porch Talk in June about the significance of the British—both the lost British sailors and those of Blackbeard’s crew who presumably were buried somewhere on Ocracoke. Superstitious sailors would not have allowed corpses to float about, and “they were most likely buried in shallow graves on Ocracoke, along with the 12 dead pirates, including Black Beard (minus his head, of course),” notes historian Kevin Duffus in his book “The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate.”
Toth described the upcoming event to which several British embassy officials and some Sussex (UK) Military College representatives have been invited.
The event will include an oyster roast dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 21, a memorial service followed by a tea on Thursday, Nov. 22, and a pig pickin’ farewell on Friday, Nov. 23.
This 300th anniversary falls on Thanksgiving Day and local families are inviting the British to join them in their Thanksgiving dinners.
“Even though it’s not a British holiday, we figured they would enjoy dinner with the local families more than just going out to a restaurant,” Toth said.
Toth said she wants to see a local kid dress up like Lt. Robert Maynard on Halloween instead of Blackbeard.
“My goal is to recognize both sides,” she said. “Pirates are fun. I don’t hate pirates or anything, but it just feels like there is an unbalanced view on this event,” Toth said.
The OPS is seeking sponsors for the celebration. For details, visit www.ocracokepreservation.org.
“We have received very good response from people willing to be patrons,” Toth said, but anyone wishing to help can contribute by sending a check to the OPS, P.O. Box 1240, Ocracoke, NC 27960, or visit www.preserveocracoke.org.
Bailey Herndon, a UNC Chapel Hill sophomore, was a summer intern this year for the Ocracoke Observer.