By Connie Leinbach
A Hyde County commissioner thinks the so-called Blackbeard’s flag figure of a skeletal Satan projects the wrong image when an EMS vehicle arrives at an emergency.
“We have heart attack victims; we have people sick,” said Commissioner Benjamin Simmons III at the Aug. 2 meeting, which is available for viewing on the Hyde County Public Information Facebook page. “The last thing we need on any of our emergency vehicles or websites, in my opinion, is a devil with a piercing heart. It’s disturbing to me.”
The EMS logo includes the Hyde County seal, a drawing of the Mattamuskeet Lodge and the image of a skeletal devil with a sword aimed at a red heart.
“I think it’s important that when someone shows up to save a life not to have a patch with a devil sticking to their arm,” Simmons said.
Simmons asked that the image be modified by the end of the year.
Hyde County Manager Kris Noble said the emblem represents Ocracoke since Blackbeard has history here, and Ocracoke’s Commissioner Randal Mathews said it’s a theme on the island and that many sport this flag with this image.
While a motion passed to remove the image and replace it with something else, such as the lighthouse, the commissioners asked Noble to come up with cost estimates for changing the emblems for the September meeting.
Noble said in an interview that Justin Gibbs, the previous EMS director, developed the logo more than four years ago. The emblem, in the form of a sleeve patch, is on a lot of shirts, she said, but the latest batch of sweatshirts and T-shirts ordered does not include the emblem, only text.
She said she will meet with Emergency Services Director David White to research the total cost of changing the emblem.
Noble told the commissioners that Blackbeard flew this flag more than 300 years ago, but this is a popular misconception, according to North Carolina historian Kevin Duffus.
“The popular Blackbeard flag flown today was never Blackbeard’s flag, according to irrefutable evidence,” Duffus said in a piece he wrote exclusively for the Ocracoke Observer. “Absolutely no record from Blackbeard’s time described his flag as having a two-horned skeleton holding an hourglass and a spear or dart pointed at a bleeding heart.”
A writer, Ralph Delahaye Paine, his 1911 book, The Book of Buried Treasure: Being a True History of the Gold, Jewels, and Plate of Pirates, Galleons, Etc., which are Sought for to this Day was the first writer to describe the flag that is today attributed to Blackbeard, Duffus says.
Witnesses and others have said, according to Duffus’s research, that Blackbeard simply hoisted a black flag with a skull in the center.
Noble said the public is welcome to comment by leaving a voicemail at 252-926-5288 or by going to https://forms.gle/qWzxU8EXfaQDahWp6 and filling out the form.