Jul 14

Long John Silver Trust letter regarding proposed statue of Alexander Selkirk/Robinson Crusoe in Bristol (published in the Bristol Times, Tuesday 1st July)

Dear Eugene,

I hope you’re keeping well and not over working.

I was delighted to see in last night’s ‘Post a proposal, with funding of nearly £100k, for a Selkirk/Crusoe sculpture in Clifton marking Goldney’s friendship with Woodes Rogers.

As you know, we at the Long John Silver Trust have long campaigned for more representation of Bristol’s maritime and literary past, and this opportunity to celebrate our links with a landmark in British literature seems almost too good to be true.

If the residents of Victoria Square don’t want it though, could we please have it in Castle Park? There are already many fine works of public art there and an internationally renowned figural addition would be just the jolly job I suspect.

I know the Llandoger Trow has long claimed to be the meeting place of Selkirk and Daniel Defoe (the writer of Robinson Crusoe in 1719) but all of my research indicates another meeting place, in Castle Park!

The Scottish seaman Alexander Selkirk was the 7th son of a 7th son, but his early life was awkward and he ran away from home and joined the ill fated Darien expedition, where Scotland tried to set up its first colony strategically placed close to the isthmus of Panama – he was a lucky survivor.

He was not so lucky the next time, he set sail on Dampier and Stradling’s quest for a Spanish treasure ship and was left marooned on Juan Fernandez Island after quarreling with his shipmates over the seaworthiness of the ship he was on. He was subsequently proved right but was left to dwell on his decision for an agonising and lonely 4 years and 4 months.

He was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers’ privateering cruise which was also on a quest for treasure during the Spanish War of Succession, Dampier was now Rogers’ pilot and commended Selkirk as a sailing master and he joined Rogers’ crew immediately, playing a full role in their adventures until ultimately sharing in the spoils.

On return to Britain, Selkirk escaped the press gang and made his way to Bristol with his pal Rogers, staying first in his house in Queen Square before securing lodgings in the Cock and Bottle Inn in what is now Castle Park. According to old Bristol history books, Selkirk enjoyed his celebrity; often dressing in his goatskins and parading before the public, these books also state that he met Defoe in the Star Coffee House which was located above Bristol Castle’s old dungeon keep.

It must have been quite a contrast as Defoe wore the fashions of the day, putting on his powdered wig and lace finery and only going out on a Sunday – the only day ‘Sunday Gentleman’ could escape their creditors!

Local people gave their ‘sworn affy davy’s’ (to paraphrase Long John Silver) that Selkirk handed over his papers to Defoe and that it was these that inspired him to write Robinson Crusoe.

As for Selkirk, after staying for over a year in Bristol he had to run away again after beating up a fellow sailor in a brawl in St Stephen’s Parish.

He went back to Fife, married, brawled, ran away again, married again without divorcing his first wife, and then ran away to sea again this time joining the Royal Navy. He died of disease aboard HMS Weymouth off of the Guinea coast tracking down the world’s most successful pirate ‘Black Bart Roberts’.

So there ‘tis, if Clifton residents really don’t want him, can we all enjoy him in Castle Park? And if you don’t think Selkirk deserves another statue – there’s already a fine one of him in Lower Largo in Fife – then can we please have one of Long John Silver?



PPOB book cover (46)

Above: Dr Thomas Dover (former slave ship surgeon and captain) went as second captain on Rogers’ voyage to represent the backer’s interests. This mural is in the Glenside Museum (Dover was the first to offer his services FOC to St Peter’s hospital in 1695, the lure of money in the African Trade overcame him though)

PPOB book cover (50)

Above: Daniel Defoe (Bristol and its famous associations 1900ish)

PPOB book cover (51)

Above: The Cock and Bottle Inn (1888)

May 22

Placing Way Marks around the Treasure Island Trail May 2014

LJS Trustees placing our way marks around the Treasure Island Trail in
anticipation of the launch of the Big Green Treasure Hunt on Wednesday 21st
May 2014.

The Treasure Hunt features the whole of Bristol’s Floating Harbour and is
intended for friends and families to enjoy the whole area, by boat, cycle or
on foot.

At the centre of it is our Treasure Island Trail, and these way marks will
show you the route, allowing you to enjoy some of the history of Bristol and
Stevenson’s classic adventure, Treasure Island.

Look out for details of our free app which will bring our ethereal trail to
Click an image to enlarge:

Nov 21

Sad News of our Champion Fund Raiser – Vera

It is with great sadness that I have to report the passing of one of our greatest, if not the greatest, of our noble band of fund raisers, that of Vera Bright, sometimes known as ‘Vee’, ‘Mrs Brightness’ or just plain old ‘Lady Hyacinth’.

I can’t remember when Vera wasn’t doing her bit for the Beaufort and helping out with all of our fundraising activities, BBQ’s for PROPS, LJST, HOGS and a host of others along with the masses of produce she made, not just for our Harvest Home but also those for the Evergreens and the Fox and Hounds, Active Turmoil.

Her ploughmans and bread-and-butter puddings were legendary and always raised a mint.

Vera was always the life and soul of the party and the Beaufort couldn’t have been more pleased than when she eloped with Mr Brightness to form their happy union – comedian Johnnie Cowlin couldn’t get over it either.

Always game for a laugh, modesty prevents me from saying what she was going to do with cricketer ‘Syd’ Lawrence and she knew lots of other celebrities as well. She also had a soft spot for the Ghurka’s (“I like those little men”) and helped raise money for them, Frenchay Cardiac Support Group and a host of others.

Even though poorly she carried on helping others right to the end, God Bless Vera, to say we’ll miss you is an understatement.

Click image to enlarge …

Oct 23

‘Treasure Island Trail Update’

Throughout the past six months we’ve been in negotiations with Bristol’s new Mayoral regime and we’ve been talking to cabinet member Gus Hoyt about our Treasure Island Trail and its future. This in turn has led directly to our talking to Bristol’s Green Capital team with a view to taking part in Bristol’s Big Green week in 2014 – with a ‘Geocaching’ version of our Trail  in order to try it out and gauge people’s reactions.

All of these talks have been very fruitful and have helped to shape our minds. Gus for instance suggested we lengthen our Trail to incorporate the Merchant Venturers Almshouses at the Broad Quay House end of King Street leading us to eight locations – ‘Pieces of Eight’ if you like.

The case for this is compelling, taking advantage of the vast footfall of this area, the Almshouses were the actual ones that William Williams resided in prior to the publication of his book The Journal of Llewellyn Penrose – A Seaman which introduced to the world an encrypted pirate treasure map, way back in 1815. This concept was ‘borrowed’ by Edgar Allen Poe in his book the Gold Bug (or Gold Beetle as it was called in this country) and this in turn was borrowed by Robert Louis Stevenson for his immortal classic, Treasure Island.

This will now be added to the rest of our Trail which in itself has been tweaked to reflect Stevenson’s chapter headings rather than the picture captions we had originally. The locations of the rest of the Trail remain unaltered.

The Geocache initiative was thought up and proposed by Darren Hall of the city’s Green Team and we welcomed it with open arms. We’re now planning two caches to test the idea out and intend to follow it up for Big Green Week 2014.

In addition to our Trail we’re hoping to engage with the Ferry Boat Company for an outer circuit of caches at each of the Ferry stops and incorporating iconic Bristol attractions such as the Matthew and ss Great Britain. All containing clues leading to a prize available at somewhere like the Tourist Information Centre.

Merchant Venturers Arms

This is where the inventor of the treasure map in literature, author William Williams, saw out his days.

We’re putting all of our energies into this project and have invited our colleagues from the European Culture Route ‘In Stevenson’s Footsteps’ to come over next year to try it out. Watch this space!
Picture shows the coat of arms of the Bristol Merchant Venturers in King Street, the Almshouses to which they’re attached were built in 1699.

Sep 21

Historic Walks, Talks and Re-enactments

So far, 2013 has been a great one for historic, walks, talks and re-enactments.

The Long John Silver Trust has been involved in many things ranging from Medieval re-enactment on the Matthew to helping promote Pirates of Penzance at the Bristol Hippodrome for Scottish Opera and Promenade Productions. We also helped Knowle West Media Group with their work on the Temple Development Zone as history consultants.

Our bread and butter however is talking to people either in their meeting rooms or taking them around and about Old Bristol. We can even do readings of Treasure Island in costume, the highlight being our participation in the RLS Club’s celebration of Stevenson last year (2012) at the Scottish Portrait Gallery actually on RLS Day – 23rd November.

We’ve given talks all over the West and topics range from Pirates and Privateers out of Bristol to Bristol’s Reforming Women (others include the anti-slavery campaigners Wulfstan and Clarkson, the Knife and Fork Man [Charles Redrupp] and the Clevedon Car Man [Richard Stevens]).

Please get in touch if any of the talks interest you, all proceeds go to the LJS Trust.

The picture below is a water colour sketch of LJST vice chairman Prof ‘Billy Bones’ Fairney (as Blind Pew) and LJST secretary Mark ‘Long John’ Steedsy (as Silver). The sketch was done by Sam Kendon after our appearance at St Michaels-on-the-mount-without Primary School in Bristol.

Blind Pew and LJS (Bill and Mark)

Apr 28

Long John Whisky Bottle Donations

Long John Whisky BottleAfter a few years on the Beaufort Arms bar collecting pennies and shillings the lovely Sue and trustee Dave (not quite so lovely) counted a massive £195.61p in treasure from our L. J. whisky bottle.

The booty will be added to our buccaneering funds as soon as possible. This follows on from our previous bottle which some scallywag nicked from the bar when it was last full.

Many thanks to Dave and Sue.

Nov 21

‘Local History Book Fair’ at Bristol Records Office

This Saturday (24th November 2012) Bristol Records Office is hosting a ‘Bristol Local History Book Fair’ event in ‘B’ Bond Warehouse.

Old and new books will be for sale from a range of your favourite local publishers, and they will be complemented by four talks from local authors. Two of them will be conducted by members of the Long John Silver Trust.

Vice-Chairman Prof. ‘Billy Bones’ Fairney will be taking a rest from starring in Edinburgh as Ben Gunn and talking about another great love of his life, engineering, and Secretary ‘Long John Steedsy’ will be talking about Pirates and Privateers out of Bristol (please see poster below).

Thanks to our Chairman Gerry Brooke for getting the event highlighted in Tuesday’s Bristol Times supplement of the Post (Gerry’s editor of said tome) and to Radio Bristol’s Steve Yabsley, who featured Bill on his lunchtime show on Monday.

If you would like to hear Steve’s brilliant interview with Bill, please go to the Radio Bristol ‘BBC iPlayer’ for Monday 19th November and go about 30 minutes into the programme – you’ll enjoy it.

If you want the real thing or get some early Christmas prezzies, please come along on Saturday, it’ll be great to see you there.

Nov 20

Robert Louis Stevenson Day – 13th November 2012

RLS Day 2012 (Tuesday 13th November) saw members of the Long John Silver Trust catch the red-eye special from Bristol Airport to Edinburgh to take part in a marathon reading of Treasure Island.

Our friends in the RLS Club of Edinburgh were celebrating the anniversary of Stevenson’s birthday by doing an all-day reading of his ‘breakthrough’ classic in the foyer of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Star readers for the day were RLS enthusiasts Nigel Planer and John Sessions along with Scottish actor John ‘Jack’ Shedden and other doyens of the RLS Club.

We each took 12 minute chapters edited by the days supremo Jeremy Hodges who had made all the arrangements with the able assistance of Ailene Hunter and Gillean Arjat amongst others. We started at 10am and Jack Shedden finished the event (with a final flourish) at 5pm.

The reason Jeremy had chosen the fantastic location of the foyer of the Portrait Gallery was because it contained the magnificent  bust of RLS himself created by Stevenson’s cousin.

Not only that but the Portrait Gallery also features a copy of Rodin’s famous depiction of William Ernest Henley. As Stevenson buffs know, Gloucester born Henley was an inspiration’s for one of Stevenson’s most memorable (and complex) character’s, Long John Silver.

Myself, as Long John Steedsy, and the Prof, ‘Billy Bones’ Fairney, reprised our roles as narrators of Treasure Island but this time to Jeremy’s fine script. As you can see in the attached pictures, Bill once again steals the show as Ben Gunn.

All of the readers were on fine form and it was an honour and pleasure to be part of such a great day, remembering one of the world’s greatest authors.

Happy birthday Lewis!
Click on an image to enlarge:

Nov 16

Long John Silver Trust holds great store in its charity remit

The Long John Silver Trust holds great store in its charity remit of being educational and to this end regularly conducts an abridged version of Treasure Island to interested parties.

Our most recent outing came in October 2012 when we performed to the 9 and 10 year old students of St Michaels on the Mount Primary School, Bristol.

LJST friend (and doyen of Bristol Pubs Group), local architect Sam Kendon, was keen on us bringing our brand of piracy to his daughters school and after an age of trying we managed to pull it off.

After our rendition of T. I. we held a question and answer session and were staggered at the knowledge of the youngsters.

Sam subsequently has sent us a brilliant picture of Blind Pew and Long John with the following legend on the back: – “Many thanks for doing the Treasure Island gig, I’m sorry it took so long to fix up but it went down well in the end. I was impressed how much some of them knew. As I often am. Yo ho ho! Sam”

Sam’s picture shows LJST Vice-Chairman ‘Billy Bones’ Fairney and Secretary Long John ‘Steedsy’ in full flow.