Jack Rackham was born in Bristol on December 26th, 1682. He started his piratical career as a quartermaster to the notoriously villainous Captain Charles Vane. He led the mutiny that removed Vane from captaincy, making Rackham the new Captain.
Rackham adopted the nickname ‘Calico Jack’ because of his flamboyant attire coloured with bright dyes from India. He is most remembered for his famous ‘Skull and Cross Swords’ Jolly Roger design and his controversial female crew members.
Captain Calico Jack has since provided a source of inspiration for many popular characters in film and literature (including the one and only Captain Jack Sparrow) however in reality this buccaneer wasn’t quite as brave and charismatic.
Calico Jack actually spent a lot of time in the Caribbean, sailing between Jamaica and Bermuda, attacking tiny fishing boats because his crew were starved and not powerful enough to attack bigger ships.
In 1720, a pirate hunter called Jonathan Barnet, led the British Navy in a search for Rackham. When they located Calico Jack at Bry Harbour Bay, Anne Bonny and Mary Read (his two female crew members) were the only ones aboard the ship that put up a fight. Jack and the rest of his crew hid below decks drunk.
After his capture, Anne Bonny was disgusted with his cowardliness and let him hang famously saying ‘If you fought like a man, you needn’t have to die like a dog’. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were found guilty of piracy too but pardoned because they both claimed to be with child. On November 18th, 1720 Calico Jack was hung at Port Royal in Jamaica, his body then gibbeted on display on a small islet now known as Rackham’s Cay.