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Sheppey Pirates invade new rugby club home

By John Nurden

Sheppey Pirates celebrate their 25th anniversary with a free Pitch Party at Sheppey Rugby Club today (Saturday).

Leader Captain Cutlass, alias Adrian Collins, admitted: "Obviously, it's not quite as we had planned but we promise there will be lots of silly fun and a stage full of live bands to entertain everyone."

The buccaneers were going to celebrate their silver anniversary at Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, with their usual giant water fight and pirates' landing which has attracted thousands of youngsters over the years.

Captain Cutlass leads the Sheppey Pirates ias they invade Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness (3350812)
Captain Cutlass leads the Sheppey Pirates ias they invade Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness (3350812)

But their plans were scuppered at the last minute when Mandy Shade, who runs the boathouse, cancelled the event.

After frantic phone calls, Sheppey Rugby Club came to the rescue and offered their ground for the birthday bash.

The fun kicked off last night with a free open-air showing of the 1985 film The Goonies funded by SEAL - the Sheerness Enhancement Association for Leisure.

Gates open today at 11am with music from 1pm.

The day features a pirates "living history" encampment and stalls.

Sheppey Pirates sword-fight. Photo: James Medhurst (3431968)
Sheppey Pirates sword-fight. Photo: James Medhurst (3431968)

Cutlass said: "We will have some new games like the Hammock Run and our usual sword-fighting displays.

"We are hoping to stage musket firing and bring out our cannon but that depends on the weather. If the grass is still tinder dry we will have to make other arrangements.

"I don't think the rugby club would approve if we set fire to their pitch!"

Sheppey Pirates cannon-firing. Photo: James Medhurst (3431970)
Sheppey Pirates cannon-firing. Photo: James Medhurst (3431970)

The bands include The Mystery Machine, White Diamonds, More Than Human, Smokin' Mavericks, The First Order, The What if Generation and Shaken Albert who made their public debut at the festival last year and are now headlining.

Tracy Topsom of radio station BRfm and Scurvy Dog the Sea Scribe will be comperes.

Admission is free. There will be collections for the pirates' charity the RNLI.

The pitch must be cleared on Sunday to make way for a christening.

Parking

There is parking on site but organisers have asked visitors to arrive by foot if possible as the Lower Road is notoriously busy on Saturdays with much holiday traffic heading towards Leysdown at the eastern end of the Island. The event also coincides with a regular Saturday morning boot fair in a nearby field.

They have also warned visitors to take hats, sun cream and bottles of water as temperatures are expected to soar today and there is little shade

Swashbuckling History

Computer expert Adrian Collins - the first and only Captain Cutlass who was picked to lead the Sheppey Pirates in 1997 (3350500)
Computer expert Adrian Collins - the first and only Captain Cutlass who was picked to lead the Sheppey Pirates in 1997 (3350500)

Computer expert Adrian Collins was picked to "play" Captain Cutlass after a public search for a piratical sea captain to become the "face" of the Island's first World Walking The Plank championships.

The five-point selection procedure was rigorous.

Voice. Must be able to carry blood-curdling threats over long distances.

Beard. All candidates must be able to wear a beard – colour optional.

Vocabulary. Provisional pirates should be able to use and understand terms such as: “Avast Ye Swabs”; “Shiver Me Timbers”; “Splice The Mainbrace”; “Raise the Jolly Roger”; “Blistering Barnacles”; “Fix Me Some Grog”; “Yo-ho-ho” and “Ahoy Me Hearties.”

Leadership. Must be able to lead a motley crew into battle; organise raiding parties; and force unwilling prisoners to walk the plank.

Swash-buckling. Demonstration of varied swash-buckling techniques with a selection of weapons including cutlass, blunderbuss, cat o’ nine tails and Captain Blood’s Duster (otherwise known as Mrs Blood’s washing-up cloth).

The first battle was held off Neptune Jetty, Sheerness, on Sunday, August 17, 1997, and was won by mum-of-two Joanne Kavanagh from Minster.

The first World Walking The Plank Championships in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in 1997 (3350497)
The first World Walking The Plank Championships in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in 1997 (3350497)

The Sheppey Pirates were formed a year later when the championships moved to Queenborough Harbour.

Champion "plankers" included Peter Marchington, Heini 'Mad Dane' Nielsen, Lord Swale (Alan Phillips), Mad Mike Young, Long John Lenton and Andy Hay.

Captain Cutlass and Heini The Mad Dane Nielsen, the 2003 World Walking The Plank champion. Pic: John Nurden 07831 486436 (3431954)
Captain Cutlass and Heini The Mad Dane Nielsen, the 2003 World Walking The Plank champion. Pic: John Nurden 07831 486436 (3431954)
Long John Lenton takes the plunge off the Salty Sea Pig during the 2010 World Walking the Plank Championships on Sheppey (3431960)
Long John Lenton takes the plunge off the Salty Sea Pig during the 2010 World Walking the Plank Championships on Sheppey (3431960)

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