I marvelled at what little was left of the great Captain Jack Birdy in this penitent man. He began washing himself in the way Turks do before prayer. As we entered the citadel Captain Jack looked up to its spiralling minarets and squinted.
“You know, Will. Five years ago to this day I became Muslim in this very citadel, in the Djemat El-Kabir you see over there.” “That was your choice, Captain Jack, and I will not say it does not vex me. For Christ be the Savior of the world and I feel your heart knows this, as does every gentleman in his core.” “Mate, the innards of a man are known only to God and the fish who eat them. What I have seen on the high seas, the wars between Pope and Crown, and how they could give each other quarter but could afford me no pardon. I want none from them.”
It is the greatest irony that Captain Jack was seen as the most notorious renegade and traitor of England, yet he believed himself grassed by his country. His scowl of disgust quickly turned to a devilish smirk.
“William, will you join me? Here is where all journeymen such as yourself and I find themselves peace.” “Pray to Whom you pray, Captain Jack. I will pray to Whom I pray for your salvation.” “And I for yours. Very well.”
I waited for Captain Jack as he repeatedly bowed and prostrated like a Turk. Looking around at the splendour of the Sultans I marvelled at how they had not yet taken the world from end to end. The thought of supping with the nobles and elite of Tunis made me pang with hunger. They were to have yet another lavish party for me as they did thrice before. I could not tire from their scrumptious wheat middling, succulent roasts and glistening fruits, the likes of which I have never seen. As my mind immersed in a leg of lamb, Captain Jack emerged with a grin and a strange glow.
“Come, Will. Supper will be served shortly.” “This isn’t going to be like the party Yusuf Dey had for Simon the Dancer last year is it?”14 “That is not something to be a rib-ticklin’ about, mate. What happened to Simon Danseker is of no coziness to me or my men, but it was a debt paid. Simon would have had us all hangin’ from the yardarm and feedin’ the fish. He chose his way, savvy?” “Aye, Captain. Pardon the jest.”
I had to quickly change the subject for it appeared that I had incensed the Captain. There was something about which I dearly wanted to hear: The little known and undocumented journeys of Captain Jack in the unchartered waters of the Western seas.
“Tell me of this proclamation for your capture that mentions ‘piratical activity in the West Indies.’15 I have a copy of it with me.” “I have no need to see it. I lived it. The Caribbean. Knowing of Sir Francis Drake’s fortunes therewithal, the young scallywag that I was, I wanted to plunder those seas…and I did…quite well.”
As intriguing as this was, and as I was possibly the first person to get true details regarding his journeys in the Caribbean, for some reason I couldn’t get over his obsession with the little birds I had witnessed in the aviary only a few hours before.
“At least now I know why they call you ‘Birdy’.” “William, do you know what they translate ‘Birdy’ to here? `Asfur. Some locals jokingly call me Jack `Asfur. Jack Sparrow. What an utterly stupid name. I guess that’s what I’ll be remembered as, eh?” “I think not, Captain Jack. If they tell stories about you, they will most definitely not call you Captain Jack Sparrow.”
We approached the gate and as Captain Jack’s companions, all once Christian, all renegades turned Turk, drew the bridge for us to enter and greeted us with much merriment, the Captain turned to me with the smirk of that fiend whom I thought was all but forgotten.
“Shall I tell you about the Pirates of the Caribbean?”
Fascinating article about the real Captain Jack Sparrow fictionalised in the popular film series ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. A few interesting points about the real Jack Sparrow:
- His real name was Captain Jack Ward and he was also known as Jack Birdy.
- He was on the run from the church when he converted to Islam in the late 16th Century.
- His entire crew also converted to Islam with him.
- Captain Jack Birdy was obsessed with little birds during his time in Tunisia (where he fled). So much that the locals would call him Jack Asfur, asfur being Arabic for sparrow. This is where the name Captain Jack Sparrow comes from.
- His Muslim name was Yusuf Reis
- He was married to another renegade from Christendom who also converted to Islam, Jessimina the Sicilian.
- Whilst Captain Jack Birdy was known as a great drunkard, he stopped drinking alcohol when he converted to Islam.
- He was instrumental in rescuing thousands of Spanish Jews and Muslims fleeing their expulsion from their lands in the 16th and 17th centuries.