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The (Short) History of Mission the Pirate Surgeon

Pyracy in the Beginning

My interest in pirates go back a long way. My first exposure to them that I can recall was from MPC's Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean skeleton models came out in the 70s. I was six or seven and that was the perfect time for Disney to strike. As I recall it today, my favorites were Dead Man's Raft (below left) and Fate of the Mutineers (right). Of course, I either didn't have the money or couldn't find them, so I bought other models, only one of which has survived to this day. (I have since bought some of them from eBay and had my pirate reenacting friend Dan Needham recondition and paint them for me.) My interest in pirates waxed and waned over the years. By 2002, I had acquired dozens of books on the topic in various fits and starts over the years.

POTC Dead Man's Raft model POTC Fate of the Mutineers Model

Pyracy in the On-line World

Sometime in 2002, it occurred to me to search for info on-line about one of my favorite pirates: Captain Misson. This ultimately led me to a pirate forum: www.piratesinfo.com where I hung around posting questions and getting involved in reading history related to the pirates until they made me a moderator at the site. It was here that I first learned that Captain Misson was most likely not based in fact at all, but was a fictional creation of the author of The General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates. I did a great deal of historical research during my tenure at that forum. You'll find links to some of the material I wrote during that period on the Pirate Miscellanea Page.

I also have a goofy side, leading me to undertake a bunch of goofy pirate projects. The piratesinfo site received many posts, clearly from school children, fishing for information they could steal to put into school reports without having to do any actual research. I found this funny, so I created the 1000 Word Do-It-Yourself Pirate Report that worked along the lines of those Mad Magazine features where you can choose from a variety of words and phrases embedded in the document to create a :"standard" report. It's hard to explain, but I promise you'll get a giggle out of it, so feel free to check it out for yourself via the above link.

 Chris Condent's Flag               Rackham Jack's Flag
Pirate Flags...both inaccurate representations of real flags as it turns out. Alas. (You can read more about pirate flags in my Memento Mori article.) These are the alleged Christopher Condent and "Calico" Jack Rackham flags.

Pyracy in the Re-Enacting World

Mission the Surgeon at PiP 2007
Me as barber-surgeon "Mission"at PiP '07
In 2004, I migrated to another piracy forum (pyracy.com) on the advice of my virtual friend (and fellow author) Ed Foxe. Ed has since gone on to get his doctorate in history, specializing in piracy. (I may be a surgeon of pirates, but Ed is a doctor of pirates! OK, that's enough about Ed.) The Pyracy.com forums are mostly devoted to people who re-enact pyracy which was something I had never even contemplated.

At the same time, being heavily involved in haunted house prop and room designs for decades, my pirate art first began to appear in a Halloween homage to pyracy for the Wyandotte Jaycees in 2006 - the Undead Pirates Haunted House Room. My love of props eventually lead to a Gibbeted Skeleton Prop Bucky and his Gibbeted Bride Becky that now reside at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, FL (Lucky buckies.) There's a detailed explanation on how to create your own rotting pirates you will find via those links (and who wouldn't want to do that?) These weird art projects culminated (well, so far) in my Pirate-Themed Living Room. (Every room in my house has a theme based on some facet of my life to date. It's a giant art project.)

Meanwhile, after having hung around on the re-enactor forum for three years, I decided in 2007 to take a giant flying leap into the world of pyrate re-enacting. My first Pirate Surgeon re-enactment was in Key West in 2007 at the Pirates in Paradise Festival which took place in Fort Zachary Taylor. This was an existential cry against the darkness. Long ago, an endocrinologist had told me that I would probably live to at least age 25 with diabetes. I decided I would prove him wrong and live to be 40. When my 40th year arrived in 2007, it called for a new direction: re-enacting!

Pyracy in the Surgeon's Journals World

Choosing to reenact a surgeon and being one who was well-bred (at least that's what I tell myself), I decided to stay in a hotel, eschewing the free camping at the Fort. (If God had wanted man to camp, he wouldn't have created mosquitoes... and dirt.) This gave me internet access which allowed me to see this post on the Pyracy Pub leading to my first written Surgeon's Journal - a tongue-in-cheek account of what happened there. When I returned home, people at the event began posting wonderful photos from the event. With permission, I took those and my written narrative and produced the first Surgeon's Journal on my web site. It proved to be more popular than I had expected which led to my creating a Journal for many of the re-enactments I attended

I learned through my research that all navy surgeons and many merchant ship's surgeons were required to keep journals during the GAoP, further connecting me to my character. By way of proof, I offer this bit of text from John Atkins' 1742 book The Navy Surgeon (unlike my normal typos, those contained in this quote have the original spelling preserved - so it's not my fault - this time.)

Jacquest Guillemeau's book cover "The next Thing to a Surgeons doing his Duty on Board, is to keep a Journal by way of Proof, how and when such were slain, with a more particular Detail of the far greater Numbers that escape; Lediard calls it a Diary of his Practice, the most copious Method to expend Paper, to which if a little Regard be had to its Softness, 'tis all that's wanted.

They are then, for Family Use well fit,
For whoso eats and lives must S__t.

Every Navy Warrant directs two; one to be delivered to the Masters and Wardens of Surgeons Company, at the End of a Voyage, producing Certificates thereof to the Treatise of the Navy before Wages can be received, wherein a Surgeon must mind all the Time be included, to which the Ships are paid, signifyd to them in the Title Page; if a Month short, the Wages for that Month will be stopped till renewed." (Atkins, Introduction p. 17-8)

As you can see, even the otherwise serious Atkins flashes a glint of humor in regard to journaling. I further learned that many surgeons, accustomed to writing for their sustenance, also kept accounts of the flora, fauna and cities they visited while traveling the high seas. This was akin to my journals. Sort of. My material is absurd and often foolish, hearkening more to MAD Magazine than the surgical journals of yore, but you get what you pay for. The Masters and Wardens of the Surgeons Company would no doubt have thrown me out on my ear had I turned my written labors into them. However, some of the populace seems to enjoy them for their loony merits. Maybe you will too.

I continued to write the Surgeon's Journal accounts of reenactments through 2014; you will find the list of them on the Pirate Surgeon's Goofy Event Journals Page.

Pyracy in the Research World

From trying to properly reenact the surgeon's role on a pirate ship, I became consumed with interest about surgery in the Golden Era of Piracy (around the turn of the 18th century.) In 2009 I decided to publish some of the things I had learned via a variety of period surgical Jacquest Guillemeau's book cover
Photo: Red Jessi
Me Writing in Key West
manuals and sailor's accounts. My fellow reenactors showed interest in the subjects, so I started putting together researched articles on the topic and publishing them here. (Having received BSEE and MBA degrees, I learned through repeated practice about writing research papers - something many of my teachers told me I have a knack for doing.) With help from some other historical pirate researchers, I began to hone my writing technique, while still putting bits of humor in here and there. (I can't help myself.)

I am currently reading, sorting, sifting, and re-organizing both contemporary and modern materials in an effort to create a worthy reference for would-be pirate surgeons. These articles (note that they are not blogs - they are articles) can be found the A Pirate Surgeon's Instruments and Procedures Page. I use period sources in preference to modern ones, having learned over time about how modern interpretation of the sources has at times garbled or misinterpreted the original comments and ideas. I quote the sources as fully as is appropriate using the original spelling and punctuations with inline explanations placed in square brackets. I make sure to footnote quotes in each section to make further research possible for those interested. The (unfortunately incomplete) Bibliography for the website can be seen here.

As the volume of articles here has increased, I have been asked many times by writers and media producers about how to cite my material. A Proper MLA Citing would be:

Kehoe, Mark C., "Article Title", http://www.piratesurgeon.com, Date Month Year Accessed

Questions? Comments? You can reach me via . (If you can't see a link there, you need to enable Java.) If you have a question about something specific, please make sure to let me know what you were reading that raised the question so I can better address it.