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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. 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 general historical research on pirates there, the best of which find on the Other Pirate and Pirate Surgeon Topics Page. I also have a goofy side, leading me to undertake a bunch of bizarre pirate projects like my 1000 Word Do-It-Yourself Pirate Report. This was inspired by Mad Magazine articles that allowed you to pick from a variety of words in a standard document to create a :"typical" report. It's hard to explain without seeing for yourself.

Pyracy in the Re-Enacting World

Mission the Surgeon at PiP 2007
Barber-surgeon "Mission"at PiP 2007
In 2004, I migrated to another piracy forum (pyracy.com) on the advice of my virtual friend (and fellow author) E.T. Fox. Ed has since gone on to get his doctorate in history, with a specialization in piracy. (OK, that's enough about Ed.) The Pyracy.com forums were mostly devoted to people who re-enact pyracy which was something I had never even contemplated.

Being something of an artist (as opposed to actually being an artist) I created a pirate-themed Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House room in 2006 - the Undead Pirates Haunted House Room. Over the years I also created three gibbeted pirates that were used at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Florida during their pirate festival from 2008 until the event ceased in 2014. My weird pirate art projects culminated in a Pirate-Themed Living Room. (Every room in my house has some kind of theme based on somehing of interest to date.)

After hanging around on the re-enactor forum for three years, I decided in 2007 to try 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

While staying at a hotel in Key West during my first event in 2007, I reported regularly during the event on my experiences as a first timer via this post on the Pyracy Pub. Mission Explaining Surgical Instruments
Photo: Terry Smith
Mission the Surgeon Explaining Surgical Instruments at Put-in-Bay in 2011
When I returned home, other people began posting wonderful photos they had taken at the event. With permission, I took those and my written narrative and produced the first Surgeon's Journal webpage which is now located on another of my web sites. It proved to be more popular than I expected resulting in the creation of twenty-nine other Journals for some of the re-enactments I attended.

The Surgeon's Journals were intended to be my version of the shipboard version which navy and some merchant ship's surgeons were required to keep journals during the golden age of piracy. Their use is detailed in John Atkins' 1742 book The Navy Surgeon:

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; [Thomas] 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.

Mission and Donna
Mission With His Dear Friend Mary
Diamond at Put-in-Bay in 2010

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

Every Navy Warrant directs two [Journals to be written]; 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", The Navy Surgeon, p. 17-8)

I figured this was akin to my journals. Well, sort of. My material is more 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. If such nonsense interesting you, you can find them here: Pirate Surgeon's Goofy Event Journals Page. In 2018, after 10 years of pirate reenacting, my interests had migrated, so I decided to focus my attention entirely on the research part of my hobby.

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 published some of the things I had learned from a variety of period surgical manuals and sailor's accounts. My fellow reenactors showed interest in these articles, so I began putting together researched articles on the topic and publishing them on this web site. (With BSEE and MBA degrees behind me, I learned about writing research papers through repeated Jacquest Guillemeau's book cover
Photo: Red Jessi
Writing in a Key West Condo
practice - something several of my teachers told me I have a knack for doing. I have always enjoyed writing and have rarely had periods in my adult life when I wasn't writing about some topic or another.) 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 surgeon reenactors, the public who is curious about ancient medicine and novel writers. (Actually, I wasn't aiming for the writers, but they found me and I occasionally get a nice note from them about my articles.)

These articles (note that they are not blogs - they are articles) can be found on three pages, sorted by topics: The Sea Surgeon's Environment, The Sea Surgeon's Procedures and Tools and The Sea Surgeon as Physician. I typically use period sources in preference to modern ones, having learned over time about how modern interpretation of the sources sometimes garbles, misinterprets or misrepresents the context of the original comments and ideas. They will eventually be put into three books, most likely being self-published. I quote the sources as fully as is appropriate using the original spelling and punctuations with inline explanations placed in square brackets where I think they're helpful. I make sure to footnote quotes in each section to make further research possible for those interested. The (unfortunately impossible to keep current) 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.