Category Archives: Pirate Topic

Articles and information abouts pirates for teachers working on a topic about pirates.

Pirate Day Poster

Thousands of children in primary schools throughout Northern England, The Midlands and The South East have participated and enjoyed Pirate Workshop Day.

This activity is ideal for Year 1 and Year 2 children but older children up to Year 4 will love it too. The day can be modified to cater for Nursery and Reception if required.

For more details and a quotation please go to Pirate Day on our main website.


Life Aboard A Pirate Ship

Living Conditions on a Pirate Ship

an old pirate ship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the days of wooden sailing ships life at sea was tough. Living conditions for pirates and all other sailors were extremely basic. There was no heating or air conditioning, no proper toilets or sanitation, no way to keep your clothes and yourself clean or even to keep yourself dry. Conditions changed according to the weather and the region you were in.

How did Pirates relieve themselves?

In most ships there would be a place at the bow ( front end ) of the ship called the head. This was a hole in the floor to squat over. Faeces would fall directly into the sea below. There were usually two holes one on either side of the bowsprit. There was no protection from the elements and so they could not be used in stormy weather.

As toilet paper had not been invented the men would either have to use bits of old rag or rope to clean their back sides or sometimes there was a communal bucket and sponge.

Urination was either into buckets or directly over the side. Some men did urinate against the side of the ship or onto the deck.  If they were high up in the rigging it would be impractical to climb down to carry out a simple bodily function. Look out below!

Inevitably urine and spillages from cooking seeped down to the bottom of the ship. This bilge created and awful stink which would permeate through the ship. This would be worse below decks in bad weather when all of the hatches were battened down and there was no fresh air coming from outside.

It is unlikely that a pirate crew would be hard working or disciplined enough to keep the ship clean. Even Royal Navy ships struggled to control the stench from below. Pirate ships probably stank!

How did Pirates stay dry?

There was no way to stay dry on a Pirate Ship. In rough weather or storms everybody would be soaking wet. At least half of the crew would be involved in sailing the ship at any time which meant being on deck or up in the rigging. It was common to work four hours on and four hours off and so there was not enough time to dry your clothes between shifts even if you could.

Water still came in below decks even when the ship was battened down. Most ships leaked and in rough seas some water still got in through the hatches and gun ports even when closed. The lower decks could therefore be awash with water during a storm.

There were no towels or drying rooms and men often slept in their wet clothes. Shoes were impractical because there was no way to dry them out and pirates often went barefoot.

When conditions improved clothes could be hung out on lines strung out above the deck or up in the rigging if allowed by the Captain.

Otherwise men, clothing and equipment had to dry out naturally.

In some regions high humidity also resulted in everything being constantly wet even though the temperature was very warm.

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Were there vermin on Pirate Ships?

Vermin was a massive problem especially when near land. Most ships were inhabited by mice and rats which ran around below decks with impunity. Sometimes rats were caught and eaten as an alternative to the tough salt beef or pork rations. Cockroaches were everywhere. Also spiders ( such as tarantulas ), various biting insects and even snakes were brought aboard when the crew went ashore foraging for firewood. These creatures then came out of the crevices and hiding places amongst the kindling and spread throughout the ship. Inevitably many men received serious bites as a result.

Mosquitoes infested certain areas and many men fell sick and died from malaria when visiting the coasts of Africa and the Americas.

Insects were less of a problem when the ship was far out at sea.

How did the crew keep warm?

There as no way to keep warm on a pirate ship apart from huddling round the galley fire. This was not really a problem in the tropics but for ships operating in the North Atlantic in the winter months the cold and freezing conditions must have been terrible.

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Blackbeard’s Pirate Ship

The Queen Anne’s Revenge

English: Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of...

English: Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of Blackbeard the Pirate. This picture is taken from File:Edward Teach Commonly Call’d Black Beard (bw).jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blackbeard‘s famous ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was originally a cargo ship used to carry slaves. As such it was fast and well armed. When Blackbeard captured the vessel it was named La Concord ( it was French ). Blackbeard realised it’s potential. It was relatively new, only five years old. Its timbers were sound and its speed meant that it would be ideal to give chase and outrun most other ships. He therefore decided to take it over and make it his flag ship.

Before becoming a pirate Blackbeard had been a privateer on the side of England attacking French ships during the conflict known as Queen Anne’s War. It is thought he chose the name of his new flag ship as a reference to those times.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground on a reef off the coast of North Carolina and had to be abandoned by Blackbeard and his pirate crew. The ship sank and was lost without trace. Its exact location was not recorded.

The wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge was eventually discovered by marine archeologists.

This You Tube video tells the story of the ship and the endeavours of the salvagers to uncover it’s secrets.


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The Best Pirate Day Ever!

Inspirational Pirate Experience

QEGS Pirate Ship

QEGS Pirate Ship

I visit many schools all over the UK with my Pirate Workshop Day and I am always impressed by the effort that teachers put into making their pirate topic interesting and exciting for the children. I have seen all manner of wonderful classroom displays and role play areas on my travels.

One of the best and most inspiring Pirate Days I have had the pleasure to be involved in came on a visit to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield. What a day it was! I had been booked to work with 80 KS1 boys ( ages 5 – 6 years ). As I arrived at Centenary House there was pirate bunting and wanted posters all round the playground and pirate music playing over the school pa system. All of the teachers and children were in pirate costume, even the catering staff had dressed up to be part of the fun.

The boys joined in enthusiastically in my pirate lesson and the response to the puppet show was fantastic…the noise as was ear shattering as they joined in and interacted with the puppets.

Lunch time was amazing. I watched as the teachers led the boys in a pirate march, to music, round the playground before they all sat down in the sunshine to enjoy a special pirate lunch.

The highlight of the day was the launching of a brilliant pirate ship which the school handy man had made from scrap timber and plywood. The boys had painted it and decorated it with props they had made in class. The children sat in front of the ship and then Captain Gray ( head teacher ) made a rousing speech with lots of pirate vocabulary and appropriate shaking of fists and brandishing of cutlasses. She then brought out one of the boys out whose parents had researched the family tree and discovered that a distant ancestor had been a pirate who served with Captain Hornigold. How interesting! Next one of the teachers was given a dressing down by the captain for disobeying orders and had to be punished…much to the delight of all. It was a fantastic impromptu pantomime and the children absolutely loved it.

We finished off the day making pirate puppets which the children proudly took home with them at the end of the afternoon.

What an amazing day. Well done QEGS!

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Pirates, Pirates Everywhere!

Why was there a golden age of piracy?

It's a painting which shows a pirate ship atta...

It’s a painting which shows a pirate ship attacking a merchants’s ship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The so called golden age of piracy occurred between 1700 and 1725. This was the period when the plague of pirates was at its worst particularly in the Caribbean Sea. However piracy was common on the high seas throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Here is a brief summary of the factors which lead to the dramatic rise in the number of pirate crews.

  • When the European powers were not at war their fleets were reduced in size which lead to many out of work sailors. These men had been trained to fight and were ideal pirate material and could easily be recruited.
  • European navies used privateers to harass the merchant ships of their enemies. These privately owned fighting ships were issued with letters of marque ( a licence ) to allow them to legitimately attack enemy merchant ships. In between wars some privateers continued their lucrative business as pirates.
  • As new worlds were discovered and colonies established in far away lands maritime trade increased. Large numbers of merchant ships were needed to trade with the colonies carrying valuable cargoes to and from Europe. This meant rich pickings for those prepared to break the law by plundering traffic on the seaways.
  • As new colonies were established there was very little protection in terms of military or naval presence. The far flung corners of empire were vulnerable to attack and to begin with pirates could roam freely without too much danger to themselves.
  • Life in the merchant navy was harsh. Ordinary sailors were overworked and under paid. They were often badly treated by their captains and discipline was strict. Life as a pirate was much easier and the rewards could be huge as pirates shared out their booty equally. Piracy offered an easier way of life and potentially a chance to get rich quick. A disgruntled merchant crew could mutiny, overthrow their captain and turn pirate.
  • Often when merchant ships ware captured the crew were given the chance to join the pirates and many voluntarily did so. Others were forced. Merchant ships provided a good source of manpower for pirate captains. It helped them increase the size of their crews and become more powerful.
  • As Spain explored and colonized South America they discovered the treasures of the Aztecs and the Incas. These civilizations were conquered and their vast wealth was stolen. Spanish treasure ships periodically set sail to carry gold and silver back to Spain. Initially these ships traveled alone or with a small escort and could easily be attacked. Soon they were formed into heavily guarded convoys which provided safety. It was still possible for a ship to become separated from the convoy, perhaps by being blown off course during a storm. Such a ship would be a pirates dream come true, the equivalent of winning the lottery today perhaps.
  • The booming slave trade was also a tempting target for pirates. A ship full of slaves could be worth a small fortune as the pirates could sell the slaves to the highest bidder. Although slavers were usually faster vessels they were not likely to be heavily armed and as the pirates knew where the slavers picked up their cargoes ( on the coast of Africa ) and where they were headed, it was not too difficult to intercept them. The slave trade was therefore also a factor which influenced the increase of piracy as many pirates  profited from it.

Eventually as the colonies became more established they improved  their own defences. They organized forces to protect themselves from pirate attack and also to hunt down the pirates and to destroy their safe havens. Governments were increasingly under pressure to protect trade and so naval forces were allocated to hunt down the pirates too. Over time there were less places for the pirates to hide and more and more risk of capture with the ultimate prospect of ending up dangling from the end of a rope.

Thus the “Golden Age Of Piracy” was over.

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The Truth About Pirates

What were pirates really like?

Pirates of the silver screen are very different from the real pirates who roamed the seas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The notion that pirates were romantic rogues with stripey shirts, eye patches and parrots is far from the truth. In reality most pirates were ruthless criminals.

In this You Tube video a pirate expert explains the truth behind the myth.

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Pirate Ship for School Show

Pirate Day Pirate Ship

Exciting Pirate Experience

Pirate Day is an exciting experience for primary school children. Pirates are a popular topic for Key Stage 1 and many schools book our Pirate Day to fire up the children’s imaginations and further inspire them to want to learn more.

This is the Pirate Ship which is used in the Pirate Puppet Show, an important part of our Pirate Day for schools. The Pirate Ship is the back drop for the show but also the puppet stage. It can be set up in a classroom or the school hall.



“Ahoy me harties, this be my pirate ship!” 

The Pirate Ship provides a visual focus for the day. The puppets are big and colourful and the show itself has a simple story with lots of audience participation. It is often described by teachers as a being more like a  pantomime with puppets.


To see feedback about Pirate Day and the Pirate Puppet Show go to the Feedback Page.

Setting up requirements

It takes about thirty minutes to set up the show once all of the equipment has been brought in.  Assistance may be required to carry bags and boxes if access is difficult or if there is a fairly long distance from the car park to the performance area. Here are the requirements:

  • Can be set up on any floor space which has a flat, level  surface.
  • Must be indoors.
  • Should have a wall or screen behind it to conceal the puppets from view.
  • Needs to be located near a power point for the pa system.

Class photographs

Some teachers like to have a class photograph with the children in a group in front of the Pirate Ship. Other teachers take photographs of the children individually or in smaller groups.

Pirate Day Class Photo

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Rules Aboard A Pirate Ship

Bartholomew Roberts

Image via Wikipedia

Pirate Articles

Although pirates were a rough and ready lot there still needed to be some way of maintaining order among the crew. They would often draw up a set of Articles setting out the rules for life aboard ship. These varied from crew to crew. Some included very serious punishment for those caught disobeying. Others were more relaxed. When a set of articles was drawn up everyone had to agree to accept them.

Black Bart’s Pirate Rules

Captain Bartholomew Roberts  ( called Black Bart by some ) had his men agree to the following set of rules. You can tell that he believed in strong discipline. Some of the penalties are extremely harsh. It is also clear that there is a certain amount of democracy among the pirates too.


Every man has a vote in the affairs of the moment, has equal title to the fresh provisions or strong liquors at any time siezed and may use them at pleasure, unless scarcity make it necessary, for the good of all, to vote a retrenchment.


Every man shall be called fairly in turn,by list, on board of prizes, because ( over and above their proper share ) they were on these occasions allowed a shift of clothes. But if they defrauded the company to the value of one dollar in plate, jewels or money, marooning was their punishment. If the robbery was only betwixt one another they contented themselves with slitting the ears and nose of him that was guilty and set him , not in an unihabited place but somewhere where he was sure to encounter  hardships.


No person to game at cards or dice for money.


The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night.


To keep their piece, pistols and cutlass clean and fit for service.

Pirate Workshop Day

Pirate Workshop Day


No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man were found seducing any of the latter sex and carried her to sea disguised he was to suffer death.


To desrt their ship or quarters in battle was to be punshed by death or marooning.


No striking one another on board., but every man’s quarrel to be ended on shore at sword and pistol.  The Quarter-Master of the ship, when the parties will not come to any reconciliation, accompanies them on shore with what assistance he thinks proper, and turns the disputants back to back at so many paces distance.  At the word of command they turn and fire immediately. If both miss they come to their cutlasses and then he is declared victor who draws first blood.

Article 9

No man to talk of breaking up his way of living until each had shared £1000. If in order to do this any man should lose a limb or become a cripple  in their service he was to have 800 pieces of eight out of the public stock and for lesser hurts propotionately.


The captain and the quartermaster to receive two shares of a prize, the master, botswain and gunner one share and a half and the officers one and a quarter.


The musicians to have rest on the Sabbath Day but the other six days and nights none without special favour.


These rules were compiled from interviews with members of Robert’s crew.

English: Flag of pirate Bartholomew Roberts

English: Flag of pirate Bartholomew Roberts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pirate Rule that would never work!

Captain Roberts was unusual because he was teetotal. Although he tried to discourage his men from abusing alcohol he never succeeded.  He would probably have wanted  a rule limiting his crews drinking habits but it would never have been obeyed.  Eventually his men were all captured or killed by the Royal Navy who came upon them looting some ships they had taken. The pirates were too drunk to put up any serious resistance. Bartholomew Roberts himself was killed in the battle.

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