Voices From Beyond the Grave: Mad Jack Percival and Patience Cobb the Planter

As some may know, I've been working on and off for many years on a genealogy, biography, and memoir of my great-grandfather the sea captain, William Ernest Parker of Yarmouth, NS and Lynn, MA. This maritime ghost story is an excerpt from that memoir that splices one strand of my own maritime heritage to my love for Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution. ______________________________
Captain William Parker's family first came to Canada as New England Planters in 1761. Daniel Parker Jr., his father Daniel Parker Senior, and grandfather Robert Parker all left Tollend, CT for Kings County, Nova Scotia. There they took up land grants vacated by the Acadians in the Great Expulsion (Le Grand Dérangement), which is another story that I tell in my intepretive programs L'Acadie and Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
The Planter Robert Parker was named for his own grandfather, Plymouth colonist Robert Parker (1640-1684) born in Barnstable, MA. This first Robert Parker in America was among the m…

The Ballad and the Backstory: Fact and Fiction in "Constitution’s Last Fight" by James Jeffrey Roche

Who was this captain's wife? Did she really ask for a British ship for a bridal gift? Was the captain's bride quite satisfied with the one prize laid at her feet?

Far from it. This ballad is a romance, but hardly a historical one. What inspired James Jeffrey Roche to write it in 1895? And why, having composed one of the best and most factual descriptions of a naval battle ever put into poetry, did he whitewash the political machinations of a naval wife who destroyed her husband's career as the first commodore of the Pacific fleet? 

Journalist, author and diplomat James Jeffrey Roche was born in Queens County, Ireland and raised on Prince Edward Island. He attended St. Dunstan's College and moved to Boston in 1866. Roche became assistant editor of The Pilot in 1883, and later published poetry and other literary works, including a biography of John Boyle O'Reilly. He served as editor of THE PILOT, and American Consul in Italy and Switzerland.
The BackstoryThe battle des…

A Backward Glance: What Happened to Your Early Recordings?

Amazingly, 2017 was the 30th anniversary of Crosscurrents Music, so some of you devoted fans have been loyal for over half my life. Every now and then someone tracks me down to ask where they can buy my CDs or order online. 

Back in 2015, I did a lot of prep toward reissuing my backlist for the 2017 anniversary. The Oasis upload process made me realize that in my callow youth, I recorded an embarrassing number of cover tracks without permission. My only excuses are that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that I thought of myself back then as a heritage interpreter and not a recording artist, and that my early albums were actually issued before the 1990 invention of the WorldWide Web (!), when awareness of copyright and intellectual property was not what it is today. Fortunately, the press runs were small (500 copies), so if you still have one, they're a collector's item.
I am now committed to recording only traditional/public domain and original material, with a few ex…

Notes on a Lifetime of Passing

Thinking about the continuum between experiential education, living history, participant-observation, and passing as I read this excellent article from someone who, like me, passed for a "real professor" as a respondent, like me, to Dartmouth scholars (I was one of those too, though it felt like passing). Like me, the author's racial identity has created tensions with his choice of profession, although I've always been clear that living history stops short of genetics. His words invite paraphrase.

"Nevertheless, as I enter my thirtieth year of passing for a real voyageur, I find myself less and less inclined to correct those who mistakenly call me one."

Passing has allowed me to ask, and answer, important questions in my life both personally and professionally. Am I "passing," or am I real? Are those who challenge me mistaken, or accurate? Which lies do I tell, and when am I only acting? What does it mean to be:
VoyageurCanadian/Canadien(ne) (notic…

I sang for the Seaport Shipwreck!

I talked my way in to this morning's press conference, sang a chantey for the CEO of Skanska Construction and met the Boston City Archaeologist. I dedicated a verse of Fire Maringo on behalf of the USS Constitution Museum and Northeast Chanteysings to the unknown wreck discovered this week in Boston's Seaport District.
This 50' sloop from Maine was carrying heavy barrels of highly combustible lime that are charred on top to suggest she burned to the waterline before sinking in the Dorchester Flats between 1850 and 1880 (when the Seaport DIstrict was first filled in). 
There is a photogrammetry crew from Venice here this week scanning her hull for a 3D digital model, after which she will be moved (and will disintegrate) so construction can resume. 
City Archaeologist Joe Bagley says the model will be available to the public for detailed archaeological study, and it should be possible to 3D print the ship at any scale! He says this is the most important maritime archaeological …
LIGHT from Ed Softky
at right: the view from Ed's balcony in Dharamsala, India, 2004

Who can encompass the dreadful shock of sudden death? This is not the memorial page for Ed Softky, and you can read this for the black story of his passing and of his many tributes. This is about Light.

For those of you who knew Ed only through his Buddhist work, let me introduce myself as an old friend, singing and dancing buddy, and housemate of Ed's since, oh, maybe 1990? I don't recall. With Liz Lewis and Alan Field, we sang together in the quartet Lingua Franca, "Music as the Common Tongue." Here is the group's demo album, a truly limited release that maybe we should reprint in Ed's memory.

I was to see Ed this weekend (Columbus Day), for one of our joyously serious sessions of "PhilosoTea" and a visit to his new home in Brattleboro. As I was packing, I got a phone call from a mutual friend. "I've just heard someone say Ed was killed in a car accid…
Sea Slugs in Marzipan
Originally uploaded by noelegance Gastropod Gastronomy: The Edible Nudibranch
Photos and video of our latest team exploit in performance-art food. Now this is Extreme Sushi.

Red Herring Morris gives team biologist Phill Nimeskern a thank-you gift for chairing the Ale. Phill, who has eaten a sea slug for science, repeats the experiment in marzipan and song. The nudibranchs were inspired by this month's cover story of the June 2008 National Geographic. Go look 'em up!

Old Sea Dog
Sunday was our first MIT Chantey and Maritime Sing of the season in our dog-friendly summer venue at the Wood Sailing Pavilion. Mina the Dog snoozed in her MIT burgee, dreaming of sea chanteys from the Revels Book of Chanteys and Sea Songs. Much to the entertainment of some visitors from the Revels Pub Sing, Mina woke when we sang the Dutch chantey Los Mina Loos, and "sang along" happily whenever her name came round in the chorus!

Photo: Harriet Fell-Brown