Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Drymen on the Ridge and Arabella Drummond

"My mate in Margs is a Scot. Duff ... Duffy," my sister was on the veranda in the evening and telling me that the last time she caught up with Duffy, our Dad was there too.
"Are you one of the Murray Duffs?" Dad had asked him.
Later, as he was pulling out of the driveway to leave for the south, Dad said to my sister, quietly like, "You know, wayback our mob massacred them, the whole lot, in a church."

It was all to do with cattle and land apparently and when you think about it, the cattle and land massacres are still going on today. (Belgians, Hutu and Tutsi, anyone?) However this event in 1511 would have been a mere eviction skirmish but for some Campbells, who rocked up as the Murrays were retreating, with their own grievance against the Murrays. So the Drummonds and the Campbells hunted around together for the Murrays who had holed up in a church with their families. They probably would have stayed safely ensconced in the church but for one Murray Duff who shot an arrow out of the window and killed a Drummond. The Drummonds piled brushwood against the church and burnt the place down, killing everyone inside. Reportedly (don't you love that word?) they died to the accompaniment of a piper.

The piper at my grandfather's funeral did me in and to this day, bagpiper's have the same effect. When my baby daughter was born, Dad gave me the clan brooch. It has an eagle in the centre and the motto encircling the eagle reads 'Gang Warily.'
We gave Pearlie my own family name, partially because my father had only daughters and it would have spelled the end of our line otherwise. And I've always like the idea that women could inherit their mother's maiden name and that perhaps it should begin with the mother who decided that. Women's lineage is so dependent on who they marry. In Scottish tradition the oldest son will gain their mother's family name as their middle name but not it is so for the daughters.

I guess this has all come up recently given that my only daughter has just given birth to her daughter. If you have read this far (and I know from experience that other folk's genealogies can be fucking boring so I'll start spicing it up) this is a good moment to segue to the most wonderful Arabella Drummond.

Arabella Drummond! Pirate Queen! Jilted lover and freer of African slaves!
Oh, alright then ... Arabella Drummond also has a contemporary presence on the intertubes as a rather sexy tattooed woman who channels our fellow ancestor as her muse. If you can pay enough attention, note her top right shoulder.
The original Arabella was born a Mary and ran away to sea dressed as a man to escape an arranged marriage. She was rumoured to be either Blackbeard's sister, cousin or his lover. Nobody seems to be really clear about that relationship. So anyway, she sailed for Gibraltar where they were attacked by Barbary corsairs and the crew turned into galley slaves, pulling oars for months on end. In 1716, her captors boarded an Italian ship and during that raid she gathered the other captives and together they commandeered the ship.

This seems to be the moment when Arabella Drummond morphed from runaway wife to full blown pirate. After that, she commandeered several vessels, including the Dutch vessel Pheonix that was carrying slaves to the West Indies. "Do you want to stay with me or do you want to go home?" she asked the slaves. Having spent months or years as a slave herself, she was sympathetic to their plight. Most opted to return to Africa but some decided to stay with her. That was when Arabella Drummond finally declared herself to be female and challenged anyone who had problems with her being in charge to step up and say so.

She went looking for Eddie Teach, or Blackbeard. She turned up on the coast of North Carolina and found him at the Orcacoke Inlet, or at least his severed head hanging from the bow of Maynard's ship as a warning to all other pirates. That was in 1718. After seeing his decapitated head through her telescope, Arabella Drummond took to the seaways. She plundered along the coast, even robbing the Governor-in-chief of Massachusetts. Her ship, which she had renamed the Bold Adventure, was last seen by whalers off the coast of Nantucket.

A ripping yarn ... a Drummond after my own heart.


  1. A good illustrated tale for me to go to bed with. Thanks...

  2. I can understand why you might channel your own inner pirate ST. There's definitely a rebellious streak in the Drummond women. Great story.

  3. Whoo Hoo! I'm writing a lot of family history stuff but I can't match that my wee lassie.

  4. Yes, I think that the Arabella story is easier to claim as my own myth - than it is to verify as absolute fact. But how much fun!