Famous for all the wrong reasons by Jo Castro
Ahoy me Maties! Members of the Parkham Womens’ Institute in England don pirate gear at a recent meeting that went wrong. Pic: SWNS.com

When things go bump and then ‘clunk’ in the Night, it can mean something very unusual!

Where we live in South Western Australia it’s very quiet.

If there’s a bump in the night to wake me up I’m very surprised. But often these days, don’t ask me why, I find it hard to sleep.

So there I was up at 3.30am munching biscuits and downing hot cups of Rooibos tea in the kitchen, because the ‘Zeds’ wouldn’t come, when I come across a story on Facebook which alerted my fuzzy brain to pay attention.

Now although this story isn’t about Western Australia, I felt it worthy of a ZigaZag blog post a) because it’s funny b) because it could happen to the best of us c) because it’s gone viral and this was considered ‘big’ news, at least for a day or two and d) because it’s made one of my family members famous overnight 😉

Famous for all the wrong reasons

My dear cousin in North Devon, England, normally posts Etsy-type pictures of gorgeous arts and crafts created by her her talented self, so I was a little taken aback when I saw my Mother congratulating her for being on TV, and follow-up posts saying things like: “Just had an email –  NBC want to run the story,” and “Oh my God now the BBC are coming down – Yikes”, and other people saying, “You’ve made The Telegraph!” and “You’re in The Daily Mail.”

We are seven hours ahead of the UK, so it was all happening as I was rubbing sleepy dusty from my eyes.

Had she got a spot on Oprah to talk about her creative passions? What was going on I wondered?

Famous for all the wrong reasons. Pic of Ilfracombe, North Devon,by Jo Castro
North Devon’s coastal towns have interesting histories often linked to pirates and piracy. This is Ilfracombe harbour.

Calendar Girls

Seems like my cuz and her WI ‘mates’ in Parkham, North Devon had been doing a bit of a ‘Calendar Girl’s’ Womens’ Institute type escapade, and had been propelled towards five minutes of intense fame due to a bit of a blunder.

Which it seems for everyone else is incredibly funny, but a little bit embarrassing for them.

There they were, all dressed up in Pirate gear at my cousin’s suggestion, bearing a striking resemblance to a bunch of Long John Silvers and Captain Hooks  from Peter Pan, waiting for the guest speaker of the month, a retired sea captain, to  give his talk about Piracy.

Little did they know that his talk about piracy wouldn’t exactly mirror their expectations, for he had been held hostage by gun toting  Somali  pirates for 47 days in 2008, and had feared for his life.

“So he was stunned to arrive at a Women’s Institute meeting and find the members wearing eye patches, wigs and fake wooden legs while brandishing plastic cutlasses.” Daily Mail Online: Pirates of Penzance!

His story would continue to be harrowing, rather than lighthearted, because he had been held at gunpoint by rebels and only released after a rumoured  £350,00 ransom had been paid.

“We were aghast”, my cousin said.

No doubt she’s also ‘aghast’ that the story has gone viral around the world and that she’s famous for all the wrong reasons, and not for her fabulous artistic talent. I saw The Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun, NBC, CBS as well as nearly every major UK tabloid and broadsheet has run a story about the Parkham WI’s pirates in some form or another.

I was thinking to myself – wouldn’t we bloggers be amped for the same type of exposure!

I reckon the Womens’ Institute new members list will begin to bulge following this story, and Captain Darch the speaker will hopefully sell a bucketful of his books after this, so I’m sure the initial embarrassment will be a case of “All’s well that ends well”.

Now I’m excitedly waiting for the Parkham WI Calendar and the Movie: “Pirates of Parkham” to follow!

I’m dead proud of my cousin! I hope they can turn the spin on this to the WI’s advantage – and that she’ll start an online blog for her fantabulous creations.

If I were living in North Devon, I’d join this fun and feisty Parkham branch of the WI,that’s for sure! Wouldn’t you?

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  1. I know, it could easily happen to anyone! I just hope it can be turned around for good, rather than just something embarassing.

  2. Mary Martin

    If all your embarrassments are that innocent at heart, then you are in good shape. Keep smiling, its a precious story. Be blessed.

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