Today sees the triumphant post-pandemic return of Harry Paye Pirate Day; an (almost) annual event held on Poole Quay. It also sees day 5 of my 5 day (UK optional) Covid self isolation, so I won’t be going. I’m very disappointed, as it sounded like a lot of fun, particularly as Wetherspoons was joining in the celebrations with a Rum Festival with a large selection of rum at around £3 a shot. So today is the (hopefully) final day of my remote blogging. Tomorrow I leave the house…
I haven’t been to Pirate Day before, but it consists of a parade of pirates, pirate fancy dress, a pirate trial, tall ships, cannons, live music, belly dancing and food and drink, including, as already mentioned, rum. It is organised by the Pirates of Poole; an organisation which was founded in 1926 to keep the town’s maritime history alive whilst raising money for charity, and of course having fun in the process.
In case, like me, you’re wondering who Harry Paye is, think Jack Sparrow crossed with Robin Hood and you’re not far off. Paye was a pirate and adventurer from Poole. He lived around 600 years ago and spent his time sailing up and down the coast, attacking hundreds of French and Spanish ships and bringing his looted goods of gold, wine and exotic foodstuffs back to share with the residents of Poole.
In addition to plundering ships, he burned down towns and took prisoners for ransom. His escapades made him a hero in his hometown, but the French and Spanish weren’t so enamoured.
In 1405, a combined French and Spanish fleet attacked Poole in retaliation for Paye’s raids. They looted and set fire to buildings before being driven back to their ships by the townspeople. Paye was away at the time, but many men, including his brother, were killed during the raid. Paye swore revenge (Paye-back, in fact) and captured a fleet of French ship carrying 12,000 gallons of wine and brought it back for the people of Poole. Legend has it, the entire town was drunk for a month, and they have celebrated Harry Paye Day ever since.
Poole Quay is 7 miles west of Bournemouth. The last Harry Paye Day in 2019 saw more than 10,000 people descend upon Poole Quay, so it is a popular event. If you don’t want to fight 10,000 people for a parking spot, there are regular bus services from Bournemouth to Poole Quay. Plus regular train services to nearby Poole Station.
Upon the first firing of the cannons, the day starts with a Parade of Pirates along the quayside.
Then on with the entertainment, pirate themed of course, with plenty of sea shanties.
As well as the musical entertainment, there is belly dancing and Pirate Zumba – who knew that was a thing?
Oh, and did I mention the rum?