The aftermath of the Pirates on the Prom event in 2014 when , sadly, we failed by 77 people to break the world record of most pirates in one place. There was a muttering that there were lots of pirates still in the pubs of Penzance. This poem imagines what was happening in the Penzance while 14,000 plus people stood waiting to hear whether they were world record holders. It name checks all the traditional pubs in Penzance. Count them. 

Also I lay claim to the first usage of the word thalassoharpaxophobe which means fear of pirates. Harpaxophobe means ‘fear of robbers’ and thalasso means ‘of the sea’. So that’s ‘fear of robbers at sea’ – pirates.





Fourteen thousand plus on Penzance prom;

Almost all the town’s population.

Pirates as far as patched eye could see –

A picture of subordination.


An attempt to beat a world record

With Guinness there as the decider.

The most pirates ever assembled

Since rum was on BOGOF at Asda.


When it was announced we’d fallen short,

Disappointment was hardly the word.

Seventy seven souls lost at sea

And a rumour was then overheard.


Our town was still full to the gunwales

With pirates both hearty and bladdered.

Some for whom this was just one more day

And others who couldn’t be bothered.


Like blind Captain Cat, let me take you

On an imagined pub crawl through town.

With the righteous zeal of Captain Bligh…

Damn it, let’s hunt these mutineers down!


Let’s seek them out from The First and Last.

There’ll be pirates all over The Globe.

Tell One and All that we aren’t afeared –

I’m no Thalassoharpaxophobe.


There are pirates in The Pirate Inn;

Some succumbed to Alexandra’s charms;

Corsairs singing shanties in The Bath

Or firmly locked in The Farmers Arms.


Pirates are found manning The Longboat;

They’re content ‘til the sound of eight bells.

While privateers who favour The Yacht

Hole up like scarlet-faced pimpernels.


Pirates are tooled up in the London;

Pistols cocked in The White Lion’s lair.

Armed with a steak knife in The Navy

And with a spoon in The Tremenheere.


Look, there’s Anne Bonney and Mary Read,

Three sheets to the wind in The Seven (Stars)

Hoping to find their way to the prom;

So in that they may be forgiven.


Young Ben Gunn with well-groomed hipster beard

Feels a bit Moby Dick in the heads.

With guttural sound he’s tempest bound

For a morning that ev’ryone dreads.


A smoker returned to The Dolphin

Cries with a voice to waken the dead,

“Now then, me dears, where’s me buccaneers?”

The pub roars back, “On your buccan’ ead!”


A greying Blackbeard who hopes to prey

On some young ladies in The Lugger.

‘Til one with my little pony hair

Knees his groin and scuppers the bugger.


Blind Pew hooks me with his tattooed hand;

Presses into my palm a black spot.

Did he just say to me ‘weigh anchor’

Now then I couldn’t be sure or not.


In the shade at the back of The Turk’s (Head)

There’s an exchange of filthy lucre.

Captain Kidd slaps cards on the table

In a vigorous game of Euchre.


Tall tales abound on Alverton Street

Humphry Davy’s in his element.

There’s no need for nitrous oxide here,

Given the sound of the merriment.


Way up somewhere over The Benbow

On the roof obeying his orders

A watchman takes aim with his musket.

He’s set to repel all surfboarders.


Below a pirate sings of his death;

A chameleon-like troubadour.

Remember the Star Man, Davy Jones.

There’s more songs in his locker, I’m sure.


In The Star, Jack Sparrow’s mascara

Runs unchecked for a lost paramour.

While at the bar, a wretched Bluebeard

Is harangued by his mothers-in-law.


Within range of both Lamp and Whistle

A rum Captain Morgan is spewing.

While dancers reel around The Fountain,

At least I think that’s what they’re doing.


Pirates who are part of The Union

Or the ones that are pressed for The Crown.

Given half a chance, you know Penzance

Likes to see it’s ‘world turned upside down’.


And there’s the ghost of Robert Newton

Long past ever getting the ale in.

Lies slumped in a corner, mouth agape

And dreams of the next boat he’ll sail in.


The roustabout at rest, dear of him.

His saliva drips unencumbered.

Long John relives his buccaneer days

And the spice of life he has plundered.


Was it those who lined up on the prom

All fourteen thousand at four o’clock

Who behaved like pirates would do or

Were the guilty ones still in The Dock?


Those boys and girls more happy to drink

The Guinness, than be record breakers.

Perhaps you’ve got to ask yourself who

Are the real pirates…who the fakers?


A thousand or so made the choice to

Drink, dance even jolly-well roger;

Rather than line up and be counted.

Be more a rebel than a soldier.


So drink to the pirates of Penzance

Best to join ‘em and sink a glass down.

Freebooters, free spirits, free thinkers

Are invariably drawn to our town.


Drink to the town twinned with Tortuga

With its balance of mischief and good.

It doesn’t take a genius to know

Penzance has more stars than Hollywood.


And so the mystery goes on like

The drip drip of Long John’s saliva.

Just who was it started that rumour

It was me…I wasn’t there either.

©gray lightfoot

Here Gray read the poem at…