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Crime Waves

N ot one of us would wish to be a victim of crime.

Given the rather nebulous nature of crime I suppose it is better to say none of us wish to be a victim. Perhaps even less definable but more understandable.

Clearly though, there is a darkness within us all, as crime and criminals are endlessly fascinating to us. In certain circumstances criminals can even be seen as lovable rogues, a process which is helped enormously by film studios. I cannot imagine many of us wish to be held up at gunpoint when we visit a cash machine or for hijackers to take over the flight you are on. But I bet there are very few of us that have not sat in front of the silver screen and thrilled to the exploits of sundry pirates and highwaymen (unless it was Geena Davies of course, that bird did not fly).

Grizel causing confusion
LAMBERT & BUTLER
PIRATES & HIGHWAYMEN

In 1926 Lambert and Butler issued 25 cards entitled Pirates and Highwaymen.

Robin Hood only got to swing on the chandelier

Because of the nature of these people the illustrations on the cards are more of the "reconstructed events" type rather than mug shots.

Card six just has to be the modern Hollywood movie, complete with feisty female character who has the advantage of also being 18. The box out gives the complete details.

Now if that is not a story with everything, I do not know what is, especially given Hollywood's record on "true stories".

Further evidence that the Victorian England was something of a low point for women's rights can be found on card 4 and the story of Anne Bonny. Even better for film types she was born in County Cork but had resettled in Carolina with her father. She ran away to sea with the infamous pirate Captain John Rackam ("Calico Jack").

All went well for a while but in October 1720, the pirate ship was attacked and it transpired the male crew were lily-livered sea dogs, the only crew members to put up resistance being Anne and another female pirate. The resistance was futile and ship and crew were captured, many of the crew executed and others rotted in jail.

CARD DETAILS:
Grizel Cochrane. Robbing his Majesty's mail, 1686. In 1685, Sir John Cochrane, who had been condemned to death for complicity in Argyle's insurrection, lay awaiting his fate in the toll booth at Edinburgh. In the meantime his friends in London were making every effort to get a reprieve. Hearing that the warrant for her father's execution was on its way to Edinburgh, Grizel Cochrane, a girl of 18, resolved to rob the messenger and so ensure a delay of at least 16 days. Dressed in her brother's clothes she crossed the border, "held up" the messenger, and secured the warrant. Before a new warrant could be sent a Royal pardon arrived for Sir John

This little story brings about an oddity within the structure of the set itself. Despite the fact there are only 25 cards on several occasions two cards have been used to expound the virtues of a particular criminal, despite the fact the text on the reverse of cards is littered with references to rogues without a card. This despite sounding just like the blood-thirsty limb-missing types which make for good pirate stories.

So it is we discover Mary Read on card 19. Seems she was brought up as a boy so only natural to serve on board a man of war and a fight with the troops in Flanders.

A vessel she was on was captured by Captain Rackam and she joined his crew of no-goods. So now we know the identity of the second woman. She died in prison in 1720.

You do not have to be an actuary to work out that a pirate life is very likely to be a nasty brutish and short one so it does not seem an uncommon event for pirate ranks to be replenished by crew members from captured vessels. No doubts with half an eye on extending their life span beyond the moment. No pun intended but it seems sea battles and the amount of flying timber a cannonball can produce was a sure way of being around to at least see the burial of various parts of your body.

Captain Roberts was a chap that determined it was best to swap sides sharp in order to fight another day. In 1718 he was captured by a group of pirates and quickly demonstrated he had been wasted as a law-abiding citizen of the seas. With the death of the pirate captain some six weeks later he rose to the rank of Captain such was the prowess of his mad cackle a big black beard (okay I made that up but you never know).

For four years before his death in 1722 when his ship the Royal Fortune was captured Roberts made merry having allegedly captured over 400 vessels. Barely enough time for a yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum between adventures.

I have not done any study on the subject but my feeling is there are a good many more pirate movie's than there are highwaymen movies. I am not sure if Robin Hood qualified as a highwayman, especially if he is an American with a penchant for overly long movies and introducing Saracens into the tale for no apparent reason.) It might be that pirate adventures offered greater scope for stunts and special effects, they were always swinging about on the rigging whereas Robin Hood only got to swing on the chandelier.

Just to prove there is nothing new with the glamorising of criminals card 9 tells us of the adventures of Claude Duval. Born in Normandy, 1643, he came over to England and eventually graduated to highwayman. He became notorious for both his daring robberies and his gallantry. On one occasion it is said, having held up a coach on Hounslow Heath he asked the lady traveller for a dance. Grand entertainment for which the gentleman traveller was quite happy to pay £100 to see; all very likely. Claude was hanged at Tyburn in 1640, where no doubt he demonstrated an entirely different footwork. On his tombstone in Covent Garden Church the epitaph: "Here lies Duval: Reader, if male thou art, look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart."

Duval Dancing
LAMBERT & BUTLER
PIRATES & HIGHWAYMEN

The set also rights a wrong in dispelling the idea that Dick Turpin rode from Gravesend to York, a distance of 190 miles, along the Great North Road in 15 hours. This was a feat assigned to him by Ainsworth in the romance "Rockwood".

On card 23, dealing with Dick Turpin, such a feat of riding is described as "probably a very old myth of the Great North Road". An interesting choice of words given that on card 16 dealing with John Nevison the extraordinary feat of riding is given to him with much less emphasis on the fact it probably never happened at all.

Although Dick Turpin and Sir Henry Morgan both get the honour of two cards each in the series to my mind the most famous of the lot have to make do with one. You could argue that William Kidd does not really warrant a place in the set as in 1695 he was given command of a privateer the, "Adventure", with the express purpose of stamping out piracy.

Quite soon it was reported that Captain Kidd had taken up a career in piracy himself. In 1699 upon his return to Boston he was arrested and having failed to give a satisfactory account of what happened to the "Queda Merchant" a prize worth about £70,000 he was sent to England. Appearing before the House of Commons he was still unable to account for his movements and was subsequently hanged in May, 1701.

Captain Kidd's treasure has never been discovered despite many attempts to do so and so it can remain a tale to fire the imagination.