PART ONE: JUAN 'THE BUTCHER' CHRISTIAN
So who was Juan 'The Butcher' Christian, apart from the Isle of Man's most notorious pirate?
Well, simply put he was the younger brother of Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian, born a year after Fletcher in 1765. The two were very close and when Fletcher decided he wanted a life on the waves, Juan decided he’d quite like to go to sea, too.
However, the moment he set foot on a rowing boat at Douglas harbour which was to take him to his first job as cabin boy he was violently seasick over the sailors who were accompanying him. They threw him overboard a few metres from shore, and he swam back, vowing never to go to sea again.
But the call of the maritime life was strong, and he made several more attempts to leave dry land – all with the same stomach-churning results.
By the time he was 25, Juan Christian had resigned himself to being a failure as a seaman. But a chance meeting with an old school friend, who was a carpenter, was to change all of that.
The pair met in the Castle Arms, commonly known as the Gluepot, in Castletown in 1790. Juan’s friend – called Drikly Qualtrough – was working on a novel horseless carriage which used sails, ropes and masts.
But he’d run into engineering troubles over how to steer such a contraption. Juan immediately saw a way of fixing the axles to a gear system and having the whole thing hooked up to a wheel.
Excitedly, both rushed back to Qualtrough’s workshop in Colby to complete the sailwagon. They worked through the night, and the next day being a breezy but sunny one, they decided to test it there and then.
Such was there success that a pamphlet was produced by a local printer about the strange machine. It read: “such was the ferocitomeness of its movement, the sky itself seem’d to reel and jog like a drunk’n Irish sot”.
But such criticism deterred neither, and they resolved to sail their wagon to Ramsey the next day in time to show it off at the market there.
But they had badly underestimated the grade down the hill into Ramsey from Maughold, and as the sailwagon careered out of control Drikly Qualtrough was thrown from it and dashed his head on a rock. He was killed instantly.
When Juan managed to stop the device in Ramsey, he was almost hanged for murder by an angry crowd who had to leap aside as it sped straight through houses, market stalls and almost through innocent bystanders.
Juan, showing quick wits for which he was later to become infamous, grabbed a sword from one of those threatening him, leapt aboard the sailwagon and took off.
Labels: Bounty, castletown, colby, Fletcher Christian, gluepot, isle of man, isle of man manx, Juan Christian, mutiny, pirates, ramsey
Written at 18:50 by
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