One of Negril’s proudest moments came when the reign of Calico Jack Rackham, the most notorious buccaneer to terrorize Jamaican waters, was brought to an end here in November 1720. Rackham – called “Calico” in reference to his preferred underwear – and his crew had moored their captured sloop in Bloody Bay to celebrate recent plunders, unaware that their every move was being shadowed by one Captain Barnet of the British Navy. Made inattentive by rum punch, the pirates were quickly overwhelmed. Some surrendered instantly, but two, in particular, put up a mighty struggle – even turning their weapons on their more malleable crew members. Eventually, they were subdued – at which point naval officers were astonished to find that they were women in disguise. Famously bloodthirsty in battle, Anne Bonney, Rackham’s former mistress, and Mary Read formed a ruthless double act and were instrumental in earning Rackham his infamy as a freebooter. At their trial, victim Dorothy Thomas noted that “they wore men’s jackets and long trousers… each of them had a machete and a pistol in their hands, and cursed and swore.”
Rackham was executed, his body displayed in an iron frame at the Kingston cay that now bears his name. Bonney and Read were also sentenced to death, but were spared when they declared themselves pregnant and were eventually reprieved. Anne Bonney disappeared from recorded history, while Mary Read died of yellow fever and is buried in St Catherine.