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Aaargh! Ladies of English town misunderstand intent of pirate night


Former Somali pirate hostage Colin Darch poses for a photograph with members of the Women's Institute in Parkham, England. The WI members had dressed as pirates for the evening not realizing their guest speaker's connection with the evening theme.

A women's group in southwest England had an embarrassing encounter at a recent meeting when members misinterpreted the idea behind a visiting speaker's talk about pirates.

The Parkham Women's Institute, a venerable institution traditionally devoted to home-spun handicrafts and good works, decided to get into the spirit of Captain Colin Darch's talk by dressing in pirate garb. Neckerchiefs, eye patches and pirate hats were widely sported, with a toy parrot thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately, Captain Darch's topic focused on his 2008 ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, when he was held hostage for more than six weeks.

According to The North Devon Journal newspaper, a report from the Women's Institute meeting said that after some initial embarrassment: "Everyone sat down to listen to Darch's story and what a story it was. Absolutely fascinating and gripping. If you ever get a chance to hear Colin speak grab the opportunity because he is a great raconteur and very humorous."

The Women's Institute could not be reached for comment.

The 75-year-old retired sea captain said he was initially not sure what was going on: "It felt strange to be talking to a group of ladies with blue rinses and rubber daggers," he said.

"Then when it became clear that my talk on piracy was about my experiences, and not about piracy in general, they were obviously rather embarrassed."

The sea dog's sense of humor clearly came to the rescue when he was asked to judge the best-dressed-pirate competition.

"They asked me to judge them all on a scale of 0 to 10. However, I though it better to simply choose a winner. I chose the lady with the toy parrot – although, to be honest, it looked more like a fluffy chick."

Darch was speaking to the Women's Institute to promote his book about his life and times on the high seas, including the 47 days he was held by pirates. He and his shipmates were eventually released after a ransom was paid.

Despite the mix-up, Darch harbors no hard feelings and does not expect anyone to walk the plank.

"They gave me such an enthusiastic welcome, it almost made cry," Darch said. "And I managed to sell a few books too, which was nice."