Locals have expressed concerns over the new placement of Anne Bonny and Mary Read’s statue 

BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE BY DEBBIE BRAGG

Last November saw the unveiling of an eye-catching statue honouring two of history’s forgotten progressive pirates – Anne Bonny and Mary Read. The two renowned pirates became lovers in the 17th century as they adventured the seas together, breaking gender boundaries and defying norms to do so. Their love affair remains largely forgotten and residents of Burgh Island, south Devon have argued against the statues new proposed placement. 

One local said: “How is this in the spirit of actual women? It isn’t. It will be a blot on the landscape. It reminds me of those 70s statues. It does not reflect the spirit of the pirates either. Please do not place this on such a beautiful island.”

They also described the landmark as a “very patriarchal view of two skinny women with holes cut out.” 

Mary Read is said to have dressed as a boy to seek work on board ships and was consequently captured by well-known pirate, Jack Rackham. In the years that followed, Anne Bonny also joined Rackham’s crew.

Sailing the seas together and making their mark, they have been described by Dr Rebecca Simon as being “inseparable” and “most likely lovers”, but little has been written about them in LGBTQI history until now. The trailblazers were eventually captured and sentenced to death in Jamaica. 

The sculpture of the pair that has sparked debate, named Inexorable, was designed by British artist Amanda Cotton as a commission to celebrate the launch of Hell Cats, an Audible Original podcast that explores their history. Inexorable previewed in November 2020 at the Execution Docks in London with the aim of being brought to its permanent placement at an “obvious choice and a perfect home” in Burgh Island, south Devon. 

Amanda designed the statue to be a “visual reminder of the voices of women” and to enhance the beauty of the surrounding area. Further disapproving locals have expressed concerns that celebrating pirates would be distasteful and that they would rather that a statue of a fisherman’s wife was placed on the island instead. 

A final decision is yet to be made by South Hams District Council and will be revealed at a later date. 

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