HENRY MORGAN'S DEATH - T-ISLAND SCREENPLAY
Sir Henry Morgan, was a brilliant tactician and piratical businessman, able to command the loyalty of privateers, who followed him into battle. Later he turned his hand to sugar cane growing, using African slave labour.
It was an exceptionally long and hot day in August, the twenty-fifth day in the year of sixteen eighty-eight (1688), at Lawrencefield in Jamaica. Henry Morgan, retired privateer had taken to drinking large quantities of alcohol daily, made from the brown sugar molasses from his cane plantation.
Morgan had removed from Port Royal to take up residence on the estate of Lawrencefield, so named by Lawrence Prince, who led his advanced guard in the march upon Panama, some years before. This was a post of vantage, midway on the road from Passage Fort to Spanish Town, from which either the capital or the port could be reached easily and quickly. Here his colonial mansion was deeply embosomed within luxuriant banana-fields, fed by irrigation streams from the Rio Cobre.
The wealth accrued from legitimate trade and by frequenting pirates, turned Port Royal into one of the richest in the Caribbean, with brick houses of between two and four stories, piped water, innumerable brothels, gambling dens, and taverns for making merry. The Catholic Church condemned it as the “wickedest town in Christendom” save perhaps for Tortuga, for its state-sanctioned piracy and tolerance of human vice.
Morgan's mountaintop home offered a commanding view of the St. Mary harbour, which the privateer used as a lookout. As part of the hideaway, Morgan had caused a secret escape tunnel to be dug, opening at Port Maria.
Though Admiral Sir Henry Morgan married Lady Mary Elizabeth Morgan and had five children it is said that he gifted a German minx, as island companion, part of his sugar plantation, that became the residential area 'Danks' getting its name from the German for “thank you”, “Danke schön” - voiced by the Teutonic mistress with some genuine favour, on receiving a sizeable apportionment of his beloved plantation, provisioning her for life after Henry. Love knowing no bounds.
On this moist laden day, the old sea Captain had started drinking early, soon after his fried breakfast of eggs and salted pork. With a fat belly, and verily placated digestion, it pleased him to watch his African slaves toiling in the fields, tending the sugar cane that he turned into a dark rum, now with some expertise in both the brewing and the imbibing thereof. In the process, making him richer by the day and wider in the girth, as sales of the bottled distill climbed to far exceed his expectations, alongside exports of sugar. Though such wealth and habits generated wherefrom, tested his heart, hardly able to cope in the pumping of confused bloods to his extremities.
The long retired Admiral, staggered in a drunken haze pressure building inside his chest, ignoring all that as he mused on the taking of a prize ship as a privateer off the coast of Venezuela and Panama some many years before. Twas one of his finest victories he reenacted, a textbook engagement against the Spanish adversary, bane of the British colonial drive. And the taking of a Fort on the island of Providence, after a right royal battering from his cannon. Providence held a special place in his thoughts, for that springboard location and those buccaneering skirmishes, landed him enormous wealth that was not fully declared to the Crown and had to be hid - with some haste - for retrieval if and when his luck ran out, or extravagances called for reinforcements. But he prospered verily. More so, when appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. Almost forgetting his stash, but also laying a trail of clues. Lest he forget the whereabouts of his booty, or should his kin hath most desperate need. For fraught the need would have to be by legal clause and definition, and considerable study thereafter of a map on parchment, entrusted to his scribe, though waxed and sealed as extra measure in a sturdy envelope. Not to be opened, unless.
He laughed out loud, at the pleasant memories. Adrenaline coursing trough his veins, more a trickle, compared to that during such endeavours, that he could hardly imagine him capable of with the passing of years. But, nonetheless, a very pleasant entertainment of the mind.
He'd not shared the intimacies of this knowledge with his Germanic wife, or any of his blood relations, save to call on the scribe if conditions warranted. Only a few trusted shipmates ever heard him speak of such things, when in a drunken stupor. He had though given explicit instructions to a master coffin maker, and had a secret compartment installed in what would be his final resting place, for comfort in the afterlife. The details of this device and the contents thereof, last willed on vellum to his legal scribe. Who was sworn to terms on pain of death. No idle threat, with the portly buccaneer still handy with a blade, and known to use it skillfully if crossed.
Henry staggered left and right, overcome all dizzy and nauseous, almost unable to remain upright, when a pain struck in his left arm, no longer able to move it, the appendage alien. The agony traveled to his face, finally losing control of one side of his body, making him appear lop-sided with distorted features, to the on looking Africans tending to his every whim. And finally, a stabbing pain in his heart. The attack was mercifully quick, as he crashed to earth with a thud. Stone dead, from a massive cardiac seizure, compounding a blockage and heart attack. His slaves not comprehending, believed their master had simply passed out once again from his routine over-indulgences, merely transported his corpse to the manor house. Then noticed respiration had ceased, with all attempts to revive, to no avail.
PALISADOES CEMETERY, OLD PORT ROYAL - THE FUNERAL
Captain Morgan's funeral was a State affair, the wind somewhat boisterous against a blue sky darkly interspersed with patches of grey, the sunlight breaking through in highlights of orange, befitting Moses' parting of the Red Sea.
The Palisadoes Cemetery was located on a thin strip of sand that served as a natural protection for the harbour of Kingston.
Much of Jamaica's society turned out to pay their last respects and admire the moderate size stone built mausoleum, featuring intricate reliefs of ships of war, and Britannic emblems. The gathering included some of Henry's lesser salubrious companions, where the former buccaneer indulged his passions, borne of a life mingling with pirating cutthroats and piratical releases while quenching their lusts in port. Difficult to fully divest oneself of, as ye may imagine, following years of debauchery.
The gathering watched, hats off, with ne're a tear as the bearers watched the oversize and highly adorned casket pushed on rollers into the impressive receiving mausoleum, and thence a stone table. The coffin was also lead lined, more an early gasket casket, for the embalmed remains therein. Not a one knew of the secrets sheltered within, save for the scribe and coffin maker, both sets of lips sealed, and absent from the party. But even then, none could decipher the engraving on the compartmentalized iron wood tablet, the code being paired with a map on parchment, the wood otherwise known as lignum vitae, a fragrant nearly black timber, so dense it sinks in water. The tree is native to the West Indies, discovered by the navigator, Christopher Columbus, on one of his four voyages. A coffin made thus is resistant to all but the worst ravages of time.
Its name means “wood of life” – from its medicinal qualities. Regarded as one of the hardest woods in the world. Its durability in submerged or ground-contact applications is legendary. The ideal medium to take a secret to the grave, as well the Captain knew in making his mausoleum preparations.
A man of the cloth, Dr Emmanuel Heath, dressed in black and white collared, said a few kind words, not in truth believed by the assembly. Though not intended hypocritically by the speaker on such occasions.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we commend the earthly remains of our much revered citizen, to this final place. May God rest his soul, that he should find peace everlasting."
The typically verbacious Anglican rector of Port Royal, Saint Paul's Church, bid those gathered to go in peace, and they duly withdrew. As the gathering dispersed, two attendants ceremoniously closed first one sturdy wooden door fixed together with massive wrought coach bolts, then the other. This taking some considerable effort, though the men were stout as ox. Finally, a large key with Sir Henry's crest, was turned in an iron security lock adorned with matching crest, the lock itself being larger than a briefcase, moved brass levers and a well lubricated bloomery-made steel bolt some pounds in mass, into place with a loud and satisfying clunk. The key was returned to the clergyman. Who hung said lever heavy about his neck on a robust silver chain, for the safe keeping thereof, and passing to Morgan's legitimate next of kin via his solicitous scribe, in a vaulted box, interim.
The crowd dispersed to drown or celebrate whatever feelings they harbored for their leading citizen, in their favoured taverns aplenty.
In a little under four years, the grey stone edifice would be subsumed by the sea. Along with the sweet smelling sarcophagus, bones and putrefied fluids that Captain Sir Henry Morgan would have by then become, save for the elaborate chemical preservations and potions applied, in preparation for his final destination.
The Palisadoes Cemetery was located on a thin strip of sand that served as a natural protection for the harbour of Kingston Jamaica. On Tuesday the 7th of June 1692 a great earthquake caused the strip of land and the cemetery to sink beneath the sea, setting off a tsunami recoil backwash. The only person identified to have been buried there was Henry Morgan. His remains have not been discovered to this date.
The introduction of sugar cultivation to
the Caribbean in the 1640s and its subsequent rapid growth led to the development of the plantation economy,
dependent on the labour of imported Africans. Slaves became increasingly sought after to work in the unpleasant conditions of heat and humidity.
SCENE 1. THE BATTLE OF OCRACOKE - North Carolina Historic flashback - 1718, 22nd November, a British naval taskforce led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard lay in wait for Edward Teach (Blackbeard), beheading the troublesome pirate after a long and bloody swordfight, including severval gunshots wounds by way of a torturous interrogation. As Blackbeard expires on the deck of the Adventure, he curses the English sailors and their kin, taking the secret of his treasure with him to the Devil.
SCENE 2. EARTHQUAKE JAMAICA - Present Day - An earthquake hits Port Royal, disturbing the sunken city. Underwater scenes of chaotic movement ripples, what is left of buildings rocking. A Palisadoes cemetery opening an entrance to Henry Morgan's mausoleum.
SCENE 3. BLUE SHIELD ENGLAND - England - Blue Shield, Newcastle University. John Storm is called to Jamaica urgently, requested by UNESCO, to catalogue the archaeological remains of the underwater city, using the Elizabeth Swann's ultra modern array of subsea survey sensors, worried that another quake threatens to wipe out all records. They plan to make the submerged city a UNEP World Heritage Site.
SCENE 4. HENRY MORGAN'S DEATH - Historic flashback - Henry Morgan musing taking of a prize ship as a pirate off coast of Venezuela and Panama, while he is working his sugar cane plantation in drunken condition, he has a heart attack. Cut to his funeral ceremony at Palisadoes cemetery, old Port Royal.
SCENE 5. SUNKEN CITY SURVEY - Caribbean Sea Present Day - The Swann's sensors scan the ocean bed, revealing what turns out to be the mausoleum and tomb containing remains of the former Governor of Jamaica. It is under threat of imminent and dangerous collapse.
SCENE 6. JUNE 1692 TSUNAMI - Jamaica Historic flashback - June 7th, an earthquake hits Port Royal, then a tsunami washes the pirate haven under the sea, covering Henry Morgan's mausoleum. Washing clean the sins of the wicked city.
SCENE 7. HENRY MORGAN'S COFFIN - Jamaica Present Day - John Storm investigates target underwater areas using an ROV, then dives the site, coming face to face with Sir Henry's macabre skeletal remains. Then discovering secret compartment in his coffin, and interesting wooden engraving.
SCENE 8. BBC Jill Bird - London. "The intrepid conservationist, Mr John Storm .." News of the archaeological find and condition of lost Henry Morgan, pirate's remains - saved. "And for those of you wondering, there was no treasure."
SCENE 10. William Gray helps John Long and his band of cut-throats to crew for Huntington, one the basis of purloined data from a UNESCO report on the wooden engraving. John Long poses as a cartographer, but proves to be a dab hand on the galley. He is elected ship's cook.
SCENE 11. Huntington contacts John Storm, asking for help with the supposed shipwreck survey - meet in the Caribbean. Asking for ES assstance as portable lab, appealing to Storm's general interest in such matters. At this stage John has no idea about the parchment Huntington has been keeping a secret, thinking he is cosher, as a BGS bigwig.
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