FOR centuries their fearsome hordes roamed the Seven Seas in search of treasure and the next unfortunate vessel to wreak murder and robbery upon.
Infamous blackguards like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd struck fear into the hearts of seafarers as pirates plundered their way across the oceans.
But now, a gentler side of pirate life is set to be recreated in East Lothian - by a church minister.
Pirate enthusiast and Church of Scotland minister the Rev Dr Robin Hill is using International Talk Like A Pirate Day - an unofficial holiday set up 11 years ago in the United States - as the basis for a weekend-long rededication event for his parish in Longniddry.
And he is hoping the current interest in pirates, which has been fuelled by the recent blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean movie, will encourage his parishioners to don eyepatches and fake parrots for the event next weekend.
He said: "It's really a celebration to mark the rededication of the church, but I'm hoping that a lot of parishioners will decide to join in with the pirate theme.
"We've set up a children's pirate fun morning that will have all kinds of piratey games and shows for all of the youngsters here.
"But I also hope that the recent interest in pirates that has stemmed from the Pirates of the Caribbean films will mean that some of the older members of the parish will decide to dress up or talk like true pirates for the weekend."
The event has also been set up to mark Talk Like A Pirate Day, which encourages people to spend every September 19 conversing in pirate language.
Dr Hill is the official "ship's chaplain" for the annual event and added that, although the church would be celebrating it a week early, he hoped other people who celebrated the unique holiday in East Lothian would also join in.
He said: "It's quite a big thing now and, because it's such a zany idea, a lot of people are getting interested in it.
"I got involved after listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 about three years ago. I heard the presenters referring to this talk like a pirate day and it just sounded like a lot of fun and something suitably silly and crazy to do.
"Obviously, it's important to point out that real piracy was a dreadful, brutal thing, but I think it's the romantic view of the gallant villain finding the treasure that has endured.
"I believe we can legitimately denounce the fact while celebrating the fiction."
The Talk Like A Pirate Day holiday is the brainchild of Americans John Baur and Mark Summers, who created it in 1995 after spending an afternoon insulting each other in pirate talk.
Mr Baur - otherwise known as Capt'n Slappy - said: "Dr Hill, or 'Red Robin' as we call him, began a correspondence with us not long after our website opened. We found that although he was a devout man o' the cloth, he also had some pirate blood sloshing around in him and we were so much in admiration we devised the 'Official Chaplain' role and placed him in it immediately.
"We'd all be a bit better off if we approached life like Red Robin, with genuine love and a willingness to have a bit of fun."
Sea-farin' lingo for all land-lubbers
The Rev Dr Robin Hill explains the day in his own words:
AVAST ye Lothian land-lubbers! Hearken unto this story o' sea-farin' merriment and mirthsome ribaldry. Aye, for here we have a truly wondrous tale, worthy o' the tellin': a tale that has its source far across the foamin' Atlantic Ocean, yet which - like the tide itself - do spread from sea to rollin' sea.
What makes grown adults abandon the king's English in favour of pirate lingo? Why should otherwise sane and sensible individuals choose to go all "Deppish" at the flick of a switch?
Well, no, actually, there isn't any reason - or at least not any sensible reasoning. But in a world whose news is so often dominated by the violent, the tragic and the harsh things of life, it is great just to be able to celebrate a simple, zany, linguistic pleasure for one day in 365.
So why not change things just a little from the boring norm of your everyday vocab?
Picture, if you will, the standard family at getting-ready-for-school time:
"Ahoy, ye there in the crow's nest! Be ye raised an' attired???"
"Wot! Be ye, for sooth???"
"Nay! Still be I kippin' in my scratcher!"
"Alas an' alack! What is a cap'n to do with his belligerent cabin boy? Get ye galleywards this instant, or it'll be the plank for you, my feckless lad, an' that right speedily!"
There's nothing to it, really. It is just as simple and as wonderful as that. If you wish, though, you can take things one step further. Why not plan out a pirate fun day of your own? Or if, like my pal Clare, you are fortunate enough to celebrate your birthday on the 19th, push the boat out and have a talk like a pirate "cake-an'-candle party". The opportunities are endless.
What is the lesson of International Talk Like A Pirate Day? I am not at all sure that there is one. But if there were, it would surely be that we can all communicate a little better with each other, get a little closer to our neighbours near and far, and generally have a good time whenever we let our hair down (in jet-black ringlets, of course) - talking like a pirate. Go on then. You know you want to. Arrrrrrrr!
The essential vocabulary
Arrr! An all-purpose word. It can be used as a greeting, agreement, insult, term of affection or a call of surprise.
Avast! Stop and pay attention.
Aye! I agree most heartily.
Aye aye! I'll get right on that, sir, as soon as my break is over.
Beauty: The best possible pirate address for a woman. Always preceded by "me".
Bilge rat: Insult. The bilge is the lowest level of the ship and loaded with ballast and slimy, reeking water.
Grog: An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water.
Lubber: This is the seaman's version of land lover. Someone who does not go to sea.
Smartly: Do something quickly.
Wench: The standard pirate address for a woman.
• An English-to-pirate translator is available online at www.talklikeapirate.com