Ladies of Women’s Institute in Parham, North Devon dressed up as pirates for a talk by a former sea captain who had been captured by Somali pirates in 2008.
The WI members had mistakenly thought the talk, on 11 April, was to be about pirates and piracy, and were left red-faced when they realised the talk was actually to be given by Captain Colin Darch on his 47-day hostage ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates.
A report given on the WI meeting said: “The speaker at the April meeting was Captain Colin Darch, who talked about piracy, embarrassingly the WI all dressed as pirates for the evening not realising that Captain Darch was going to be talking about his experience of being held hostage by Somalia Pirates rather than piracy in general.”
70-year-old Captain Darch spoke of his traumatic ordeal, when 20 armed pirates boarded his ship and held him and his crew hostage off the coast of east Africa.
Darch and his crew were kept hostage for over six weeks until the pirate gang were paid in the region of £350,000 ransom money by the owners of the boat.
Captain Darch took the WI’s embarrassing mix-up in his stride and found the whole situation amusing. He said: “Of course I didn’t take offence or mind. It was more like the Pirates of Penzance.
“I must admit I quite enjoy giving talks to groups such as WIs. I am doing quite a few of them and it is a good way to flog my book.
“They were lovely ladies. They made me judge who was the best dressed which was a difficult choice. In the end I decided to choose the one with who had a fluffy parrot on her shoulder. Of course there weren’t any parrots near the real pirates.”
Parkham WI praised Mr Darch’s talk, they said: “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.”