The Phantom Pirate
(Captain Goldsack)





(Captain Gold-sack)


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 Dedicated to Joseph Kayser

The Phantom Pirate
(Captain Goldsack)

Poem by
By Permission of Duffield & Co.

Music by
By permission of the Author

copyright MCMXXII
by G. Ricordi & Co. Inc.

The Phantom Pirate

Down in the yellow bay
Where the scows are sleeping,
Where among the dead men
The sharks flit to and fro.
There Captain Goldsack goes
Creeping, creeping, creeping.
Looking for his treasure,
His treasure down below.

Yo ho, yo ho, yo ho--
Creeping, creeping, creeping,
creeping down below.
Yo ho!

Down a mong the tangle weed
Where the dead are leaking
With the ebb and flow of water
Thru their ribs and hollow bones--
Isaac Goldsack stoops low,
Seeking, seeking, seeking, seeking.
What's he seeking there a-midst
A lot o'dead men's bones?

Ye ho, heave a ye ho!
Seeking, seeking,--seeking down below.

Twice a hundred year and more
Are gone across the bay.
Down across the yellow bay
Where the dead are sleeping,
But Captain Goldsack gropes and gropes
From year long day to day,
Captain Goldsack gropes below,

Creeping, creeping, yo ho! yo ho! yo ho!
Creeping, creeping down below, yo ho!



In the fall of 1997, as I searched for anything written by William Sharp/Fiona Macleod, I discovered the score of The Phantom Pirate in the music section of the online catalogue of the Seattle Public Library.   This was so different from the legends and old tales I had been presenting that I scanned and posted it to the web.  My goal was to have at the least, a midi file of the melody as a change of pace. Alas, people I knew who could make midi files could not read music...and the musicians I talked with who could read music didn't have the computer expertise to make a midi file.
Two years passed.  Then, in October of 1999, a Professor Goldsack from Surrey, emailed the following:

"A nephew drew my attention to your web site. Perhaps he found it in scanning for our name. I read your "story" and found it fascinating, but regret I cannot offer any help in your search.
I am surprised that no one in our family knew of the poem by William Sharp --- it has been around for long enough. I wonder if he invented the name, or had come across it? Dickens had a notebook in which he kept a list of what he called available names. He had entered the name Goldsack, which he had come across when visting a workhouse somewhere!
We have records of family going back 200 years from Sharp's time, but I do not think there is an Isaac among them.
My son and his wife are both professional singers, and in case the Warford setting should prove of interest as repertoire, I have tried to down load the files, but the result is really not of useable quality...." (I mailed a photocopy of the score to Prof. Goldsack the following day.)

Professor Goldsack later wrote:
"You are doubtless aware that the McLeod clan were an old family from Skye, and no doubt had much romance for William Sharp in his concern for Gaelic affairs.
Purely by chance my great great grandfather married a Jane Hannah Macleod in 1837, in London shortly before emigrating to Adelaide, Australia. Their eldest son returned to England, but there is quite a large Goldsack 'dynasty' in Australia."
A Geneology of an Issac Goldsack  (Please tab down to #471.) 

Several months later, a tape and then, an e-mail attachment arrived from England and I could hear the music and lyrics of The Phantom Pirate.   And so, for your consideration is Christopher Goldsack's performance of The Phantom Pirate :

Phantom Pirate (RealAudio file)
  Sung by Christopher Goldsack, baritone
  Piano    John Flinders (access Other Pages)
Free download of RealAudio - Realplayer 
  (Reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan...yes?)

At the beginning of 2002, I received an email from Larry Goldsack in B.C., a member of another branch of the Goldsack family tree:

"I enjoyed your website and found the information regarding The Phantom Pirate most interesting, as I share the Goldsack name as well. I started researching my Goldsack roots about 6 years ago and found that we are deeply rooted in the Dover area of Kent. When I began my search I had very little information to work with. My only first hand source was my uncle who claimed to know very little, except that we are descended from pirates. My late father also told this story. It seems that both these boys had been told the story by their father, my grandfather John Goldsack (1853-1913). When he was six years old John was sent to St. Margaret's to live with his grandparents, ISAAC (1823-1909) and  Sarah Goldsack.  When Isaac died, his obituary in the Dover Express claimed that prior to his death he had been the town's oldest living resident. Isaac's parent's were ISAAC (1789-1872) and Sarah Goldsack, also of St. Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent. While I have found no evidence of pirates in my direct line there is no question that many of the Goldsacks in and around Dover were engaged in the mariner trade."

Another email followed:
"After the last message I sent, I checked to see if in fact Isaac (1746), the brother of my 4x great grandfather, Henry (1755), did have any sons named Isaac. The answer is yes! His son Isaac was born in 1781 at Deal, Kent. This Isaac married Ann Robins in 1804 and they had a son, Isaac Robins Goldsack in 1805. Isaac Robins somehow made his way to London and married Rebecca Cowdery in 1830. Their first born son was named (what else) Isaac (1837).

Three years passed and Larry has uncovered more information:

"Hello again!
"I hope all is well with you. In the past 3 years I've been actively
researching to try and discover if there was a possibility that William
Sharp may have modeled his Phantom Pirate after a real person named Isaac Goldsack. I've sent you information about my direct line (the only place where Isaac Goldsack appears), and recently I made a discovery that I find very interesting.
"I had always know about Isaac Goldsack (1818, Weymouth) who worked in the Coastguard along the Dorset coastline and settled in St. Agnes, Cornwall. He was still living there in 1901. The problem was I did not know who his parents were. As Isaac is a name only associated with my family line I felt certain that he fit in somewhere - indeed I had a theory, but the work of other researchers indicated that my idea must be wrong.
"On your website you list a "genealogy of an Isaac Goldsack". I believe that this man was the father of Isaac Goldsack (1818, Weymouth). The information on that particular website is flawed. They have confused Isaac (1780) with Isaac (1804) the carpenter from Margate.
"This is what I have discovered (using Naval records, church records and
census data):
"Isaac Goldsack was born 22 Feb 1779 at Dover. He was baptised 12 March 1780 at St. James the Apostle, Dover. His parents were George and Catherine (the birth date is what he gave when he joined the Navy - he may have added a year to his age, or he simply may have been baptised a year after his birth).
"Isaac joined the Navy in 1797 and served until 1807. He married Hannah Smith at Dover on 1 Oct 1804. He and Hannah had a son named George (baptised at Dover in 1805). In 1808 they had a son named Peter (baptised at Folkestone), in 1812 the had a daughter named Elizabeth (baptised at Folkestone) and in 1815 they had another daughter named Maria (baptised at Folkestone).
After Isaac left the Navy he began working in the Merchant Navy as a 'Ticketed Master' until 1845. I'm not sure if this made him a Captain or not.
In 1818 Isaac and Hannah had a son named Isaac at Weymouth, Dorset.
In 1827 Isaac and Hannah had a daughter named Hannah at Weymouth, Dorset.
"Dorset records show:
George Goldsack, Mariner, married Jane Symes at Wyke Regis (Weymouth) in 1828. A witness was Peter Goldsack.
George Goldsack (son of George, Mariner, and Jane) was baptised at Wyke Regis in 1833.
Jane Goldsack (daughter of Peter, Mariner, and Elizabeth Goldsack) was
baptised at Wyke Regis in 1832.
Jane Goldsack, aged 30, was buried at Wyke in March 1835.
Jane Goldsack, aged 3, was buried at Wyke in 1835.
George Goldsack, aged 2 1/2 was buried at Wyke in 1836.
"In 1851 there was a Martha Goldsack (1815, Fleet) living at 2 Ebenezer
Place, Weymouth with Emily Roberts (1827, Weymouth). Both had husbands who were Mariners. Martha may have been George Goldsack's second wife - or the wife of another brother)
"In 1861 Emily Roberts was living at 3 Ebenezer Place (I think Emily was a daughter of Isaac and Hannah, but have not been able to prove it yet). "Next door was Elizabeth Goldsack (1808, Fleet). Elizabeth was a widow receiving a Naval Pension. Elizabeth lived in the same house until her death in 1887.
"I'm certain that Elizabeth was the wife of Peter.
Essex records show:
Hannah Goldsack married Thomas Whitaker in 1847 at Bradwell.
Hannah Goldsack died Q4 1859 at Bradwell.
Maria Goldsack married James Hanley in 1860 at Bradwell.
Isaac Goldsack died Q4 1865 at Bradwell.
In 1861 Isaac Goldsack was 82 years old and living in Bradwell, Essex. He was receiving a pension from the Coastguard. His daughter, Maria Hanley (1815, Weymouth) and her husband, James (1806, Cork, Ireland) were living with him. James was in the Coastguard.
In 1881 Maria Hanley was living with her sister Hannah Whitaker at Burnham, Essex. Both were widows.
From all this information it has become clear to me that Isaac (1779) was
the father of Isaac (1818, Weymouth), and that Isaac (1779) spent more than 50 years working at sea before he became a member of the Coastguard. His sons, George, Peter and Isaac all became mariners - with Isaac also joining the Coastguard.
"From what I understand, the early Coastguard crew was employed to save people from shipwrecks and then protect the wreck from plunder. Is it possible that some crews plundered the ships themselves? Perhaps a crew, whose Captain was one Isaac Goldsack, gained a particular reputation for doing just that! It's fun to speculate...
"I can tell you that Isaac Goldsack (1818) was awarded the Bronze Medal (Royal Humane Society) in 1862 after saving people from a wreck off Mounts Bay, Cornwall.
"I just wanted to let you know that I've been thinking of William Sharp's poem and if he used a person as a model for Cap'n Goldsack that I think
Isaac (1779) is perhaps the best candidate. Also, in regards to my grandfather telling his sons that they were descended from pirates... Isaac
(1779) was the cousin of 3x great grandfather Isaac (1789). It is possible
that Isaac (1789) heard about his cousin's exploits at sea and related them to his son, Isaac (1823). It is also entirely possible that Isaac (1823) told my grandfather the stories in the 1880s-90s. I suppose if they had access to Sharp's poem that would have made the stories even better (or perhaps the poem gave rise to some fictitious stories that worked to create the pirate myth).

I just wanted to correct a mistake I made - Emily Roberts, possible daughter of Isaac and Hannah Goldsack - was born c.1822 at Weymouth and not in 1827 as I noted.
Also, I forgot to mention that according to Navy records Isaac (1779) was 5'-2 1/2" tall with brown hair and blue eyes - if he was a pirate he certainly wasn't a "big" one!

Are not grandfathers wonderful?!?

M. Dobratz


  1998, 1999, 2000 copyright by Mary Ann Dobratz  All Rights Reserved
With the exception of Vol. II, The Collected Works of Fiona Macleod and
Vol. V, The Selected Writings of Wm. Sharp (now in print)
the writings of the above author are in the public domain.
If referencing any material for articles, please footnote/bookmark the URL for this site.

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