Women's Institute welcomes piracy victim wearing eye patches and waving plastic cutlasses
A branch of the Women's Institute who dressed as pirates to welcome a guest speaker on piracy realised they had made an embarrassing mistake – because he was actually giving a talk on being held hostage by Somalians.The red-faced ladies of the Women's Institute donned eye patches, wigs and fake wooden legs for the speech by Colin Darch, 75.
They had been told the retired sea captain would be talking to them about piracy – so several members went in fancy dress.
But when Colin arrived at their hall they discovered he was there to discuss how he was savagely beaten and held at gunpoint during a 47-day ordeal in the Indian Ocean.
Colin, of Appledore, Devon, went along to the meeting to read extracts from his book, Capture By Somali Pirates & Other Events At Sea.
But when he showed up he found the ladies sitting around holding plastic cutlasses and pirate costumes at the Parkham branch of the Women's Institute (WI) in north Devon.
The red-faced ladies apologised and explained they had no idea about the harrowing content of his talk – and he carried on as planned.
Writing in an official notice about the event, a member wrote: "Embarrassingly, the WI all dressed up as pirates for the event, not realising that Captain Darch was going to be talking about his experience of being held hostage by Somali pirates rather than piracy in general.
"However once this had been gotten over everyone sat down to listen to Captain Darch's story, and what a story it was. Absolutely fascinating and gripping."
Captain Darch was held hostage by twenty armed pirates after they leapt aboard his 35m ship in the Gulf of Aden, off the north coast of Somalia, in 2008.
Four Russian crew members were ordered to lie down but Captain Darch and his Irish engineer, Fred Parle, 68, were needed to sail the Danish ship, the Svitzer Korsakov.
Mr Darch's account describes how he was struck over the head and warned he would be shot if his crew disobeyed their captors.
He and his fellow hostages were accompanied everywhere they went, even to the lavatory.
Six weeks later a rumoured £350,000 ransom was agreed and the crew were freed.
Captain Darch returned to Appledore, Devon, where he was reunited with wife Barbara and began writing about the terrifying episode.
The retired seafarer pressed on with last month's talk despite the costume blunder – and even sold a handful of books – according to a WI notice.
It continued: "If you ever get a chance to hear Colin speak grab the opportunity because he is a great raconteur and very humorous."
Following that, Captain Darch was then in charge of the MS Oldenburg before retiring two years ago.
Speaking earlier this year, he said: "While we were being held the pirates didn't object to us making notes, which myself and the chief engineer needed to do as part of managing the ship.
"We needed to make notes of the distances travelled and other things. I had an A4 pad with me all the time. In total the notes made up 47 pages once they were typed.
"It has just been in the last couple of months I have compiled the book with my grandson helping me as I decided to self-publish it. I think my family are quite amused."