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Skipper Ireson's Ride


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Flood, Fluid, or Floyd Ireson (in some chronicles his name is Benjamin)
was making for Marblehead in a furious gale, in the autumn of 1808, in
the schooner Betsy. Off Cape Cod he fell in with the schooner Active, of
Beverly, in distress, for she had been disabled in the heavy sea and was
on her beam ends, at the mercy of the tempest. The master of the Active
hailed Ireson and asked to be taken off, for his vessel could not last
much longer, but the Betsy, after a parley, laid her course again
homeward, leaving the exhausted and despairing crew of the sinking vessel
to shift as best they might. The Betsy had not been many hours in port
before it was known that men were in peril in the bay, and two crews of
volunteers set off instantly to the rescue. But it was too late. The
Active was at the bottom of the sea. The captain and three of his men
were saved, however, and their grave accusation against the Betsy's
skipper was common talk in Marblehead ere many days.

On a moonlight night Flood Ireson was roused by knocking at his door. On
opening it he was seized by a band of his townsmen, silently hustled to a
deserted spot, stripped, bound, and coated with tar and feathers. At
break of day he was pitched into an old dory and dragged along the roads
until the bottom of the boat dropped out, when he was mounted in a cart
and the procession continued until Salem was reached. The selectmen of
that town turned back the company, and for a part of the way home the
cart was drawn by a jeering crowd of fishwives. Ireson was released only
when nature had been taxed to the limit of endurance. As his bonds were
cut he said, quietly, I thank you for my ride, gentlemen, but you will
live to regret it.

Some of the cooler heads among his fellows have believed the skipper
innocent and throw the blame for the abandonment of the sinking vessel on
Ireson's mutinous crew. There are others, the universal deniers, who
believe that the whole thing is fiction. Those people refuse to believe
in their own grandfathers. Ireson became moody and reckless after this
adventure. He did not seem to think it worth the attempt to clear
himself. At times he seemed trying, by his aggressive acts and bitter
speeches, to tempt some hot-tempered townsman to kill him. He died after
a severe freezing, having been blown to sea--as some think by his own
will--in a smack.

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