Big Bear – Cannon Firer
We were all up and along the road to the fort, arriving at nine thirty. The boys filled in their consent forms and we left them to it.
Mags, Trooper and I bimbled along St George Street, empty at this time in the morning and headed for a wine and chocolate smoothie, a first for me - rounded off with a piece of cake.
Meantime the boys were rigged out and began their training
The pick in place. Bear was trained to use his thumb, very odd, very odd. Looking pleased with a ‘chuffed to nuts’ smile
The boys rang us and we were there for their first shot, both were Rear Rights. Then we got to pose with our heroes.
The St Augustine Bastion (one of four), Bear’s cannon to the left
After marching past us the boys were discharged for lunch
Plenty of chatter and cheesy grins about their morning, at a quarter past one off they went leaving us to deal with the bill.
We had another wander around the town, then an excited call. Steve had chatted up the Safety Officer to allow Bear to fire the cannon, we would see him in action on the last exhibition firing at three thirty. We arrived back at the fort in time to chat to some of the other boys. I asked why some buckles on the shoes were in facing the middle, some not. Simple, shoes were the same shape from the same last. Today wear them this way, tomorrow that way – makes for even wear and tear – cannot argue with that logic. Bear with pick in hand.
Chatting over – time to form up and march. Bear holding his Botafuego
The order of things. Attention and hat check. The gun crew make the sign of the cross and ask for the blessing of Saint Barbara. Front right brings up the cuchara to the muzzle in ready position. Front left moves with the pick and ready themselves at the vent, faces the master gunner. Front right enters the cuchara into the bottom of the bore. Front left after cuchara seats into bottom of bore, picks the vent. Front right returns the cuchara to its place and faces cannon. Front left moves to powder keg and faces cannon. Rear right brings up the lanada to the muzzle in ready position. Rear right moves up to cannon and stops the vent (with thumb, no, don’t like that his trigger finger wants to take over) facing the bay. Rear left passes the lanada in and out of the bore, brings it out to the ready position when finished. Rear right continues to stop up vent. Rear left returns the lanada to its place, turns towards the bay and faces cannon. Rear right continues to stop up the vent. Rear left brings atacador to muzzle in ready position. Front left brings cartridge to muzzle. Rear right continues to stop up vent. Master gunner moves up to supervise. Front left loads the cartridge into the muzzle. Rear left stands in ready position. Rear right continues to stop up vent. rear left rams down cartridge gently but smoothly. Front left returns to powder keg, faces cannon. Rear right continues to stop up vent until master gunner is ready to pick the vent. (Thank Heavens his vent stopping is stopping, I’m getting fed up typing that line). Rear left returns the atacador to its place and faces cannon. rear right returns to their place and faces cannon. Rear left and right advance to handspikes, picks them up and hold its base against the cannon carriage. Turn and face master gunner. Then rear right and left move the handspikes into position at rear of cannon carriage in preparation for moving cannon into battery. Then they heave the cannon into place at the wall. Rear left and right position their handspikes back on side of carriage and face master gunner. Front right moves to rear of cannon, takes off hat and bows to master gunner. Front right aims left and right by patting cheeks of carriage. Rear left and right move cannon as front right directs. Front right aims elevation with quadrant, when aimed nods to master gunner. All positions resumed. Master gunner moves up to cannon with powderhorn and removes pick and primes the vent. Front right takes off hat and covers the vent. Front left goes to the botafuego (matchcord lit from Saint Barbara’s candle), lifts it and faces cannon. Master gunner returns to position. Front left moves forward, turns right and takes botafuego to windward side of cannon. Stop when master gunner yells “Alto”. Front left blows on matchcord, brings botafuego back to ready position and nods to the master gunner when ready. All members cover their ears. FUEGO. The noise was awesome.
The bit that shows Bear in action for the important part is on a short video clip on Facebook (sadly the noise of the cannon going off is tiny compared to the reality of it).
Fantastic. An Englishman, pretending to be an American, dressed as a Spaniard, firing on the English in America. Priceless.
A huge thank you to Jeff for inviting the boys. To Steve for getting Bear the opportunity to really light a cannon, momentarily giving his trigger finger something unforgettable to do. And thank you to all the rangers and volunteers that make the whole reenactment possible.
Then there is a lengthy process to put everything back to the beginning. When the cannon are safe the crowd moves forward to chat and ask questions
ALL IN ALL FABULOUS FOR BEAR
A DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET