Back in our days in Lanzarote, we ran a forum on our Canary Nightlife website. It used to be a very busy forum at one time, but just ticks along quietly now because many of the old regulars have migrated to Social Media. We keep it running though, largely for sentimental reasons because through it we formed quite a few great and lifelong friendships but also in memory of three members that have passed away.
One of those friends, who sadly is no longer with us, was Mike (aka Smokie). Mike passed away in November 2014 and is sorely missed by many of us. Mike was a warm hearted, generous and funny guy. He was also a fantastic story teller… So, as a tribute to him we thought we’d reproduce one of our favourites of his many posts on the forum. This story is a true account of one of their family holidays…
Here goes, enjoy…
When Lefty (the alias of Mike’s son on the forum) was about 8 years old and his sister about 10, we took a family holiday to Rhodes with my sister, her two kids and my mum. It was lovely, we stayed in a town/village called Paradisee (with a ` above the e) at the northern end of the island.
The holiday was going great and after a few days we went for a day trip to Lindos, supposedly the nicest place on the island. We had been there for a couple of hours (and I was asleep on the beach) when the four children came running over to us, waking me up in the process.
They had been playing a short distance away by an old pier, looking around underneath it for crabs and things when one of them noticed a small earthenware jar wedged in part of the pier. They brought it over to show us.
It had a cork stopper wedged in it and they were struggling to get the stopper out. Lefty, showing a fantastic grasp of geography and a quite scary worldly awareness said, “Don’t open it, we are very near Turkey, it might contain drugs”. (Wow)
We finally managed to prise the cork stopper out and inside we found a piece of paper that looked to be very old. It had writing on it that looked very curious, strangely formed letters and the writing appeared to have been done in blood. I cannot remember the exact wording but it went something like this,
MY NAME IS NED.
I AM HELD CAPTIVE ON THE PIRATE SHIP, THE DORSET QUEEN.
IF YOU FIND MY NOTE, HELP ME, OR I THINK IT NEVER LIKELY THAT I SHALL SURVIVE THIS PERIL.
I WILL NOT TELL THESE PRIVATEERS WHERE MY TREASURE LIES AND FOR THAT I FEAR I MAY FORFETT MY LIFE.
MY TREASURE LIES BURIED ON MERMADE BEACH ON THE ISLAND OF RO⌂OS
FIND IT AND USE IT FOR GOOD WORKS. I REPENT MY SINS THAT PUT ME IN SUCH PERIL.
BEWARE AVARICE AND GREED
SIGNED, GODS PENITENT SERVANT. In the year of the Lord 1863 March fiffth.
With it was a very rudimentary map, showing a piece of coastline with some assorted markings on it but in the middle was the magical x
Fantastic but surely untrue ?
Well, it was obviously some sort of a joke, wasn’t it ?
The name of the island was a triangle and ROOS.
None of us had ever heard of an island called ROOS so it didn’t matter anyway. We asked around among the Greek people we could get to understand our English and none of them knew of a triangular shaped island called ROOS. (we didn’t show anyone the note)
Eventually after a couple of hours, I went to buy ice cream and asked the guy, who spoke better English than me, if he knew a triangular island called ROOS and he laughed at me. He pointed out that the triangle was “Delta” in the Greek alphabet, corresponding to our letter D, so the name of Ned’s island was RODOS, or as we know it now, “RHODES”.
Now we were in business, we just had to find where mermade (I’m guessing MERMAID) beach was. Again, we asked everyone, including the ice cream man where Mermade beach was but no one could help us. We could do no more, I promised the children that we would find a policeman to ask the next day, the police would be sure to know where Mermade beach was located.
On the drive back to paradisee, my mum suggested that we ask Yannis, (?) the guy who ran the “No Problem” bar as he’d chatted to us and said that his family had lived on the island for a long time. So we promised the kids that if they were good when we got home and had their baths and tea with no trouble, we’d go to the bar and ask.
We went to the bar and asked Yannis whether he knew where Mermade beach was and he laughed at us, we asked why and he said to look at all the cocktails he made, they all had a mermade cocktail stirrer in them because Paradisee beach, where his bar was, used to be called Mermaid beach a long time ago.
The kids went wild and demanded to be allowed to go to the beach so we went back to the hotel, raided the Kids Club for some sandcastle spades and set off to the beach. When we got there, the beach looked nothing like the map, it was hopeless.
Eventually we figured out that where the two concrete towers, which looked like they were from the Second World War era were situated corresponded to two markings on the map. Was it possible that they had been constructed on the site of old Martello towers, they commanded the beach so it could be likely.
If so that put the X about two thirds of the way along the beach. On the map, it showed what looked like a pier or landing jetty but on the beach there was only a few rocks, could they possibly be the remains of an old pier. We had nothing to lose so we walked across and the kids dug about a hundred holes.
Despond was setting in when my niece shouted for the tenth time that she had found “something”, we assumed it would be yet another false alarm but after a lot more digging she uncovered a wooden box about the size of a laptop , we dug it out and it was about a foot from top to bottom. By now it had gone very dark so we decided to take the box back to the “No Problem” bar to see what it contained.
I was nominated to carry it as it weighed a ton, it was obviously a scam and it was so heavy it was going to be filled with rocks and the box was damp and yukky and as I was terrified that it would have sea snakes in it, I had to carry it at arms length. I thought my arms were going to drop off and for what ? Some jokers idea of a laugh.
We had to walk quite a way to the bar so when we got there the kids were pretty hyper. We tried to shush them up and keep quiet about what we’d found, we didn’t want everyone else in the bar to know, did we, and then we set about trying to get the box open.
I finally prised the lid off and sure enough there were big stones in it. No surprise there then.
I gingerly began to remove the stones, still expecting a sea snake to jump out and take a bite out of me. After I’d lifted out a few stones we could see some dirty old cloth underneath so I got the rest of the stones out. We continued to shush the kids as it now looked like perhaps a different proposition to what I’d thought.
There was obviously something wrapped in the old cloth so with a fork I began to lift the loose corners of the cloth. It took forever as it seemed to have a lot more than four corners. Eventually, with much trepidation and still expecting a snake bite, I flicked the last corner of the cloth up and over the edge of the box.
Treasure, treasure, treasure, just like in the movies and lots and lots of it.
The kids whooped and hollered and I looked up to see that EVERYONE in the bar was crowded around the table, there were about fifty people looking at “our secret treasure”.
Bloomin’ kids! Haven’t a clue about keeping secrets, back in my home town, they’d starve.
Any thoughts of sea snakes were gone, the treasure was lifted out and there were gold and silver rings, necklaces, brooches, strings of pearls, golden ornaments, silver stuff, coins, earrings, bracelets, even two small golden elephants. Fantastic, every kids dream come true. I must admit, I was like the biggest kid of all.
There was loads of it, we spread it out and it nearly covered the table. Pippy Longstocking- eat your heart out.
We looked at the coins and there were loads of assorted coins that we’d never seen before, I think they came from many different countries but, most importantly none of them had a date later than 1859.
There was also an old piece of coarse rope/string which had been threaded through a huge pile of coins with holes in them. I suggested that perhaps if you are a pirate you wouldn’t go swinging from the deck of your ship, swinging your cutlass, to plunder another ship and keep coins loose in your pocket so I guess the string would be tied around your neck to keep your coins safe.
The kids dived amongst the booty and passed it around the table with wide eyed wonder, they’d dragged Yannis’s little daughter “Anna” into the inner circle with themselves and though she spoke little English she certainly understood the situation and joined in the excitement.
A few drinks were downed that night, I can tell you.
At one point the girls were disagreeing about who was going to have a particular item out of the treasure box but Nana (my Mum) quietly reminded them about poor Ned’s last words on this Earth, to BEWARE AVARICE AND GREED. That stopped any disagreement in its tracks and each offered the other the first choice out of the box.
Poor Ned, his treasure was obviously not of the sort that would be collected by an honest man. It looked like plunder as I’m sure it was, but we know that he had repented his sins committed in amassing this hoard so perhaps his mortal soul might be saved.
The next day there were lots of children all over the beach digging and I mean lots and lots of them, the story had gone around the town like wildfire.
Before we left to come back to England my eldest niece asked me whether we should not hand in the treasure to the Police as she’d read in a guidebook that it was illegal to take away any antiquities from Greece. I truthfully told her that I’d talked to a Customs Officer who said that the law referred to Ancient Greek Antiquities from a couple of thousand years ago, but full marks to her for her honesty and sense of civic responsibility.
The kids gave little “Anna” the first choices of whatever she wanted from the treasure chest and we took the rest back to England.
After the summer holidays finished the kids went back to school and, as in every school in the land , they had to write about what they did in the holidays. Of course, all four kids wrote the story of the treasure chest and firstly my nieces and then my own kids were asked to take the treasure, the chest, map, letter and bottle thing into school and tell the story to their whole classes.
A few weeks later the headteacher of my kid’s school met me where I worked and we chatted, he said that he thought that the whole thing was fantastic and a unique experience for any child. We talked about it and then he commented that we were lucky that we didn’t have a problem bringing it into the country with the Customs.
I laughed and said that the silly thing was that the Customs had actually “pulled me” on the way to Rhodes for having a tiny calculator in my pocket and ignored the whole box of treasure in my holdall on my shoulder.
“On the way OUT to Rhodes” he said, “I don’t understand”. Correct, the man placed in charge of overseeing the education of several hundred children actually believed the story of NED and his TREASURE. A fully grown educated responsible adult honestly believed that “Poor Old Ned” had lived and died, he’d written a treasure map, in blood, somewhere in the Mediterranean and by a million to one chance the kids had found the map, located the treasure and claimed it.
Did I ever tell you that my Mum had worked for the Customs and Excise?
I ran a petrol station and had been there for a few years so I knew a lot of “the regulars”, many of whom were older ladies so when I thought up the plan, I’d chat with these ladies and say to them, “You have a jewellery box in your bedroom, don’t you”? Obviously they’d wonder what the heck I was getting at.
I’d then say, “I know that in that jewellery box you have an odd earring, that you’ve kept for a ridiculous number of years and you daren’t throw it out because you know that when you do so, the “other” missing earring will reappear, haven’t you”? Cue wide eyed stares and questions about how could I possibly know that. I’d follow up with, “It’s been too many years, the earring isn’t coming back, be realistic, is it”?
“I bet you also have a lovely brooch but a couple of the stones are missing and when you get a minute you’ll take it to a jewellers and get it repaired, but you’ll never do so, will you”?
“And, you have a string of beads/pearls with one missing, yes”?
“You are keeping all this stuff, you’ll never get it repaired and perhaps some dodgy robber will get it and that’ll upset you, won’t it”?
Then I’d tell them what the plan was for the treasure chest and there were lots and lots of lovely ladies bringing in all sorts of things, old coins and bracelets with broken clasps and suchlike. I went around the old furniture /antique shops until I found the perfect “Chest” and the earthenware jar/bottle and showed the ladies how the plan was progressing.
They were all so excited to be part of a kids treasure adventure and constantly offered advice and wanted updates and asked for photos of the “Discovery”. When we returned they loved the photo’s.
The old coins, pre 1859 could stand as they were but any dated later than that were drilled with a hole to put the string through, but they were drilled through the date on the coin.
I have no idea if any pirate kept coins on a string.
I didn’t even know whether such a thing as a sea snake existed (I do now).
The old cloth was a new cloth which we boiled up in a pan with a pile of teabags.
The “Blood” used for the writing and also to seal the jar/bottle was really an old brown crayon.
We had a problem insofar as we couldn’t draw the map until we saw Paradisee beach and we couldn’t bury the treasure until just before the kids dug it up, in case it floated up on a tide or someone else found it. That meant that we had to go and bury the box whilst the kids had their baths just before finding it, but it’s a problem to go onto a beach when the bathroom overlooks the beach. We solved that by crawling along behind a low wall, try doing that without drawing attention to yourself, whilst carrying a big heavy box.
We also had to dig a convincingly deep hole and “plant” the box without anyone knowing as they would have just come and dug up whatever it was out of curiosity.
As far as I know, the head teacher is still in charge of the education of hundreds of children.
Nowadays, nobody would believe that we’d be collecting for a treasure box, they’d think we were gathering stuff to sell to one of those firms that “BUY YOUR GOLD – FOR CASH”, so I guess nobody will be copying the plan.
(and I do know how to spell forfeit, and fifth)
RIP Mike wherever you are now, and wishing our love to you too Jules if you are reading this…