Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Local Folk – White Rock Willie

Posted in Local Folk by Jacob Zinn on June 24, 2009

A few weeks ago, I attended the wedding of Brent Kruger and Allison Dagneau, a couple I wrote a story on. The ceremony was held in White Rock on a gorgeous, sunny day.

As the doors of the church opened and everyone filed out to go to the reception, an odd-looking man was walking down Pacific Drive.

He wasn’t odd-looking in the sense of having a deformity or an unusual body structure. It was more his appearance.

He was dressed as a pirate, because he is a pirate. Or maybe a friend dared him to wear his Halloween costume year-round. (Unconfirmed and unlikely.)

He is White Rock Willie, often mistaken for his cousin Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Legend has it that Willie was once one William E. Morgan, a man who served in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy until abandoning ship for a life of swashbuckling in the 17th century. After sharing a jail cell with his cousin Jack, he and his crew acquired a ship which he christened “The Mojito” and sailed around Cuba, where the drink of the same name was made in their honour.

A pirates life for me!

In the hundreds of years since then, it’s unclear how Willie ended up in White Rock, but he’s become a character in this oceanside town. He wanders around the roads and by the restaurants on the beach, greeting residents and tourists who haven’t seen anyone quite like him before.

Ted Colley of the Surrey NOW newspaper spent the day with him and wrote a front-page article about his presence in South Surrey.

Asked who he really is; who is the man behind White Rock Willie, he just smiles.

“That would ruin the fun now wouldn’t it, mate?” is all he says. There might be something to the claim of kinship, since Willie bears an uncanny resemblance to the self-proclaimed Pirate Lord of the Caribbean.

Like Sparrow, Willie sports dreadlocks tumbling from under a red bandana. His eyes are lined with kohl and his goatee terminates in two beaded braids. He wears a “puffy shirt,” as made famous by Seinfeld, covered by a long, sleeveless tunic cinched at the waist by a wide leather belt and a multicoloured sash. A pair of honest-to-God pirate boots completes the ensemble.

And he’s got Sparrow’s accent and slurred speech down to perfection, along with the slightly drunken, slightly swishy, swagger. When the mood strikes him, Willie can be seen out and about, usually along White Rock’s seafront and occasionally at Crescent Beach.

The article also says he’s heading to Utah in August, so get your photo-op with Willie before he’s gone. He’d be happy to have some pictures taken in exchange for a bottle of rum.

If you know of any other well-known buskers, gypsies or characters throughout the Lower Mainland, talk about them in the comments.



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