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The Day of Syn

Another one from Saturday: Doctor Syn, the Vicar of Dymchurch. The smuggler. Also pirate.

Dymchurch is a real village, but Doctor Syn was the fictional protagonist of a series of books by Russell Thorndike (lesser known brother to Shakespearean actress Sybil Thorndike).

There have been three film adaptations, and you may well have seen the third: Disney’s 1963 The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Patrick McGoohan did a fine job with it. It was filmed on location all around the area, which makes it especially fun for us to watch.

It was unavailable in DVD for years and years except as a rough bootleg, then Disney came out with a commemorative boxed set. In one of life’s small weirdnesses, mine came in the mail the day I left the US for England, for good.

We sat down to watch it, and Uncle Walt’s monologue starts out something like “the Scarecrow was a real man and folks ’round Romney Marsh still tell stories…” and Uncle B shot me the look.

Some years ago, I got the books as audio books to listen to on my long commute. The seven books were written between 1915 and 1944. They were astonishingly bloodthirsty. Our grandparents had to be less uptight than we give them credit for, if they could stomach a hero who was a man of God by day and a sadistic murderer in his spare time.

Like the transmogrification of pirates into children’s literature.

June 30, 2021 — 7:11 pm
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