Why do pirates have West Country accents? Could it be down to actor Robert Newton?

Ask anyone to talk like a pirate and chances are you will get a strong West Country accent.

Why is this? Did those who became pirates all come from the South West of England? It seems unlikely.

Did the overdone West Country accent originate with the actor Robert Newton? That is one theory put forward.

Robert Newton played Long John Silver in 1950 Walt Disney film of Treasure Island. He played the part with the exaggerated accent we know today as ‘Pirate’, and it stuck. Since then most television and film pirates sound like they come from the West of England.

Robert Newton played another pirate two years later in the 1952 film Blackbeard the Pirate. This time he played the title character Blackbeard.

I did a search for Robert Newton and it seems he was born in Shaftesbury, Dorset in 1905. He died of a heart attack in Beverly Hills, California in 1956 aged 50.

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  1. Many pirates came from coastal areas as might be expected, including the West Country. But at the time of pirates, people spoke differently compared to today anyway.

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