Oh, Peg Leg Pete! Your Future Hangs in the Balance

By Mike Phillips

The Fernandina Beach Historic District Council was surprised to find Peg Leg Pete on its agenda Thursday evening.

What’s the beloved downtown pirate statue doing amid discussions of architectural details, siding materials and the ongoing parking problems in Old Town now that the tourists have discovered it?

Nobody in the City Hall meeting room had a complete answer to the question.

City Engineer Charlie George was concerned that the statue was unbalanced on its perch, was carved in several pieces, and any kid could climb it, break off a piece and get hurt.

City staff confirmed that the kid’s parents, no matter how negligent, could tie the town up in a nasty lawsuit.

Then Laurence Mackie, a long-time member of the Fernandina Pirates Club, shed some light: It was the Pirates who had the original statue made sometime close to 50 years ago. The Pirates have always taken care of statue maintenance because the city didn’t want to do it. They have had to make major repairs several times, the last time being seven years ago.

Now it’s beyond repair, they think, because water infiltrated Peg Leg at some point and created wood rot in the statue’s interior. Very bad news if true.

So they hired a talented young artist to carve a new Peg Leg of solid cedar (the original Peg Leg is oak). He did a nice job, many in the room said, it looks like a really cool pirate – but it’s not Peg Leg.

“Why not?” a newcomer might ask. “It just isn’t,” someone who grew up with Peg Leg might respond.

One fact emerging from this is that Peg Leg is now part of the Fernandina Beach brand. Thousands – if not millions – of visitors have photographed that statue – often with their beloved spouses and children in front of it. Is it wise to mess with those memories, living in countless photo albums nationwide?

Clearly, answering that question is a job for people who’ve had more experience with such issues: marketers, highly experienced artists and others. Without quite putting it that way, the council unanimously voted to table the issue while Charlie George confers with the Pirates.

Oh yes, one other interesting question: What to do about the base the current Peg Leg Pete stands on? There’s a rumor around town that a sainted Pirate’s ashes are buried there.

Anybody want to handle that one?

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7 months ago

Please note that Peg Leg Pete was originally placed at the waterfront (check the Museum for photos) and that several years ago there was a proposal to return a restored and safely installed Peg Leg to the waterfront as part of one iteration of a waterfront park proposal, but as with many things related to the “waterfront,” it never came to fruition.

Noble Member
7 months ago

Save Peg Leg Pete! Now that is a cause I could fully support! Someone needs to set up a GoFundMe account to save Pete. I would definitely donate a few bucks.

Last edited 7 months ago by WaynesBit
7 months ago

Around1978 Robert Lannon of Ships Lantern on Centre St asked for my help in procuring a log for a chainsaw artist to carve a figure during Shrimp Festival. He knew that while living in Fernandina I worked in timberlands for St. Regis Paper Co. in Jacksonville. I forget exact log specs,but had to be maybe at least 14 feet long and 3 feet diameter at small end. The oak log was cut north of Folkston (GA), delivered and deposited in a vacant lot between two buildings on the north side of Centre St. The artist carved Pete as planned while the Shrimp Festival was underway. Near the base they affixed a brass plate with names of sponsors/donors, including mine for the log.