On Sunday, Jan. 19, history and maritime enthusiasts, pirate lovers, and treasure seekers alike are sure to be enthralled by Kevin Duffus’ first of a three-part lecture series on the Cape Fear Region held in Weymouth Center’s Great Room at 2 p.m.
The first lecture will focus on explorers of the area. Duffus has published four books and produced four award-winning documentary films on North Carolina maritime history and is set to regal the audience with his treasure trove of information. He has extensively researched Outer Banks shipwrecks, World War II and German U-boats off the North Carolina coast, and the history of southern lighthouses during the War Between the States.
Duffus has also produced documentaries in England, East Africa, Central America and the Philippines. His honors include a George Foster Peabody Award, the World Hunger Media Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award and the National Education Association Award.
A visit to Bald Island and its “Old Baldy” while producing a documentary on lighthouses in the late 1970s sparked his love for the unique Cape Fear River Region. He was “stunned by the unique architecture and texture of Bald Head’s octagonal brick tower, rickety wooden stairway, and stucco walls smudged by the hands of keepers long ago.” Since that first visit, Duffus has thoroughly researched the river’s nearly 500-year history: its early exploration, its “haunted colony” of 1664, its pirates, shipwrecks, its civil war stories, and so much more.
In the making of his documentary, Duffus was taken with the architecture, builders, lights and keepers of the lighthouses of Cape Fear. During his lecture series, Duffus will “reveal what sets the 1795 Cape Fear Lighthouse apart from all others in America (except for one), how President Jefferson reacted when a woman at Cape Fear was nominated to be the lighthouse keeper after her husband was killed in a hunting accident, why the top of “Old Baldy” is off-center, and why the Fresnel lens at the top of the 1903 Cape Fear Lighthouse had been seen by millions of Americans across the nation before it was eventually senselessly destroyed.”
Filmmaking gave Kevin Duffus initial expertise and opportunities, but his first book came after he found the 6,000-pound 1853 Fresnel lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, missing since the Civil War.
“The words simply spilled forth,” Duffus says, “and 70 days later I had written my first book. Sixteen years later I published my sixth book, all on fascinating periods of North Carolina’s remarkable maritime history — U-boats off the coast in 1918 and 1942, pirates in 1718, shipwrecks and heroic rescues, lighthouses, and now, the 500-year history of Cape Fear.”
Blackbeard may be the most infamous of all the pirates and Duffus will talk about how the capture and subsequent death of the Barbadian pirate Stede Bonnet led to Blackbeard’s eventual demise.
“The Cape Fear River is where the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Piracy occurred,” Duffus explains.
His research contradicts traditional accounts of the pirate Blackbeard and his known crew members. Treasure seekers may be disappointed in the dearth of buried treasure in the Cape Fear Region and though many hopefuls have searched, so far none has been discovered.
Recalling some of his favorite characters from the region, Duffus says, “I also found it intriguing how the region’s history kept repeating itself in the poignant but failed dreams of men like John Vassall in 1664, Gov. Benjamin Smith in 1793, Frank Boyd in 1914, and Bill Henderson in 1970.”
In offering this outstanding, three-part series, Duffus hopes to inspire people to visit Cape Fear and Bald Head Island and share in the wonder of that region.
Each lecture is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers.
“Please arrive 30 minutes prior to the lecture,” says a spokesman. “A reception will follow.”
For more information, call (910) 692-6261 or visit www.weymouthcenter.org.
Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located at 555 East Connecticut Ave. and is home to the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame.