Saturday, November 22, 2014

Captin Gruchy's Angels, The Old North Church, Boston

Where does this go?” Joe asked as he followed Trent into the tunnel.
I’m not sure. The problem is when you’re underground you have no idea which direction you’re going in. When I was a kid my brother and I used to sneak into these tunnels when we were supposed to be helping Pop work.” Trent laughed. “I don’t want to go too far because it’s way too easy to get good and lost down here. Look.” He illuminated an archway with a door set into it. “I don’t know where that goes but I’ll bet it’s to a different house. There’s a lot of places where the tunnels caved in or somebody blocked them off.”
Are there any entrances that aren’t through someone’s basement?”
Yeah. A few. There’s a stone wall that runs along an alley off Myrtle Street that has an entrance. You’d never see it if you didn’t know to look for it because it’s covered in vines. Look at that.” Trent ducked his head and went down three steps into a somewhat larger area. Joe followed and found he could stand up straight. Three brick arches opened in different directions. One had been sealed shut with cement, but the others led off into darkness.
I had no idea.” Joe pointed. “Shine your light in there for a minute.”
Trent did so, but the light only penetrated a few yards into blackness. “Pop told me there’s a tunnel in the North End that runs under the Old North Church all the way down to the wharf. He said there was a guy called Captain Gruchy who was a privateer, licensed by the King of England to capture French ships during the war with France. He said that one time this pirate took a ship headed for a convent in Quebec and he commandeered a bunch of religious statues. He brought four angels through the tunnel from his ship to the Old North Church. They’re still there.”
Joe turned to look at him. “Is that true?”
I dunno but I know a whole hell of a lot of hooch was carried through these tunnels by the old rum-runners and then again during Prohibition.”

In The Crazy Old Lady's Secret: Beacon Hill Chronicles, Volume 4 I wove a lot of legends, history, and other curiosities in the story. In the scene above, gardener Trent Doyle takes his long-time friend and writer, Joe Quinn, into the tunnels that connect the lavish townhouses on Beacon Hill. As they explore the tunnels, Trent tells Joe about the legend of Captain Gruchy and the angels that decorate the organ in the Old North Church--before they find the dead body, of course.

From Stolen Treasures In The Old North Church: The four angels standing on columns just in front of the church’s organ on the second floor gallery were never intended to be inside the Old North Church. They were hand carved in what is now known as Belgium in the early 1600s. In 1746, the angels were on board a French ship bound for Quebec where they were supposed to be given as a present to a new Catholic convent. But the angels never made it!

Just off the coast of Nova Scotia, a British privateer, Captain Thomas Gruchy captured the French ship. At the time, France and England were at war. The King of England, King George II, had given ship captains permission to capture foreign vessels during wartime, thus turning the captains into privateers. Privateers were allowed to commandeer ships, impress sailors, and plunder cargo goods- much like pirates. Unlike a pirate however, privateers had permission from their government to do so.

Once the French ship was in his possession, Captain Gruchy took all of the goods back to his homeport of Boston where he then sold them for a pretty nice profit. However, when he found the four angels, he decided his best option would be to donate them to his church. Lucky for Old North, Captain Gruchy was a member of the congregation! The angels have graced the second floor gallery ever since, which means the Old North Church has been displaying stolen treasure for over 260 years.

Is this story true? Who knows. But it is a great story that needs to be preserved.
Thanks for reading.

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