The plank was used due to the shape of the hulls. The sides of the ship would slant in, near the main deck to help prevent boarding. When the prisoners were bound, and in some cases weighted, the plank was used to get them away from the side of side of ship so they would drop straight down and didn't have to be thrown out to clear the ship.
|Pirates' captive walking the plank, as painted by Howard Pyle|
The phrase itself, “Walking The Plank”, dates back to 1769, with the first documented reference being when a seaman named George Wood confessed to a chaplain that he had made several men “walk the plank.”
The phrase became more popular in the 1800s when authors began to use it in literature. In 1837, Charles Ellms wrote a boys’ story book called "The Pirates Own Book" which made the claim that an amateur American pirate, Stede Bonnet, made people walk the plank. In 1881, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was published. Walking the plank is mentioned at least three times in the book and the book’s popularity is undoubtedly the reason walking the plank became such a popular theme in fictional pirate stories. Movie-makers publicized the practice still further, as demonstrated by the catchy number from Disney’s Peter Pan.
In modern times the term has been used to describe the resignation of a public figure which occurs amidst controversy, or was demanded by the public, corporate shareholders and such like.
[[ Source: Internet ]]
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Writer: Len Wein
Illustration: Len Wein
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