A Reenactor’s Reenactor: Carol Jarboe


During the Fall event at Martin’s Station, I had the pleasure of listening to Parson John Jarboe deliver an 18th century sermon for the first time . Let me tell you, it blew me away. I saw Maggie there but she was busy talking to so many, and  I didn’t have the heart to interrupt. At the So. Eastern Primitive, though, I had the distinct pleasure  of meeting and talking to Maggie Delaney, aka Carol Jarboe, and it was a wonderful treat! I know this will make her blush, but, to me, it was an honor because she embodies all that we hope to do in our hobby which is to portray a character or type to the point where people think you really are the character and to do it in such a way that it becomes a teachable moment.   To me, she is the consumate reenactor  and educator and one I hope to be like when I grow up.

During the course of doing this blog, I met Carol online . We’ve had a bit of a correspondence which is a  trick as Maggie writes in brogue and it’s all I can do to rub my stomach and pat my head, so to speak,  in replying to her in kind. Fortunately, I’ve had my stint in southern Ireland to draw from, but she beats all I ever have seen for getting the nuances like someone who just left the land of the Giant’s Causeway.

Nothing beat meeting her in person, though. To see her is to see the poorest of the poor. As she loped behind the Parson, her benign master, I  was carried back a few hundred years and it took my breath away. She was in rags, and I mean Rags; her smile did nothing to hide the teeth which showed the neglect of the time (and made me wonder how in Hades she managed to talk with the prosthetic device she slipped over her own ivories). Her skin was discolored with dirt and weather beaten, hair in wisps. What struck me was the warmth and kindness of her expression, the secondary undertones of  her body language, her twinkling eyes, the sunshine that seemed to radiate from her, the sanity of her character, the subtle wit which compelled her to offer an apple , half eaten, that the worms  seemed to have left alone. I had to laugh; only Maggie could have pulled all this off and I had to continually remind myself that this lowly washerwoman was in fact from our time, from  our place.

She is everyone’s dream; a reenactor who steps into character and never is distracted from it. It’s real and right and if she was Carol all of a sudden, that would strike a false note. The hardest thing in the world is to be a first person reenactor and she does it with consumate skill. She never veers and even when she talks about her character; it’s done in first person, totally believable and tremendously researched.

When I chose my alter ego, it was at the end of a lot of reading though census  records and journals, hours spent at the Palmer Center at the library and on line. I, like Carol, wanted to give a face to the people who had to farm themselves out to pay for passage, pay off debts, start fresh, fend off sadness, disappointment, starvation and find a life the best they could. These were the people without a name; people, individually,  who barely made a whits- difference but whose cumulative efforts built a nation. I cannot begin to portray my character the way Carol does hers, effortlessly, artlessly, brilliantly.  I can only hope, someday,  to do it with the grace and charm of Maggie Delaney, the North Star for first person reenactors. Thanks, Maggie; thanks, Carol.

PS I  stole Maggie’s picture from Facebook (I hope you don’t mind)/ Please check out her website and also her story.





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Filed under commentary, rev war reenactment

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