“Rum for the lady?” Mrs. Gunnell asked a couple of gawkers through the morning mist yesterday on Halifax’s harbourfront. Laughing, one woman asked how much it costs.

“Only a farthing,” the self-proclaimed dockyard troublemaker said, not missing a beat.

Mrs. Gunnell, also known as actress Lisa Krahn, wore a bonnet and held a nipperkin – a mug-shaped shot glass that holds one eighth of a pint. Her costume is from the 1750s, a time when sailors, beggars and wenches swarmed the dockyard.


Since the Nova Scotia Tall Ships Festival started last Thursday, Mrs. Gunnell has only sold one nipperkin of rum – to a young boy who just happened to have a reproduction farthing. Luckily, her green bottle holds only strongly brewed tea.

Krahn and other freelance interpreters have docked in Halifax after sailing from Ontario and the United States to provide historical context for tourists and locals alike. Mrs. Gunnell doesn’t hold her tongue, telling her audience she may have to sell herself to a sailor if business doesn’t pick up.

Around the corner, a “doctor” wielding a saw proclaimed to his audience yesterday: “I can do an arm in under two minutes; a leg in under three.” The crowd roared with laughter as he mimed an amputation.

Today will be the last day in the port city for these dedicated historians who never break character: “What’s a Toyota?” Old Widow Wilson inquired yesterday with a twinkle in her eye.

The Parade of Sail begins at noon, followed by closing ceremonies.

It’s the final send off for Mrs. Gunnell’s best customers: sailors and pirates.

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