WHEN singer/songwriter Steve Travis went looking for someone to appear in his video for a smuggling song he had written, he couldn’t have picked anyone better than Eric ‘Chicks’ Milgate.

And that’s because Eric’s grandfather, Zebedee Milgate, was one of the last people ever to be tried for piracy.

“It went as far as the High Court,” Eric says. “In 1898, my grandfather and three others were the last people in England to be had for piracy on the high seas.”

“The ‘high seas’ turned out to be the Blackwater estuary, and the piracy was nothing more than a bit of a turf war between some oystermen from Burnham and their counterparts on Mersea .

“The Burnham boys came looking for oysters and, as I understand it, the Mersea lot boarded their ship and gave them a good hiding. The case got quashed in the end, because some of the local gentry got involved.”

Mersea musician Steve actually knew nothing of this story when he turned up at the Coast Inn looking for people to be involved in a video he was shooting for his forthcoming album.

Synonymous with the English country music scene for many years, Steve’s latest musical offering has taken a different direction Entitled Shanties and Other Songs of the Sea, it includes 17 songs, all with a nautical slant, and there’s even an authentic link to the Island’s smuggling history.

That was Steve’s own song, Blackwater Smuggler.

Steve says: “I was doing this album of shanty songs and I just fancied writing one of my own.

“The record company which is releasing the album wanted a video to go with it, and obviously I suggested Mersea.

“It was only when we went in to the Coast Inn and we asked if people wanted to be involved in a video for a smuggling song, they pointed Chicks out and said ‘you want a smuggler, you better pick Chicks because his grandfather was up for piracy’. “Well who could resist that?”

Inspired by the recent success of the popular Cornish singers the Fisherman’s Friends, Steve’s new album is jam-packed with classic martime jaunts such as Sloop John B, What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor? and Blow the Man Down.

There are also more folky numbers, including Raggle Taggle Gypsies and the catchy Lowlands Low.

Steve adds: “I love living on Mersea Island, and it’s the bracing, refreshing and relaxing environment which inspired me to create this new album with the help from some musician friends.

“I’m really proud of the album. “It’s rather different, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for many years and I’m really happy with the end result.

“I feel it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever recorded.”

It’s also given the chance for Chicks to follow in his father’s footsteps with a screen cameo.

“Well the old chap went through a bit of that,” he smiles. “For a film called the Snowgoose about 30 year ago.

“I had a pretty good time of it myself making the film. It was quite enjoyable.”

Shanties and Other Songs of the Sea is out on October 1. For details of how to get hold of it check out the website steve travis.co.uk