Adventures of Captain John Gow

Daniel Defoe

THE FOLLOWING account being chiefly confined to the conduct of this outrageous pirate, Captain Gow, after his having actually turned pirate, in this particular ship, the George galley, we must content ourselves with beginning where he began—that is to say, when they seized the captain, murdered him and his men, and ran away with the ship on the coast of Barbary, in the Mediterranean Sea.

It was the 3rd of November, anno 1724, when, as has been observed, the ship having lain two months in the road at Santa Cruz, taking in her lading, the captain made preparations to put to sea; and the usual signals for sailing having been given, some of the merchants from on shore, who had been concerned in furnishing the cargo, came on board in the forenoon to take their leave of the captain, and wish him a good voyage, as is usual on such occasions.

Whether it was concerted by the whole gang beforehand, we know not; but while the captain was treating and entertaining the merchants under the awning upon the quarter-deck, as is the custom in those hot countries, three of the seamen, viz., Winter and Petersen, two Swedes, and Macaulay, a Scotchman, came rudely upon the quarter-deck, and as if they took that opportunity because the merchants were present, believing the captain would not use any violence with them in the presence of the merchants, they made a long complaint of their ill usage, and particularly of their provisions and allowance, as they said, being not sufficient, nor such as was ordinarily made in other merchant-ships; seeming to load the captain, Monsieur Ferneau, with being the occasion of it, and that he did it for his private gain; which, however, had not been true if the fact had been true, the overplus of provisions, if the stores had been more than sufficient, belonging to the owners, not to the captain, at the end of the voyage; there being also a steward on board to take the account.

In their making this complaint they seemed to direct their speech to the merchants, as well as to the captain, as if they had been concerned in the ship, which they were not; or as if desiring them to intercede for them with the captain, that they might have redress, and might have a better allowance.

The captain was highly provoked at this rudeness, as, indeed, he had reason, it being a double affront to him, as it was done in the view of the merchants who were come on board to him and to do him an honour at parting. However, he restrained his passion, and gave them not the least angry word, only that if they were aggrieved, they had no more to do but to have let him know it; that if they were ill-used, it was not by his order; that he would inquire into it, and that if anything was amiss, it should be rectified; with which the seamen withdrew, seeming well satisfied with his answer.

About five the same evening they unmoored the ship, and hove short upon their best bower anchor, expecting the land breeze, as is usual on that coast, to carry them out to sea; but, instead of that, it fell stark calm, and the captain fearing the ship should fall foul of her own anchor, ordered the mizzen- topsail to be furled.

Petersen, one of the malcontent seamen, being the nearest man at hand, seemed to go about it, but moved so carelessly and heavily that it appeared plainly he did not care whether it was done or no, and particularly as if he had a mind the captain should see it and take notice of it; and the captain did so, for perceiving how awkwardly he went about it, he spoke a little tartly to him, and asked him what was the reason he did not stir a little and furl the sail.

Petersen, as if he waited for the question, answered in a surly tone, and with a kind of disdain, “So as we eat so shall we work.” This he spoke aloud, so as that he might be sure the captain should hear him, and the rest of the men also; and ’t was evident that as he spoke in the plural number we, so he spoke their minds as well as his own, and words which they had all agreed to before.

The captain, however, though he heard plain enough what he said, took not the least notice of it, or gave him the least room to believe he had heard him, being not willing to begin a quarrel with the men, and knowing that if he took any notice at all of it he must resent it, and punish it too.

Soon after this the calm went off, and the land breeze sprung up, as is usual on that coast, and they immediately weighed and stood off to sea; but the captain having had those two wrestles with his men, just at their putting to sea, was very uneasy in his mind, as, indeed, he had reason to be; and the same evening, soon after they were under sail, the mate being walking on the quarter-deck, he went, and taking two or three turns with him, told him how he had been used by the men, particularly how they affronted him before the merchants, and what an answer Petersen had given him on the quarter-deck when he ordered him to furl the mizzen-topsail.

The mate was surprised at the thing as well as the captain, and after some other discourse about it, in which ’t was their unhappiness not to be so private as they ought to have been in a case of such importance, the captain told him he thought it was absolutely necessary to have a quantity of small arms brought immediately into the great cabin, not only to defend themselves if there should be occasion, but also that he might be in a posture to correct those fellows for their insolence, especially if he should meet with any more of it. The mate agreed that it was necessary to be done, and had they said no more, and said this more privately, all had been well, and the wicked design had been much more difficult, if not the execution of it effectually prevented.

But two mistakes in this part was the ruin of them all: (1) that the captain spoke it without due caution, so that Winter and Petersen, the two principal malcontents, and who were expressly mentioned by the captain to be corrected, overheard it, and knew by that means what they had to expect if they did not immediately bestir themselves to prevent it. (2) The other mistake was that when the captain and mate agreed that it was necessary to have the arms got ready and brought into the great cabin, the captain unhappily bade him go immediately to Gow, the second mate and gunner, and give him orders to get the arms cleared and loaded for him, and so to bring them up to the great cabin, which was, in short, to tell the conspirators that the captain was preparing to be too strong for them if they did not fall to work with him immediately.

Winter and Petersen went immediately forward, where they knew the rest of the mutineers were, and to whom they communicated what they had heard; telling them that it was time to provide for their own safety, for otherwise their destruction was resolved on, and the captain would soon be in such a posture that there would be no meddling with him.

While they were thus consulting at first, as they said, only for their own safety, Gow and Williams came in to them, with some others, to the number of eight; and no sooner were they joined by these two, but they fell downright to the point which Gow had so long formed in his mind, viz., to seize upon the captain and mate, and all those that they could not bring to join with them—in short, to throw them into the sea, and to go upon the account.

All those who are acquainted with the sea language know the meaning of that expression, and that it is, in few words, to run away with the ship and turn pirates.

Villainous designs are soonest concluded. As they had but little time to consult upon what measures they should take, so a very little consultation served for what was before them, and they came to this short but hellish resolution, viz., that they would immediately, that very night, murder the captain, and such others as they named, and afterwards proceed with the ship as they should see cause. And here it is to be observed that though Winter and Petersen were in the first proposal, namely, to prevent their being brought to correction by the captain, yet Gow and Williams were the principal advisers in the bloody part, which, however, the rest soon came into; for, as I said before, as they had but little time to resolve it, so they had but very little debate about it; but what was first proposed was forthwith engaged in and consented to.

Besides, it must not be omitted that, as I have said, upon good grounds, that Gow had always had the wicked game of pirating in his head, and that he had attempted it, or rather tried to attempt it, before, but was not able to bring it to pass, so he had, and Williams also had several times, even in this very voyage, dropped some hints of this vile design, as they thought there was room for it; and touched two or three times at what a noble opportunity they had of enriching themselves, and making their fortunes, as they wickedly called it. This was when they had the four chests of money on board; and Williams made it a kind of a jest in his discourse how easily they might carry it off, ship and all. But as they did not find themselves seconded, or that any of the men showed themselves in favour of such a thing, but rather spoke of it with abhorrence, they passed it over as a kind of discourse that had nothing at all in it, except that one of the men, viz., the surgeon, took them up, in short, once for so much as mentioning such a thing, told them the thought was criminal, and it ought not to be spoken of among them; which reproof, ’t was supposed, cost him his life afterwards.

As Gow and his comrade had thus started the thing at a distance before, though it was then without success, yet they had the less to do now, when other discontents had raised a secret fire in the breasts of the men; for now being, as it were, mad and desperate with apprehensions of their being to be severely punished by the captain, they wanted no persuasions to come into the most wicked undertaking that the devil or any of his agents could propose to them. Nor do we find that upon any of their examinations they pretended to have made any scruples of, or objections against, the cruelty of the bloody attempt that was to be made, but came into it at once, and resolved to put it in execution immediately, that is to say, the very same evening.

It was the captain’s constant custom to call all the ship’s company every night at eight o’clock, into the great cabin to prayers; and then the watch being set, one watch went upon deck, and the other turned in (as the seamen call it), that is, went to their hammocks to sleep; and here they concerted their devilish plot. It was the turn of five of the conspirators to go to sleep, and of these Gow and Williams were two; the three who were to be upon the deck were Winter, Rowlinson, and Melvin, a Scotchman.

The persons they had immediately designed for destruction were four, viz., the captain, the mate, the supercargo, and the surgeon, whereof all but the captain were gone to sleep, the captain himself being upon the quarter-deck.

Between nine and ten at night, all being quiet and secure, and the poor gentlemen that were to be murdered fast asleep, the villains that were below gave the watchword, which was, “Who fires next?” at which they all got out of their hammocks with as little noise as they could, and going in the dark to the hammocks of the chief mate, supercargo, and surgeon, they cut all their throats. The surgeon’s throat was cut so effectually that he could struggle very little with them, but leaping out of his hammock, ran up to get upon the deck, holding his hand upon his throat, but stumbled at the tiller, and falling down, had no breath, and consequently no strength to raise himself, but died where he lay.

The mate, whose throat was cut, but not his wind pipe, had struggled so vigorously with the villain that attempted him that he got from him and got into the hold; and the supercargo, in the same condition, got forward between decks under some deals, and both of them begged with the most moving cries and entreaties for their lives; and when nothing could prevail, they begged with the same earnestness but for a few moments to pray to God and recommend their souls to His mercy; but alike in vain, for the wretched murderers, heated with blood, were past all pity; and not being able to come at them with their knives, with which they had begun the execution, they shot them with their pistols, firing several times upon each of them till they found they were quite dead.

As all this, before the firings, could not be done without some noise, the captain, who was walking alone upon the quarter-deck, called out and asked what was the matter. The boatswain, who sat on the after-bits, and was not of the party, answered he could not tell, but was afraid there was somebody overboard; upon which the captain stepped towards the ship’s side to look over, when Winter, Rowlinson, and Melvin, coming that moment behind him, at tempted to throw him overboard into the sea; but he being a nimble, strong man, got hold of the shrouds, and struggled so hard with them that they could not break his hold; but turning his head to look behind him to see who he had to deal with, one of them cut his throat with a broad Dutch knife, but neither was that wound mortal. And the captain still struggled with them, though seeing he should undoubtedly be murdered, he constantly cried out to God for mercy, for he found there was no mercy to be expected from them. During this struggle another of the murderers stabbed him with a knife in the back, and that with such force that the villain could not draw the knife out again to repeat his blow, which he would otherwise have done.

At this moment Gow came up from the butchery he had been at between decks, and seeing the captain still alive, he went close up to him and shot him, as he confessed, with a brace of bullets.

What part he shot him into could not be known, though they said he shot him into the head. However, he had yet life enough, though they threw him overboard, to take hold of a rope, and would still have saved himself, but they cut that rope, and he fell into the sea, and was seen no more. Thus they finished the tragedy, having murdered four of the principal men of command in the ship, so that there was now nobody to oppose them; for Gow being second mate and gunner, the command fell to him, of course, and the rest of the men having no arms ready, nor knowing how to get at any, were in the utmost consternation, expecting they would go on with the work and cut all their throats.

In this fright every one shifted for himself. As for those who were upon deck, some got into the ship’s head, resolving to throw themselves into the sea rather than to be mangled with knives and murdered in cold blood, as the captain and mate, &c., had been. Those who were below, not know ing what to do, or whose turn it should be next, lay still in their hammocks, expecting death every moment, and not daring to stir, lest the villains should think they did it in order to make resistance, which, however, they were no way capable of doing, having no concert one with another, nor knowing anything in particular of one another, as who was alive or who was dead; whereas had the captain, who was himself a bold and stout man, been in his great cabin with three or four men with him, and his firearms, as he intended to have had, those eight fellows had never been able to have done their work; but every man was taken unprovided, and in the utmost surprise, so that the murderers met with no resistance. And as for those that were left, they were less able to make resistance than the other; so that, as I have said, they were in the utmost terror and amazement, expecting every minute to be murdered as the rest had been.

But the villains had done. The persons who had any command were despatched, so they cooled a little as to blood. The first thing they did afterward was to call up all the eight upon the quarter deck, where they congratulated one another, and shook hands together, engaging to proceed, by unanimous consent, in their resolved design, that is to say, of turning pirates, in order to which they, with a nem. con., chose Gow to command the ship, promising all subjection and obedience to his orders (so that now we must call him Captain Gow), and he, by the same consent of the rest, named Williams to be his lieutenant. Other officers they appointed afterwards.

The first order they issued was to let all the rest of the men know that if they continued quiet, and offered not to meddle with any of their affairs, they should receive no hurt; but strictly forbid any man among them to set a foot abaft the mainmast, except they were called to the helm, upon pain of being immediately cut in pieces, keeping, for that purpose, one man at the steerage-door, and one upon the quarter-deck, with drawn cutlasses in their hands; but there was no need for it, for the men were so terrified with the bloody doings they had seen that they never offered to come in sight till they were called.

Their next work was to throw the three dead bodies of the mate, the surgeon, and the supercargo overboard, which, they said, lay in their way, and that was soon done, their pockets first searched and rifled. From thence they went to work with the great cabin and with all the lockers, chests, boxes, and trunks. These they broke open and rifled, that is, such of them as belonged to the murdered persons; and whatever they found there they shared among themselves. When they had done this they called for liquor, and sat down to drinking till morning, leaving the men, as above, to keep guard, and particularly to guard the arms, but relieved them from time to time as they saw occasion. By this time they had drawn in four more of the men to approve of what they had done, and promise to join with them, so that now they were twelve in number, and being but twenty-four at first, whereof four were murdered, they had but eight men to be apprehensive of, and those they could easily look after; so for the next day they sent for them all to appear before their new captain, where they were told by Gow what his resolution was, viz., to go a-cruising, or to go upon the account, as above; that if they were willing to join with them, and go into their measures, they should be well used, and there should be no distinction among them, but they should all fare alike; that they had been forced by the barbarous usage of Ferneau to do what they had done, but that now there was no looking back, and therefore, as they had not been concerned in what was past, they had nothing to do but to act in concert, do their duty as sailors, and obey orders for the good of the ship, and no harm should he do to any of them. As they all looked like condemned prisoners brought up to the bar to receive sentence of death, so they all answered by a profound silence; not one word being said by any of them, which Gow took as they meant it, viz., for a consent, because they durst not refuse; so they were then permitted to go up and down every where as they used to do. Though such of them as sometimes afterwards showed any reluctance to act as principals were never trusted, always suspected, and often severely beaten, and some of them were many ways inhumanly treated, and that particularly by Williams, the lieutenant, who was in his nature a merciless, cruel, and inexorable wretch, as we shall have occasion to take notice of again in its place.

They were now in a new circumstance of life, and acting upon a different stage of business, though upon the same stage as to the element, the water; before they were a merchant-ship, loaden upon a good account with merchant goods from the coast of Barbary, and bound to the coast of Italy; but they were now a crew of pirates, or, as they call them in the Levant, corsairs, bound nowhere, but to look out for purchase and spoil wherever they could find it.

In pursuit of this wicked trade they first changed the name of the ship, which was before called the George galley, and which they call now the Revenge, a name indeed suitable to the bloody steps they had taken. In the next place, they made the best of the ship’s forces. The ship had but twelve guns mounted when they came out of Holland; but as they had six more good guns in the hold, with carriages and everything proper for service (which they had in store, because being freighted for the Dutch merchants, and the Algerines being at war with the Dutch, they supposed they might want them for defence), now they took care to mount them for a much worse design; so that now they had eighteen guns, though too many for the number of hands they had on board.

In the third place, instead of pursuing their voyage to Genoa with the ship’s cargo, they took a clear contrary course, and resolved to station themselves upon the coasts of Spain and Portugal, and to cruise upon all nations; but what they chiefly aimed at was a ship with wine, if possible, for that they wanted extremely.

The first prize they took was an English sloop belonging to Poole, Thomas Wise, commander, bound from Newfoundland with fish for Cadiz. This was a prize of no value to them, for they knew not what to do with the fish; so they took out the master, Mr. Wise, and his men, who were but five in number, with their anchors, and cables, and sails, and what else they found worth taking out, and sunk the vessel.

N.B.—Here, it is to be observed, they found a man very fit for their turn, one James Belvin. He was boatswain of the sloop, a stout, brisk fellow, and a very good sailor, but otherways wicked enough to suit with their occasion, and as soon as he came among them he discovered it; for though he was not in the first bloody contrivance, nor in the terrible execution of which I have given a relation, that is to say, he was not guilty of running away with the ship George galley, nor of murdering the four innocent men, which we have given an account of above, yet ’t is evident he joined heartily in all the villainies which followed. And, indeed, this man’s fate is a just and needful caution to all those sailors who, being taken in other ships by the pirates, think that is a sufficient plea for them to act as real pirates afterwards; and that the plea or pretence of being forced, will be a sufficient protection to them, however guilty they may have been afterward, and however volunteer they may have acted when they came among the pirates.

Doubtless ’t is possible for a man to prove a hearty rogue after he is forced into the service of the pirates, however honest he was before, and however undesignedly or against his consent he at first came among them. Therefore those who expect to be acquitted in a court of justice afterward on pretence of their being at first forced into the company of rogues, must take care not to act anything in concert with them while they are embarked together, but what they really cannot avoid, and are apparently under a constraint in the doing.

But this man, ’t was plain, acted a quite different part; for after he took on with them, he took all occasions to engage their confidence, and to convince them that he was hearty in his joining them. In a word, he was the most active and vigorous fellow of any that were, as it may be said, forced into their service; for many of the others, though they acted with them, and were apparently assisting, yet there was always a kind of backwardness and disgust at the villainy, for which they were often maltreated, and always suspected by their masters.

The next prize they took was a Scotch vessel, bound from Glasgow, with herrings and salmon, from thence to Genoa, and commanded by one Mr. John Somerville, of Port Patrick. This vessel was likewise of very little value to them, except that they took out, as they had done from the other, their arms, ammunition, clothes, provisions, sails, anchors, cables, &c., and everything of value, and therefore they sunk her too, as they had done the sloop. The reason they gave for sinking these two vessels was to prevent their being discovered; for as they were now cruising on the coast of Portugal, had they let the ships have gone with several of their men on board, they would presently have stood in for the shore, and have given the alarm, and the men-of-war, of which there were several, as well Dutch as English, in the river of Lisbon, would presently have put out to sea in quest of them; and they were very unwilling to leave the coast of Portugal till they had got a ship with wine, which they very much wanted.

They cruised eight or ten days after this without seeing so much as one vessel upon the seas, and were just resolving to stand more to the northward, to the coast of Galicia, when they descried a sail to the southward, being a ship about as big as their own, though they could not perceive what force she had. However, they gave chase, and the vessel perceiving it, crowded from them with all the sail they could make, hoisting up French colours, and standing away to the southward.

They continued the chase three days and three nights, and though they did not gain much upon her, the Frenchman sailing very well, yet they kept her in sight all the while, and for the most part within gun shot. But the third night, the weather proving a little hazy, the Frenchman changed his course in the night, and so got clear of them, and good reason they had to bless themselves in the escape they had made, if they had but known what a dreadful crew of rogues they had fallen among if they had been taken.

They were now gotten a long way to the southward, and being greatly disappointed, and in want of water as well as wine, they resolved to stand away for the Madeiras, which they knew was not far off, so they accordingly made the island in two days more, and keeping a large offing, they cruised for three or four days more, expecting to meet with some Portuguese vessel going in or coming out; but ’t was in vain, for nothing stirred. So, tired with expecting, they stood in for the road, and came to an anchor, though at a great distance; then they sent their boat towards the shore with seven men, all well armed, to see whether it might not be practicable to board one of the ships in the road, and cutting her away from her anchors, bring her off; or if they found that could not be done, then their orders were to intercept some of the boats belonging to the place which carry wines off on board the ships in the road, or from one place to another on the coast; but they came back again disappointed in both, every bodybeing alarmed and aware of them, knowing by their posture what they were.

Having thus spent several days to no purpose, and finding themselves discovered (at length being apparently under a necessity to make an attempt some where), they stood away for Porto Santa, about ten leagues to the windward of Madeiras, and belonging also to the Portuguese. Here putting up British colours, they sent their boat ashore with Captain Somerville’s bill of health, and a present to the governor of three barrels of salmon and six barrels of herrings, and a very civil message, desiring leave to water, and to buy some refreshments, pretending to be bound to ——.

The governor very courteously granted their desire, but with more courtesy than discretion went off himself, with about nine or ten of his principal people, to pay the English captain a visit, little thinking what a kind of a captain it was they were going to compliment, and what price it might have cost them.

However, Gow, handsomely dressed, received them with some ceremony, and entertained them tolerably well for a while; but the governor having been kept by civility as [long as] they could, and the refreshments from the shore not appearing, he was forced to unmask; and when the governor and his company rose up to take their leave, they were, to their great surprise, suddenly surrounded with a gang of fellows with muskets and an officer at the head of them, who told them, in so many words, they were the captain’s prisoners, and must not think of going on shore any more till the water and provisions which were promised should come on board.

It is impossible to conceive the consternation and surprise the Portuguese gentry were in, nor is it very decently to be expressed; the poor governor was so much more than half dead with the fright that he really befouled himself in a piteous manner, and the rest were in no much better condition. They trembled, cried, begged, crossed themselves, and said their prayers as men going to execution; but ’t was all one. They were told flatly the captain was not to be trifled with, that the ship was in want of provisions, and they would have them, or they would carry them all away. They were, however, well enough treated, except the restraint of their persons, and were often asked to refresh themselves, but they would neither eat or drink any more all the while they stayed on board, which was till the next day in the evening, when to their great satisfaction they saw a great boat come off from the fort, and which came directly on board with seven butts of water, and a cow and a calf, and a good number of fowls.

When the boat came on board, and had delivered the stores, Captain Gow complimented the governor and his gentlemen, and discharged them to their great joy; and besides discharging them, he gave them, in return for the provisions they brought, two ceroons of beeswax, and fired them three guns at their going away. I suppose, however, they will have a care how they go on board of any ship again in compliment to their captain, unless they are very sure who they are.

Having had no better success in this out-of-the-way run to the Madeiras, they resolved to make the best of their way back again to the coast of Spain or Portugal. They accordingly left Porto Santa the next morning, with a fair wind, standing directly for Cape St. Vincent or the Southward Cape.

They had not been upon the coast of Spain above two or three days before they met with a New England ship, —— Cross, commander, laden with staves, and bound for Lisbon, and being to load there with wine for London. This was a prize also of no value to them, and they began to be very much dis couraged with their bad fortune. However, they took out Captain Cross and his men, which were seven or eight in number, with most of the provisions and some of the sails, and gave the ship to Captain Wise, the poor man who they took at first in a sloop from Newfoundland; and in order to pay Wise and his men for what he took from them, and make them satisfaction, as he called it, he gave to Captain Wise and his mate twenty-four ceroons of beeswax, and to each of his men, who were four in number, two ceroons of wax each. Thus he pretended honestly, and to make reparation of damages by giving them the goods which he had robbed the Dutch merchants of, whose supercargo he had murdered.

After this, cruising some days off the bay, they met with a French ship from Cadiz, laden with wine, oil, and fruit. This was in some respect the very thing they wanted; so they manned her with their own men and stood off to sea, that they might divide the spoil of her with more safety, for they were too near the land.

And first they took out the French master and all his men, which were twelve in number; then they shifted great part of the cargo, especially of the wine, with some oil and a large quantity of almonds, out of the French ship into their own; with five of his best guns and their carriages, all their ammunition and small arms, and all the best of their sails, and then he gave that ship to Captain Somerville, the Glasgow captain, whose ship they had sunk, and to Captain Cross, the New England captain, who they had taken but just before; and to do justice, as they called it, here also, they gave half the ship and cargo to Somerville, one quarter to his mate, and the other quarter to Captain Cross, and sixteen ceroons of wax to the men to be shared among them.

It is to be observed here that Captain Somerville carried all his men along with him, except one who chose to enter among the pirates, so that he could never pretend he was forced into their service; but Cross’s men were all detained, whether by force or by their own consent does not appear at present.

The day before this division of the spoil they saw a large ship to windward, which at first put them into some surprise, for she came bearing down directly upon them, and they thought she had been a Portuguese man-of-war; but they found soon after that it was a merchant-ship, had French colours, and bound home, as they supposed, from the West Indies; and it was so, for, as we afterwards learned, she was loaded at Martinico, and bound for Rochelle.

The Frenchman, not fearing them, came on large to the wind, being a ship of much greater force than Gow’s ship, and carrying thirty-two guns and eighty men, besides a great many passengers. However, Gow at first made as if he would lie by for them; but seeing plainly what a ship it was, and that they should have their hands full of her, he began to consider, and calling his men all together upon the deck, told them his mind—viz., that the Frenchman was apparently superior in force every way, that they were but ill manned, and had a great many prisoners on board, and that some of their own people were not very well to be trusted; that six of their best hands were on board the prize, and that all they had left were not sufficient to ply their guns and stand by the sails; and that therefore, as they were under no necessity to engage, so he thought it would be next to madness to think of it, the French ship being so very much superior to them in force.

The generality of the men were of Gow’s mind, and agreed to decline the fight; but Williams, his lieutenant, strenuously opposed it, and being not to be appeased by all that Gow could say to him, or any one else, flew out in a rage at Gow, upbraiding him with being a coward, and not fit to command a ship of force.

The truth is, Gow’s reasoning was good, and the thing was just, considering their own condition. But Williams was a fellow uncapable of any solid thinking, had a kind of a savage, brutal courage, but nothing of true bravery in him; and this made him the most desperate and outrageous villain in the world, and the most cruel and inhuman to those whose disaster it was to fall into his hands, as had frequently appeared in his usage of the prisoners under his power in this very voyage.

Gow was a man of temper, and notwithstanding all ill language Williams gave him, said little or nothing, but by way of argument against attacking the French ship, which would certainly have been too strong for them. But this provoked Williams the more, and he grew to such an extravagant height, that he demanded boldly of Gow to give his orders for fighting, which Gow declined still. Williams presented his pistol at him, and snapped it, but it did not go off, which enraged him the more.

Winter and Petersen, standing nearest to Williams, and seeing him so furious, flew at him im mediately, and each of them fired a pistol at him; one shot him through the arm, and the other into his belly, at which he fell, and the men about him laid hold of him to throw him overboard, believing he was dead; but as they lifted him up he started violently out of their hands, and leaped directly into the hold, and from thence ran desperately into the powder-room, with his pistol cocked in his hand, swearing he would blow them all up; and had certainly done it if they had not seized him just as he had gotten the scuttle open, and was that moment going in to put his hellish resolution in practice.

Having thus secured the demented, raving creature, they carried him forward to the place which they had made on purpose, between decks, to secure their prisoners, and put him in amongst them, having first loaded him with irons, and particularly handcuffed him with his hands behind him, to the great satisfaction of the other prisoners, who, knowing what a butcherly, furious fellow he was, were terrified to the last degree to see him come in among them, till they saw the condition he came in. He was, indeed, the terror of all the prisoners, for he usually treated them in a barbarous manner, without the least provocation, and merely for his humour, presenting pistols to their breasts, swearing he would shoot them that moment, and then would beat them unmercifully, and all for his diversion, as he called it.

Having thus laid him fast, they presently resolved to stand away to the westward, by which they quitted the Martinico ship, who by that time was come nearer to them, and farther convinced them they were in no condition to have engaged her, for she was a stout ship, and full of men.

All this happened just the day before they shared their last prize among the prisoners (as I have said), in which they put on such a mock face of doing justice to the several captains and mates and other men, their prisoners, whose ships they had taken away, and who now they made a reparation to by giving them what they had taken violently from another, that it was a strange medley of mock justice made up of rapine and generosity blended together.

Two days after this they took a Bristol ship, bound from Newfoundland to Oporto with fish. They let her cargo alone, for they had no occasion for fish, but they took out also almost all their provisions, all the ammunition, arms, &c., all her good sails, also her best cables, and forced two of her men to go away with them, and then put ten of the Frenchmen on board her, and let her go.

But just as they were parting with her they consulted together what to do with Williams, their lieutenant, who was then among their prisoners and in irons; and after a short debate they resolved to put him on board the Bristol man and send him away too, which accordingly was done, with directions to the master to deliver him on board the first English man-of-war they should meet with, in order to his being hanged for a pirate (so they jeeringly called him) as soon as he came to England, giving them also an account of some of his villainies.

The truth is, this Williams was a monster, rather than a man; he was the most inhuman, bloody, and desperate creature that the world could produce; he was even too wicked for Gow and all his crew, though they were pirates and murderers, as has been said. His temper was so savage, so villainous, so merciless, that even the pirates themselves told him it was time he was hanged out of the way.

One instance of this barbarity in Williams cannot be omitted, and will be sufficient to justify all that can be said of him—namely, that when Gow gave it as a reason against engaging with the Martinico ship, that he had a great many prisoners on board, as above, and some of their own men they could not depend upon, Williams proposed to have them all called up, one by one, and to cut their throats and throw them overboard—a proposal so horrid that the worst of the crew shook their heads at it; yet Gow answered him very handsomely, that there had been too much blood spilt already. Yet the refusing this heightened the quarrel, and was the chief occasion of his offering to pistol Gow himself, as has been said at large. After which his behaviour was such as made all the ship’s crew resolved to be rid of him; and ’t was thought, if they had not had an opportunity to send him away, as they did by the Bristol ship, they would have been obliged to have hanged him themselves.

This cruel and butcherly temper of Williams being carried to such a height, so near to the ruin of them all, shocked some of them, and, as they acknowledged, gave them some check in the heat of their wicked progress; and had they had a fair opportunity to have gone on shore at the time, without falling into the hands of justice, ’t is believed the greatest part of them would have abandoned the ship, and perhaps the very trade of a pirate too. But they had dipped their hands in blood, and Heaven had no doubt determined to bring them—that is to say, the chief of them—to the gallows for it, as indeed they all deserved; so they went on.

When they put Williams on board the Bristol man, and he was told what directions they gave with him, he began to resent, and made all the intercession he could to Captain Gow for pardon, or at least not to be put on board the ship, knowing if he was carried to Lisbon, he should meet with his due from the Portuguese, if not from the English; for it seems he had been concerned in some villainies among the Portuguese before he came on board the George galley. What they were he did not confess, nor indeed did his own ship’s crew trouble themselves to examine him about it. He had been wicked enough among them, and it was sufficient to make them use him as they did; it was more to be wondered, indeed, they did not cut him in pieces upon the spot, and throw him into the sea, half on one side of the ship, and half on the other; for there was scarce a man in the ship but on one occasion or other had some apprehensions of him, and might be said to go in danger of his life from him. [307]

But they chose to shift their hands of him this bloodless way; so they double-fettered him and brought him up. When they brought him out among the men, he begged they would throw him into the sea and drown him; then entreated for his life with a meanness which made them despise him, and with tears, so that one time they began to relent; but then the devilish temper of the fellow overruled it again; so at last they resolved to let him go, and did accordingly put him on board, and gave him a hearty curse at parting, wishing him a good voyage to the gallows, as was made good afterwards, though in such company as they little thought of at that time.

The Bristol captain was very just to them, for, according to their orders, as soon as they came to Lisbon, they put him on board the Argyle, one of his Majesty’s ships, Captain Bowler, commander, then lying in the Tagus, and bound home for England, who accordingly brought him home; though, as it happened, Heaven brought the captain and the rest of the crew so quickly to the end of their villainies, that they all came home time enough to be hanged with their lieutenant. But I return to Gow and his crew. Having thus dismissed the Bristol man, and cleared his hands of most of his prisoners, he, with the same wicked generosity, gave the Bristol captain thirteen ceroons of beeswax, as a gratuity for his trouble and charge with the prisoners, and in recompense, as he called it, for the goods he had taken from him, and so they parted.

What these several captains did, to whom they thus divided the spoil of poor Ferneau’s cargo, or, as I ought rather to call it, of the merchants’ cargo which was loaded in Africa,—I say, what was done with the beeswax and other things which they distributed to the captains and their crews, who they thus transposed from ship to ship, that we cannot tell, nor indeed could these people either well know how to keep it or how to part with it.

It was certainly a gift they had no power to give, nor had the other any right to it by their donation; but as the owners were unknown, and the several persons possessing it are not easily known, I do not see which way the poor Dutchmen can come at their goods again.

It is true indeed, the ships which they exchanged may and ought to be restored, and the honest owners put in possession of them again, and I suppose will be so in a legal manner; but the goods were so dispersed that it was impossible.

This was the last prize they took, not only on the coast of Portugal, but anywhere else; for Gow, who, to give him his due, was a fellow of counsel, and had a great presence of mind in cases of exigence, considered that as soon as the Bristol ship came into the river of Lisbon, they would certainly give an account of them, as well of their strength, as of their station in which they cruised; and that consequently the English men-of-war, of which there are generally some in that river, would immediately come abroad to look for them. So he began to reason with his officers, that now the coast of Portugal would be no proper place at all for them, unless they resolved to fall into the hand of the said men-of-war, and that they ought to consider immediately what to do.

In these debates some advised one thing, some another, as is usual in like cases: some were for going on to the coast of Guinea, where, as they said, was purchase enough, and very rich ships to be taken; others were for going to the West Indies, and to cruise among the islands, and take up their station at Tobago; others, and that not those of the most ignorant, proposed the standing in to the Bay of Mexico, and to join in with some of a new sort of pirates at St. Jago de la Cuba, who are all Spaniards, and call themselves garda del coasta, that is, guard-ships for the coast, but under that pretence make prize of ships of all nations, and sometimes even of their own countrymen too, but especially of the English; but when this was proposed, it was an swered they durst not trust the Spaniards.

Another sort was for going to the north of America, and after having taken a sloop or two on the coast of New England or New York, laden with provisions for the West Indies, which would not nave been very hard to do, such being often passing and repassing there, and by which they might have been sufficiently stored with provision, then to have gone away to the South Seas. But Gow objected, that they were not manned sufficiently for such an undertaking; and likewise, that they had not sufficient stores of ammunition, especially of powder, and of small arms, for any considerable action with the Spaniards.

Then it was offered by the boatswain, who, it seems, had been in that part of the world, to go away to the Honduras, and to the Bay of Campeachy, among the buccaneers and logwood cutters, and there they should, in the first place, be sure to pick up forty or fifty stout fellows, good sailors, and bold, enterprising men, who understand the Spaniards and the Spanish coast on both sides of America as well as any men in the world, and had all firearms with them, and ammunition too; and that being well manned, they might take their hazard for provisions, which might be had anywhere, at least of one sort if not of another; besides, when they were thoroughly manned, they might cruise for provisions anywhere, and might be as likely to meet with the New York and New England sloops on the back of the islands, in their way to Barbados and Jamaica, as anywhere.

Others said they should go first to the islands of New Providence, or to the mouth of the Gulf of Florida, and then cruising on the coast of North America, and making their retreat at New Providence, cruise from the Gulf of Florida, north upon the coast of Carolina, and as high as the capes of Virginia. But nothing could be resolved on; till at last Gow let them into the secret of a project which, as he told them, he had long had in his thoughts, and which was, to go away to the north of Scotland, near the coast of which, as he said, he was born and bred, and where, he said, if they met with no purchase upon the sea, he could tell them how they should enrich themselves by going on shore.

To bring them to concur with this design, he represented the danger they were in where they were, as above—the want they were in of fresh water, and of several kinds of provisions, but, above all, the necessity they were in of careening and cleaning their ship; that it was too long a run for them to go to the southward; and that they had not provisions to serve them till they could reach to any place proper for that purpose, and might be driven to the utmost distress if they should be put by from watering, either by weather or enemies.

Also he told them if any of the men-of-war came out in search of them, they would never imagine they were gone away to the northward; so that their run that way was perfectly secure. And he could assure them of his own knowledge, that if they landed in such places as he should direct, they could not fail of a comfortable booty in plundering some gentlemen’s houses who lived secure and unguarded very near the shore; and that though the country should be alarmed, yet before the Government could send any men-of-war to attack them, they might clean their ship, lay in a store of fresh provisions, and be gone; and besides that, they would get a good many stout fellows to go along with them upon his encouragement; and that they should be better manned than they were yet, and should be ready against all events.

These arguments, and their approaching fate concurring, had a sufficient influence on the ship’s company to prevail on them to consent. So they made the best of their way to the northward, and about the middle of last January they arrived at Carristown, in the Isles of Orkney, and came to an anchor in a place which Gow told them was safe riding, under the lee of a small island at some distance from the port.

Gow being sole director as well as commander of the ship, called them all together, to tell them what account they should give of themselves when they came to converse with any of the people of the island, that they might agree in their story, and give no cause of suspicion; and ’tis most certain that had they been careful to observe his directions, and not betrayed and exposed themselves, they might have passed undiscovered, and done all the mischief they intended without alarming the country. His orders were, that they should say they came from Cadiz, and were bound for Stockholm, and thence to Dantzig; but that they had had a long passage, by reason of contrary winds, and lost their opportunity of passing the Sound, which was now full of ice, if not frozen up; and that they had been driven so far to the northward by stress of weather, that they wanted water and fresh provisions, and to clean their ship; that they would pay for whatever they were supplied with; and that by the time they had cleaned their ship, they hoped the weather would be warm, and the seas open for them to proceed on their voyage. This tale was easy to tell, and probable enough, and therefore likely enough to be believed; and they all obliged themselves to give the same account exactly, and not to vary the least tittle of it, or so much as whisper otherwise, upon pain of immediate death.

In Carristown harbour they found a small Scotch bark—Lumsdale, master—laden with wine and brandy, and bound about to the Isle of Man. This was a welcome thing to them all; and had it been anywhere else, they would have made it a good prize. But as they had goods sufficient on board, and such as were very acceptable merchandise, Lumsdale traded freely with them, and Gow bartered seven ceroons of wax and about 200 Ibs. weight of Barbary copper with him for a hogshead of Geneva and an anker of brandy, and some other goods; and it was believed that Gow had some money into the bargain.

A day or two after a Swedish vessel came into the road, bound from Stockholm to Glasgow, and laden with Swedes iron and east country plants; they traded with her also for twenty coil of new rope, for which Gow gave the master eleven ceroons of beeswax. It has been said they plundered this vessel of several other goods, and obliged the master to promise to sail directly to his port without speaking to anybody, on pain of sinking the ship; but this wants confirmation; nor is it probable they would venture to do so in a port where they resolved to stay any long time, and where they knew it was so necessary to be entirely concealed.

But now their misfortunes began to come on, and things looked but with an indifferent aspect upon them; for several of their men, especially such of them as had been forced or decoyed into their service, began to think of making their escape from them, and to cast about for means to bring it to pass. The first was a young man who was originally one of the ship’s company, but was forced, by fear of being murdered, as has been observed, to give a silent assent to go with them; he took an opportunity to get away.

It was one evening when the boat went on shore (for they kept a civil correspondence with the people of the town), this young fellow, being one of the ship’s crew, and having been several times on shore before, and therefore not suspected, gave them the slip, and got away to a farmhouse which lay under a hill out of sight; and there, for two or three pieces of eight, he got a horse, and soon by that means escaped to Kirkwall, a market-town, and the chief of the Orkneys, about twelve miles from the place where the ship lay.

As soon as he came there he surrendered himself to the Government, desiring protection, and informed them who Gow was, and what the ship’s crew were, and upon what business they were abroad; with what else he knew of their designs, as to plundering the gentlemen’s houses, &c., upon which they immediately raised the country, and got a strength together to defend themselves.

But the next disaster that attended them was (for misfortunes seldom come alone) more fatal than this, for ten of Gow’s men, most of them likewise men forced into the service, went away with the long-boat, making the best of their way for the mainland of Scotland.

N.B. These men, however they did, and what shift soever they made to get so far, were taken in the Firth of Edinburgh, and made prisoners there.

Had Gow taken the alarm, as he ought to have done, at either of these accidents, and put to sea, either stood over for the coast of Norway, or have run through westward between the islands, and gone for the Isle of Man, or for the north of Ireland, he might easily have gone clear off; for there was no vessel in the country that was of force sufficient to have spoken with him.

But hardened for his own destruction, and justice evidently pursuing him, he grew the bolder for the disaster; and notwithstanding that the country was alarmed, and that he was fully discovered, instead of making a timely escape, he resolved to land upon them, and to put his intended projects, viz., of plundering the gentlemen’s houses, in execution, whatever it cost him.

In order to this, he sent the boatswain and ten men on shore the very same night, very well armed, directing them to go to the house of Mr. Honnyman, of Grahamsey, sheriff of the county, and who was himself at that time, to his great good fortune, from home. The people of the house had not the least notice of their coming, so that when they knocked at the door it was immediately opened, upon which they all entered the house at once, except one Panton, who they set sentinel, and ordered him to stand at the door to secure their retreat, and to secure any from coming in after them.

Mrs. Honnyman and her daughter were extremely frighted at the sight of so many armed men coming into the house, and ran screaming about like people distracted, while the pirates, not regarding them, were looking about for chests and trunks, where they might expect to find some plunder. And Mrs. Honnyman, in her fright, coming to the door, asked Panton, the man who was set sentinel there, what the meaning of it all was? and he told her freely they were pirates, and that they came to plunder the house. At this she recovered some courage, and ran back into the house immediately; and knowing, to be sure, where her money lay, which was very considerable, and all in gold, she put the bags in her lap, and boldly rushing by Panton, who thought she was only running from them in a fright, carried it all off and so made her escape with the treasure. The boatswain being informed that the money was carried off, resolved to revenge himself by burning the writings and papers, which they call there the charter of their estates, and are always of great value in gentlemen’s houses of estate; but the young lady, Mr. Honnyman’s daughter, hearing them threaten to burn the writings, watched her opportunity, and running to the charter-room where they lay, and tying the most considerable of them up in a napkin, threw them out of the window, jumped after them herself, and escaped without damage, though the window was one storey high at least.

However, the pirates had the plundering of all the rest of the house, and carried off a great deal of plate and things of value; and forced one of the servants, who played very well on the bagpipe, to march along, piping before them, when they carried them off to the ship.

The next day they weighed anchor, intending, though they had cleaned but one side of the ship, to put out to sea and quit the coast; but sailing eastward, they came to an anchor again at a little island called Calfsound; and having some farther mischief in their view here, the boatswain went on shore again with some armed men; but meeting with no other plunder, they carried off three women, who they kept on board some time, and used so inhumanly that when they set them on shore again they were not able to go or to stand, and we hear that one of them died on the beach where they left them.

The next day they weighed again, holding the same course eastward through the openings between the islands, till they came off of Rossness; and now Gow resolved to make the best of his way for the island of Eda, to plunder the house of Mr. Fea, a gentleman of a considerable estate, and who Gow had some acquaintance with, having been at school together when they were youths.

It seems Gow’s reason for resolving to attack this gentleman, who was his old acquaintance, was that he thought the alarm, given at Carristown, would necessarily draw the gentlemen and the best of their forces that way, which guess was far from being improbable, for just so it was; only with respect to Mr. Fea, who having had the alarm with the rest, yet stayed at home on a particular occasion, his wife being at that time very much indisposed.

It is to be observed here that Carristown and Eda lie with respect to each other north-east and south-west, and the bodies of the chief islands lie between them.

On the 13th of February, in the morning, Gow appearing with his ship off the island, called the Calfsound, Mr. Fea and his family were very much alarmed, not being able to gather above six or seven men for his defence. He therefore wrote a letter to Gow, intending to send it on board as soon as he should get into the harbour, to desire him to forbear the usual salutes with his great guns, because Mrs. Fea, his wife, was so very much indisposed; and this, as he would oblige his old schoolfellow, telling him at the same time that the inhabitants were all fled to the mountain, on the report of his being a pirate, which he hoped would not prove true; in which case he should be very ready to supply him with all such necessaries as the island would afford, desiring him to send the messenger safe back, at whose return the alarms of the people would immediately be at an end. [317]

The tide, it seems, runs extremely rapid among those islands, and the navigation is thereby rendered very dangerous and uncertain. Gow was an able seaman, but he was no pilot for that place, and, which was worse, he had no boat to assist, in case of extremity, to wear the ship; and in turning into Calf Sound he stood a little too near the point of a little island called the Calf, and which lay in the middle of the passage. Here his ship, missing stays, was in great danger of going ashore, to avoid which he dropped an anchor under his foot, which, taking good hold, brought him up, and he thought the danger was over.

But as the wind was, he lay so near the shore that he could not get under sail again for want of a boat to tow him out of the channel, or to carry off an anchor to heave him out.

That little island above is uninhabited, but affords pasture to five or six hundred sheep, which Mr. Fea always keeps upon it, for it belonged wholly to him. Gow was now in distress, and had no remedy but to send his small boat on shore to Mr. Fea to desire his assistance that is to say, to desire him to lend him a boat to carry out an anchor to heave off the ship.

Mr. Fea sent back the boat with one James Laing in it, with the letter which I have already mentioned. Gow sent him back immediately with this answer, by word of mouth, viz., that he could write to nobody; but if Mr. Fea would order his people to assist him with a boat to carry out an anchor, he would reward them handsomely. Mr. Fea, in the meantime, ordered his great boat (for he had such a boat as Gow wanted) to be staved and launched into the water and sunk, and the masts, sails, and oars to be carried privately out of sight.

While this was doing, Mr. Fea perceived Gow’s boat coming on shore with five persons in her. These men having landed on the main island, left their boat on the beach, and all together marched directly up to the mansion-house. This put him into some surprise at first. However, he resolved to meet them in a peaceable manner, though he perceived they were all double armed. When he came up to them he entreated them not to go up to the house, because of the languishing condition of his wife; that she was already frighted with the rumours which had been raised of their being pirates, and that she would certainly die with the fear she was in for herself and family, if they came to the door.

The boatswain answered, they did not desire to fright his wife, or anybody else; but they came to desire the assistance of his boat, and if he would not grant them so small a favour, he had nothing to expect from them but the utmost extremity. Mr. Fea returned that they knew well enough he could not answer giving them or lending them his boat, or any help, as they appeared to be such people as was reported; but that if they would take them by force, he could not help himself.

But in the meantime, talking still in a friendly manner to them, he asked them to go to a neighbouring house, which he said was a change-house, that is a public-house, and take a cup of ale with him.

This they consented to, seeing Mr. Fea was all alone, so they went all with him. Mr. Fea in the meantime found means to give private orders that the oars and mast and sails of the pirates’ boat should be all carried away, and that in a quarter of an hour after they had sat together, he should be called hastily out of the room on some pretence or other of somebody to speak with him; all which was performed to a tittle.

When he had got from them, he gave orders that his six men, who, as before, he had gotten together, and who were now come to him well armed, should place themselves at a certain stile, behind a thick hedge, and which was about half the way between the ale-house and his own house; that if he came that way with the boatswain alone, they should suddenly start out upon them both, and throwing him down, should seize upon the other; but that if all the five came with him, he would take an occasion to be either before or behind them, so that they might all fire upon them without danger of hurting him.

Having given these orders, and depending upon their being well executed, he returned to the company, and having given them more ale, told them he would gladly do them any service that he could lawfully do, and that if they would take the trouble of walking up to his house in a peaceable manner, that his family might not be frighted with seeing himself among them, they should have all the assistance that was in his power.

The fellows, whether they had taken too much ale, or whether the condition of their ship and the hopes of getting a boat to help them blinded their eyes, is not certain, fell with ease into his snare, and agreed readily to go along with Mr. Fea; but after awhile resolved not to go all of them, only deputed the boatswain to go, which was what Mr. Fea most desired. The boatswain was very willing to accept of the trust, but it was observed he took a great deal of care of his arms, which was no less than four pistols, all loaded with a brace of bullets each; nor would he be persuaded to leave any of them behind him, no, not with his own men.

In this posture Mr. Fea and the boatswain walked along together very quietly till they came to the stile, which having got over, Mr. Fea seeing his men all ready, turned short about upon the boatswain, and taking him by the collar, told him he was his prisoner, and the same moment the rest of his men rushing upon them, threw them both down, and so secured the boatswain without giving him time so much as to fire one pistol. He cried out, indeed, with all his might to alarm his men, but they soon stopped his mouth by first forcing a pistol into it, and then a handker chief, and having disarmed him, and bound his hands behind him and his feet together, Mr. Fea left him there under a guard, and with his five other men, but without any arms, at least that could be seen, returned to the ale-house to the rest. The house having two doors, they divided themselves, and having rushed in at both doors at the same time, they seized all the four men before they were aware, or had time to lay hold of their arms. They did indeed what men could do, and one of them snapped a pistol at Mr. Fea, but it did not go off; and Mr. Fea snatching at the pistol at the same moment to divert the shot if it had fired, struck his hand with such force against the cock as very much bruised his hand.

They were all five now in his power, and he sent them away under a good guard to a village in the middle of the island, where they were kept separate from one another, and sufficiently secured.

Then Mr. Fea despatched expresses to the gentlemen in the neighbouring islands to acquaint them with what he had done, and to desire their speedy assistance; also desiring earnestly that they would take care that no boat should go within reach of the pirated guns; and at night he, Mr. Fea, caused fires to be made upon the hill round him, to alarm the country, and ordered all the boats round the island to be hauled up upon the beach as far as was possible, and disabled also, lest the pirates should swim from the ship and get any of them into their posses sion.

Next day, the 14th, it blew very hard all day, and in the evening, about high water, it shifted to W.N.W., upon which the pirates set their sails, expecting to get off, and so to lay it round the island, and put out to sea; but the fellow who was ordered to cut the cable checked the ship’s way, and consequently, on a sudden, she took all aback; then the cable being parted, when it should have held, the ship ran directly on shore on the Calf Island; nor could all their skill prevent it. Then Gow, with an air of desperation, told them they were all dead men. Nor indeed could it be otherways, for having lost the only boat they had, and five of their best hands, they were able to do little or nothing towards getting their ship off; besides, as she went on shore, on the top of high water, and a spring tide, there was no hope of getting her off afterward. Wherefore the next morning, being Monday, the 15th, they hung out a white flag as a signal for parley, and sent a man on shore, upon Calf Island, for now they could go on shore out of the ship almost at half flood.

Now Mr. Fea thought he might talk with Gow in a different style from what he did before, so he wrote a letter to him, wherein he complained of the rude behaviour of his five men, for which he told him he had been obliged to seize on them and make them prisoners, letting him know that the country, being all alarmed, would soon be too many for him; and therefore advised him to surrender himself peaceably, and be the author of a quiet surrender of the rest, as the only means to obtain any favour; and then he might become an evidence against the rest, and so might save his own life.

This letter Mr. Fea sent by a boat with four armed men to the island, to be given to the fellow that Gow had sent on shore, and who waited there, and he at the same time gave them a letter from Gow to Mr. Fea; for now he was humble enough to write, which before he refused.

Gow’s letter to Mr. Fea was to let him have some men and boats to take out the best of the cargo, in order to lighten the ship and set her afloat; and offering himself to come on shore and be hostage for the security of the men and boats, and to give Mr. Fea a thousand pounds in goods for the service; declaring at the same time, if this small succour was refused him, he would take care nobody should better himself by his misfortune; for that rather than to be taken, they would set fire to the ship, and would all perish together.

Mr. Fea replied to this letter, that he had a boat, indeed, that would have been fit for his service, but that she was staved and sunk; but if he would come on shore quietly without arms, and bring his carpenter with him to repair the boat, he might have her.

This Mr. Fea did to give Gow an opportunity to embrace his first offer of surrendering. But Gow was neither humble enough to come in, nor sincere enough to treat with him fairly, if he had intended to let him have the boat; and if he had, ’t is probable that the former letter had made the men suspicious of him; so that now he could do nothing without communicating it to the rest of the crew.

About four in the afternoon Mr. Fea received an answer to his last letter, the copy of which is exactly as follows:

“Feb. 16, 1725.                

“HONOURED SIR, I am sorry to hear of the irregular proceedings of my men. I gave no orders to that effect. And what hath been wrongfully done to the country was contrary to my inclination. It is my misfortune to be in this condition at present. It was in your power to have done otherwise in making my fortune better. Since my being in the country I have wronged no man, nor taken anything but what I have paid for. My design in coming was to make the country the better, which I am still capable to do, providing you are just to me. I thank you for the concern you have had for my bad fortune, and am sorry I cannot embrace your proposal, as being evidence; my people have already made use of that advantage. I have by my last signified my design of proceeding, provided I can procure no better terms. Please to send James Laing on board to continue till my return. I should be glad to have the good fortune to commune with you upon that subject. I beg you will assist me with a boat; and be assured I do no man harm, were ’t in my power, as I am now at your mercy. I cannot surrender myself prisoner; I’d rather commit myself to the mercy of the seas: so that if you will incline to contribute to my escape, shall leave you ship and cargo at your disposal.—I continue, honoured Sir, &c.,

JOHN SMITH.”            

Upon this letter, and especially that part wherein Gow desires to commune with him, Mr. Fea, believing he might do some service in persuading him to submit, went over to Calf Island, and went on shore alone, ordering his boat to lie in readiness to take him in again, but not one man to stir out of her; and calling to Gow with a speaking-trumpet, desired him to come on shore, which the other readily did. But Mr. Fea, before he ventured, wisely foresaw that, whilst he was alone upon the island, the pirates might, unknown to him, get from the ship by different ways, and, under cover of shore, might get behind and surround him; to prevent which, he set a man upon the top of his own house, which was on the opposite shore, and overlooked the whole island, and ordered him to make signals with his flag, waving his flag once for every man that he saw come on shore, but if four or more came on shore, then to keep the flag waving continually till he, Mr. Fea, should retire.

This precaution was very needful, for no sooner was Mr. Fea advanced upon the island, expecting Gow to come on shore to meet him, but he saw a fellow come from the ship with a white flag, and a bottle, and a glass, and a bundle; then turning to his own house, he saw his man make the signals appointed, and that the man kept the flag continually waving; upon which he immediately retired to his boat, and he no sooner got into it but he saw five fellows running under shore, with lighted matches and granadoes in their hands, to have intercepted him, but seeing him out of their reach, they retired to the ship.

After this the fellow with the white flag came up, and gave Mr. Fea two letters. He would have left the bundle, which he said was a present to Mr. Fea, and the bottle, which he said was a bottle of brandy; but Mr. Fea would not take them; but told the fellow his captain was a treacherous villain, and he did not doubt but he should see him hanged; and as to him, the fellow, he had a great mind to shoot him; upon which the fellow took to his heels, and Mr. Fea being in his boat, did not think it worth while to land again to pursue him. This put an end to all parley for the present; but had the pirates succeeded in this attempt, they would have so far gained their point—either they must have been assisted, or Mr. Fea must have been sacrificed.

The two letters from Gow were one for Mr. Fea, and the other for his wife. The first was much to the same purpose as the former; only that in this Gow requested the great boat with her masts and sails and oars, with some provisions, to transport themselves whither they thought fit to go for their own safety; offering to leave the ship and cargo to Mr. Fea, and threatening that if the men-of-war arrived (for Mr. Fea had given him notice that he expected two men-of-war) before he was thus assisted, they would set fire to the ship and blow themselves up; so that as they had lived they would all die together.

The letter to Mrs. Fea was to desire her to intercede with her husband, and pleading that he was their countryman, and had been her husband’s school fellow, &c. But no answer was returned to either of these letters. On the 17th, in the morning, contrary to expectation, Gow himself came on shore upon the Calf Island unarmed, except his sword, and alone, except one man at a distance, carrying a white flag, making signals for a parley.

Mr. Fea, who by this time had gotten more people about him, immediately sent one Mr. Fea of Whitehall, and a gentleman of his own family, with five other persons, well armed, over to the island, with orders to secure Gow, if it was possible by any means, either dead or alive. When they came on shore, he proposed that one of them, whose name was Scollary, a master of a vessel, should go on board the ship, as hostage for this Gow’s safety; and Scollary consenting, Gow himself conducted him to the ship’s side.

Mr. Fea, perceiving this from his own house, immediately took another boat, and went over to the island himself. And while he was expostulating with his men for letting Scollary go for hostage, Gow returned; and Mr. Fea made no hesitation, but told him, in short, he was his prisoner; at which Gow, starting, said it ought not to be so, since there was a hostage delivered for him. Mr. Fea said he gave no order for it, and it was what they could not justify; and since Scollary had ventured without orders, he must take his fate; he would run the venture of it, but advised Gow, as he expected good usage himself, that he would send the fellow who carried his white flag back to the ship, with orders for them to return Scollary in safety, and to desire Winter and Petersen to come with him.

Gow declined giving any such order; but the fellow said he would readily go and fetch them, and did so, and they came along with him. When Gow saw them, he reproached them for being so easily imposed, and ordered them to go back to the ship immediately. But Mr. Fea’s men, who were too strong for them, surrounded them and took them all. When this was done, they demanded Gow to deliver his sword, but he said he would rather die with it in his hand, and begged them to shoot him. But that was denied; and Mr. Fea’s men, disarming him of his sword, carried him with the other two into their boat, and after that to the main island, where Mr. Fea lived.

Having thus secured the captain, Mr. Fea prevailed with him to go to the shore over against the ship, and to call the gunner and another man to come on ashore on Calf Island, which they did; but they was no sooner there but they also were surrounded by some men, which Mr. Fea had placed out of sight upon the island for that purpose. Then they made Gow to call to the carpenter to come on shore, still making them believe they should have a boat, and Mr. Fea went over and met him alone, and talking to him, told him they could not repair the boat with out help and without tools, so persuaded him to go back to the ship and bring a hand or two with him and some tools, some oakum, nails, &c. The carpenter being thus deluded, went back, and brought a Frenchman and another with him, with all things proper for their work; all which, as soon as they came on shore, were likewise seized and secured by Mr. Fea and his men.

But there was still a great many men in the ship, who it was necessary to bring, if possible, to a quiet surrender. So Mr. Fea ordered his men to make a feint as if they would go to work upon the great boat which lay on shore upon the island, but in sight of the ship; there they hammered, and knocked, and made a noise, as if they were really calking and repairing her, in order to her being launched off and put into their possession. But towards night he obliged Gow to write to the men that Mr. Fea would not deliver the boat till he was in possession of the ship; and therefore he ordered them all to come on shore, without arms, and in a peaceable manner.

This occasioned many debates in the ship; but as they had no officers to guide them, and were all in confusion, they knew not what to do. So after some time, bewailing their hard fate, and dividing what money was left in the ship among them, they yielded and went on shore, and were all made prisoners, to the number of eight-and-twenty, including those who were secured before.

How he brought Gow to be so weak was something strange, Gow being not very supple. But whether it was that he hoped to fare the better for it, and to plead some merit by obliging his men to come in without blood (and perhaps they might encourage him in such expectations, though not promise him, for the last they could not); or whether it was that Gow, who knew their circumstances and temper also, was satisfied if he did not persuade them to it, they would certainly do it without any persuasion in a day or two more, having indeed no other remedy, and some of them being really forced men, desiring nothing more than to surrender.

And if it was neither of these, perhaps Gow, whose case was now desperate, and who was fully in the power of his enemies, and in the hands of justice himself, from whom he had indeed no reason to expect any favour, was, perhaps—I say, he was not over- desirous to have the rest make their escape, and therefore was easier to persuade them to put them selves into the same unhappy circumstances with himself, it being most natural to people in such cir cumstances to desire to have their comrades engulfed in the same misery.

Be it which of these it will, Mr. Fea did certainly prevail with Gow to be the instrument to write to them, and to join, as it were, with Mr. Fea’s stratagem to draw them on shore, without which they had not come, at least not at that time, and so they said afterwards, upbraiding him with having betrayed them; and yet it seems plain too, that when they went they took it for granted that they should be made prisoners, by their exclamations one to another, and by their sharing the money among them, as is said above.

It was indeed a most agreeable sight to see such a crew of desperate fellows so tamely surrender to a few almost naked countrymen, and to see them so circumvented by one gentleman that they were rendered quite useless to themselves and to their own deliverance; the want of a boat was as much to them as an actual imprisonment; nay, they were indeed in prison in their ship, nor was they able to stir one way or other, hand or foot. It was too cold to swim over to the island and seize the boat, and if they had, unless they had done it immediately at first, the people on shore would have been too strong for them; so that they were as secure on board the ship, as to any escape they could have made, as they were afterwards in the condemned hold in Newgate.

Again, never were people more foolishly circumvented when they had a boat and conveniences, for had they gone on shore then, while they had a boat, though it was but their small boat, yet going at twice, twenty or five-and-twenty men of them, they might have repaired and launched Mr. Fea’s great boat, in spite of all he could have done to hinder it, and then, if they could not have got their ship off, they might have come away, as the fellows did, with their own boat, and might soon have found means to get a bigger boat on the coast either of Scotland or England, and getting on shore in the night in any convenient part of England, might have dispersed and mixed themselves among the people, and made an effectual escape.

But their end was apparently at hand; justice was ready for them; their crimes had ripened them for the gallows, and the gallows claimed them; their time was come, and it was not in their power to avoid it.

I am longer upon this particular part because it is so very remarkable, and the circumstances of it are so unaccountable, that the boatswain should come on shore with his boat, and no more but four men, thinking to fire and plunder Mr. Fea’s house with that little crew; as if he could imagine Mr. Fea, who they knew was alarmed and had been acquainted with what they were, should have nobody at all with him, or that he could storm his house with that little force.

Then that he should be wheedled into an ale house by a single gentleman; as if he would have ventured himself into an ale-house with them if he had not had help at hand to rescue him if anything had been offered to him.

Then, which was still worse, that they should be taken with the old bite of having the gentleman called out of the room, when they were together, as if he could have any business to talk of there but to lay a trap for them, and which, if they had their eyes about them, or, as we might say, any eyes in their heads, they might have seen into easily enough.

And to conclude this scene of madness and folly together, they came all away and left their boat, with nobody either in her to keep her afloat, or near her to guard and defend her. Nothing but men infatuated to their own destruction, and condemned by the visible hand of Heaven to an immediate surprise, could have been so stupid; they might have been sure, if there were any people in the island, they would if possible secure their boat; and they ought at least to have considered the forlorn condition of the rest of their company in the ship, with out a boat to help themselves. But blinded by their inevitable fate, in a word, they run into the snare with their eyes open; they stood, as it were, looking on, and saw themselves taken before it was done.

Nay, some of the men were heard to say, that if their captain, Gow himself, had but said the word, they were able to have built a boat on board, with such stuff as they could have pulled from the sides and ceilings of the ship, at least big enough to have gone out to sea, and sailing along the coast, have either found a better, or seized upon some other vessel in the night, or to have made their escape.

But never creatures were taken so tamely, tricked so easily, and so entirely disabled from the least defence, or the least contrivance for their escape; even Gow himself, who, as I said before, never wanted a resolute courage or presence of mind before, and was never daunted by any difficulties, yet was now snapped under a pretence of a hostage, delivered, and being himself taken and disarmed, yields himself to be made a tool of to bring all the rest to yield at discretion.

In a word, they were as void of counsel as of courage; they were outwitted on every occasion; they could not see in the open day what any one else would have felt in the dark; but they dropped insensibly into Mr. Fea’s hand by one, and two, and three at a time, as if they had told him beforehand that if he went on with his stratagem, he should be sure to have them all in his custody very quickly. And though every one, as fast as they went on shore, were made prisoners and secured, yet the others were made to believe they were at liberty, and were simple enough to come on shore to them.

Everything we can say of the blindness and folly of these people, who Heaven having determined to punishment, demented and blinded to prepare them for their being brought to it,—I say, everything that can be said to expose their stupidity and blindness is a just panegyric upon the conduct of that gentleman, by whose happy conduct, and the dexterous turn he gave to every incident which happened in the whole affair, was indeed the principal means of their being all apprehended.

Had this gentleman, knowing their strength and number was so great, being four times as many men as he had about him, and better provided for mischief than he was for defence,—had he, as it seems others did, fled with his family over the Firth, or arm of the sea, which parted his island from the rest, by which they had secured themselves from danger; or had he, with the few men and firearms which he had about him, fortified and defended themselves in his house, and resolved to defend themselves there, the pirates had in all probability gone off again, left him, and made their escape. Nay, if they had run their ship aground, as they afterwards did, and though they had been obliged to lay the bones there, they would, however, have got away some boat off the shore to have made a long-boat of, and have made their escape along the coast, till they came to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and there nothing had been more easy than to have separated and gone to London, some in one ship, some in another; or, as one of them proposed, they should have found some coasting barque or other riding near the shore, which they might have boarded, and so gone off to sea which way they pleased.

But they were come a great way to bring themselves to justice, and here they met with it in the most re markable manner, and with such circumstances as I believe are not to be imitated in the world.

When they were all on shore, and were told that they were prisoners, they began to reassume a kind of courage, and to look upon one another, as if to lay hold of some weapon to resist; and ’t is not doubted but if they had had arms then in their hands, they would have made a desperate defence. But it was too late, the thing was all over, they saw their captain and all their officers in the same condition, and there was no room for resistance then; all they could have done had been only to cause them to be the more effectually secured, and perhaps to have had some or other of them knocked on the head for examples; so seeing there was no remedy, they all submitted quietly, and were soon dispersed one from another, till more strength came to carry them off, which was not long.

Thus ended their desperate undertaking, Heaven having by a visible infatuation upon themselves, and a concurrence of other circumstances, brought them all into the hands of justice, and that by the particular bravery and conduct of one gentleman, I mean Mr. Fea, who so well managed them that, as above, having at first but five or six men with him, he brought the whole company, partly by force and partly by stratagem, to submit, and that without any loss of blood on one side or other.

Among the rest of the papers found on board the ship was the following copy of a draft, or agreement of articles or orders, or what you please to call them, which were to have been signed, and were for the direction of the men, whether on shore or on board, when they came to an anchor in the Orkneys.

They would, I suppose, have been put up upon the mainmast if they had had longer time; but they soon found articles were of no value with such fellows; for the going away with the long-boat, and ten men in her, confounded all their measures, made them jealous and afraid of one another, and made them act afterwards as if they were under a general infatuation or possession, always irresolute and unsettled, void of any forecast or reasonable actings; but having the plunder of Mr. Fea’s house in their view, when they should have chiefly regarded their own safety and making their escape, they pushed at the least significant though most difficult part, and which was their ruin in the undertaking, when they should at first have secured their lives, which, at least to them, was the thing of most value, though the easiest at that time to have secured.

By this preposterous way of proceeding they drew themselves into the labyrinth and were destroyed, without any possibility of recovery; nay, they must have perished by hunger and distress if there had been nobody to have taken them prisoners; for having no boat to supply them with necessaries, their ship fast aground upon a barren and uninhabited island, and no way to be supplied, they were themselves in the utmost despair, and I think it was one of the kindest things that could be done for them to bring them off and hang them out of the way.

Their foolish articles were as follows, viz.:—

  1. That every man shall obey his commander in all respects, as if the ship was his own, and we under monthly pay.
  2. That no man shall give or dispose of the ship’s provisions, whereby may be given reason of suspicion that every one hath not an equal share.
  3. That no man shall open or declare to any person or persons what we are, or what design we are upon; the offender shall be punished with death upon the spot.
  4. That no man shall go on shore till the ship is off the ground and in readiness to put to sea.
  5. That every man shall keep his watch night and day, and precisely at the hour of eight leave off gaming and drinking, every one repair to their respective stations.
  6. Whoever offends shall be punished with death, or otherwise, as we shall find proper for our interest.

N.B.—This draft of articles seems to be imperfect, and, as it were, only begun to be made, for that there were several others intended to be added; but it was supposed that their affairs growing desperate, their long-boat gone, and the boatswain and boat’s crew in the pinnace or smaller boat gone also and made prisoners, there was no more need of articles, nor would anybody be bound by them if they were made; so the farther making of orders and articles was let alone.

These that were made were written with Gow’s own hand, and ’tis supposed that the rest would have been done so too, and then he would have taken care to have them executed; but he soon found there was no occasion of them, and I make no question but all their other papers and articles of any kind were destroyed.

Being now all secured and in custody in the most proper places in the island, Mr. Fea took care to give notice to the proper officers in the country, and by them to the Government at Edinburgh, in order to get help for the carrying them to England. The distance being so great, this took up some time, for the Government at Edinburgh being not immediately concerned in it, but rather the Court of Admiralty of Great Britain, expresses were despatched from thence to London, that his Majesty’s pleasure might be known; and in return to which, orders were despatched into Scotland to have them immediately sent up to England, with as much expedition as the case would admit; and accordingly they were brought up by land to Edinburgh first, and from thence being put on board the Greyhound frigate, they were brought by sea to England.

This necessarily took up a great deal of time, so that had they been wise enough to improve the hours that were left, they had almost half a year’s time to prepare themselves for death; though they cruelly denied the poor mate a few moments to commend his soul to God’s mercy, even after he was half murdered before. I say, they had almost half a year, for they were most of them in custody the latter end of January, and they were not executed till the llth of June.

The Greyhound arrived in the river the 26th of March, and the next day came to an anchor at Woolwich, and the pirates being put into boats appointed to receive them, with a strong guard to attend them, were brought on shore the 30th, conveyed to the Marshalsea Prison in Southwark, where they were delivered to the keeper of the said prison, and were laid in irons, and there they had the mortification to meet their Lieutenant Williams, who was brought home by the Argyle man-of-war from Lisbon, and had been committed to the same prison for a very few days.

Indeed, as it was a mortification to them, so it was more to him; for though he might be secretly pleased that those who had so cruelly, as he called it, put him into the hands of justice by the sending him to Lisbon, were brought into the same circumstances with himself, yet, on the other hand, it could not but be a terrible mortification to him that here now were sufficient witnesses found to prove his crimes upon him, which were not so easy to be had before.

Being thus laid fast, it remained to proceed against them in due form, and this took up some longer time still.

On Friday, the 2nd of April, they were all carried to Doctors’ Commons, where, the proper judges being present, they were examined, by which examination due measures were taken for the farther proceedings; for as they were not equally guilty, so it was needful to determine who it was proper to bring to an immediate trial, and who being less guilty, were more proper objects of the Government clemency, as being under force and fear, and consequently necessitated to act as they did; and also who it might be proper to single out as evidence against the rest. After being thus examined, they were remanded to the Marshalsea.

On the Saturday, the 8th of May, the five who were appointed for evidence against the rest, and whose names are particularly set down in its place, were sent from the Marshalsea Prison to Newgate, in order to give their information.

Being thus brought up to London and committed to the Marshalsea Prison, and the Government being fully informed what black uncommon offenders they were, it was thought proper to bring them to speedy justice.

In order to this, some of them, as is said, who were less criminal than the rest, and who apparently had been forced into their service, were formed out, and being examined, and giving first an account of themselves and then of the whole fraternity, it was thought fit to make use of their evidence for the more clear detecting and convincing of the rest. These were George Dobson, John Phinnes, Timothy Murphy, William Booth.

These were the principal evidence, and were indeed more than sufficient; for they so exactly agreed in their evidence, and the prisoners (pirates) said so little in their defence, that there was no room for the jury to question their guilt, or to doubt the truth of any part of the account given in.

Robert Read was a young man, mentioned above, who escaped from the boat in the Orkneys, and getting a horse at a farmer’s house, was conveyed to Kirkwall, the chief town of the said Orkneys, where he surrendered himself. Nevertheless he was brought up with the rest as a prisoner, nor was he made use of as evidence, but was tried upon most, if not all, the indictments with the rest. But Dobson, one of the witnesses, did him the justice to testify that he was forced into their service, as others were, for fear of having their throats cut, as others had been served before their faces; and that, in particular, he was not present at, or concerned in, any of the murders for which the rest were indicted; upon which evidence he was acquitted by the jury. [338]

Also he brought one Archibald Sutor, the man of the house, said above to be a farmhouse, whither the said Read made his escape in the Orkneys, who testified that he did so escape to him, and that he begged him to procure him a horse to ride off to Kirkwall, which he did, and that there he surrendered himself. Also he testified that Read gave him (Sutor) a full account of the ship, and of the pirates that were in her, and what they were; and he (Sutor) discovered it all to the collector of the customs; by which means the country was alarmed. And he added that it was by this man’s means that all the prisoners were apprehended (though that was a little too much too), for ’t is plain it was by the vigilance and courage of Mr. Fea chiefly they were reduced to such distress as obliged them to surrender.

However, it was true that Read’s escape did alarm the country, and that he merited very well of the public for the timely discovery he made. So he came off clear, as indeed it was but just; for he was not only forced to serve them, as above, but, as Dobson testified for him, he had often expressed his uneasiness at being obliged to act with them, and that he wished he could get away; and that he was sincere in those wishes, as appeared in that he took the first opportunity he could get to put it in practice.

N.B.—This Dobson was one of the ten men who ran away with the pirates’ long-boat from the Orkneys, and who were afterwards made prisoners in the Firth of Leigh and carried to Edinburgh.

Gow was now a prisoner among the rest in the Marshalsea; his behaviour there was sullen and reserved rather than penitent. It had been hinted to him by Mr. Fea, as others, that he should endeavour, by his behaviour, to make himself an evidence against others, and to merit his life by a ready submission, and obliging others to do the like. But Gow was no fool, and he easily saw there were too many gone before who had provided for their own safety at his expense. And besides that, he knew himself too deeply guilty of cruelty and murder to be expected by the public justice as an evidence, especially when so many others, less criminals, were to be had. This, I say, made him, and with good reason too, give over any thoughts of escaping by such means as that, and, perhaps, seeing so plainly that there was no room for it, might be the reason why he seemed to reject the offer; otherwise he was not a person of such nice honour as that we should suppose he would not have secured his own life at the expense of his comrades.

But, as I say, Gow was no fool. So he seemed to give over all thought of life from the first time he came to England; not that he showed any tokens of his repentance, or any sense of his condition, suitable to what was before him, but continuing, as above, sullen and reserved, even to the very time he was brought to the bar. When he came there, he could not be tried with the rest; for the arraignment being made in the usual form, he refused to plead. The court used all the arguments which humanity dictates in such cases, to prevail on him to come into the ordinary course of other people in like government, laying before him the sentence of the law in such cases, namely, that he must be pressed to death, the only torturing execution which remains in our law, which, however, they were obliged to inflict.

But he continued inflexible, and carried on his obstinacy to such a height as to receive the sentence in form, as usual in such cases, the execution being appointed to be done the next morning, and he was carried back to Newgate in order to it. But whether he was prevailed with by argument and the reasons of those about him, or whether the apparatus for the execution and the manner of the death he was to die terrified him, we cannot say; but the next morning he yielded, and petitioned to be allowed to plead, and be admitted to be tried in the ordinary way; which being granted, he was brought to the bar by himself, and pleaded, being arraigned again upon the same indictment, upon which he had been sentenced as a mute, and was found guilty.

Williams, the lieutenant, who, as has been said, was put on board a Bristol ship, with orders to deliver him on board the first English man-of-war they should meet with, comes, of course, to have the rest of his history made up in this place.

The captain of the Bristol ship, though he received his orders from the crew of pirates and rogues, whose instructions he was not obliged to follow, and whose accusation of Williams they were not obliged to give credit to, yet punctually obeyed the order and put him on board the Argyle (Captain Bowler), then lying in the port of Lisoon, and bound for England, who, as they took him in irons, kept him so, and brought him to England in the same condition.

But as the pirates did not send any of their company, nor indeed could they do it, along with him, to be evidence against him, and the men who went out of the pirate ship on board a Bristol ship being till then kept as prisoners on board the pirate ship, and perhaps could not have said enough or given particular evidence sufficient to convict him in a court of justice, Providence supplied the want, by bringing the whole crew to the same place (for Williams was in the Marshalsea Prison before them), and by that means furnishing sufficient evidence against Williams also, so that they were all tried together.

In Williams’ case the evidence was as particular as in Gow’s; and Dobson and the other swore positively that Williams boasted that after Macaulay had cut the supercargo’s throat imperfectly, he (Williams) did his business, that is to say, murdered him; and added, that he would not give him time to say his prayers, but shot him through the head; Phinnes and Timothy Murphy testifying the same. And to show the bloody disposition of this wretch, William Booth testified that Williams proposed afterwards to the company, that if they took any more ships, they should not encumber themselves with the men, having already so many prisoners; that in case of a fight they should take them and tie them back to back, and throw them all overboard into the sea.

It should not be omitted here also in the case of Gow himself, that as I have observed in the Introduction, Gow had long meditated the kind of villainy which he now put in practice, and that it was his resolution to turn pirate the first opportunity he should get, whatever voyage he undertook, and that I observed he had intended it on board a ship in which he came home from Lisbon, but failed only for want of making a sufficient party; so this resolution of his is confirmed by the testimony and confession of James Belvin, one of his fellow-criminals, who upon the trial declared that he knew that Gow, and, he added, the crew of the George galley, had a design to turn pirates from the beginning, and added, that he discovered it to George Dobson in Amsterdam, before the ship went out to sea. For the confirmation of this, Dobson was called up again, after he had given his evidence upon the trials, and being confronted with Belvin, he did acknowledge that Belvin had said so, and that in particular he had said the boatswain and several others had such a design, and in especial manner, that the said boatswain had a design to murder the master and some others, and run away with the ship; and being asked what was the reason why he did not immediately discover it to the master, Captain Ferneau, he answered, that he heard him (Belvin) tell the mate of it, and that the mate told the captain of it; but that the captain made light of it; but that though he was persuaded not to let the boatswain go along with them, yet the captain said he feared them not, and would still take him; but that the boatswain finding himself discovered, refused to go; upon which Gow was named for boatswain, but was made second mate, and then Belvin was made boatswain; and had he been as honest afterward as before (whereas, on the contrary, he was as forward and active as any of them, except that he was not in the first secret, nor in the murders), he might have escaped what after wards became so justly his due. But as they acted together, justice required they should suffer, and accordingly Gow and Williams, Belvin, Melvin, Winter, Petersen, Rowlinson, Macaulay, received the reward of their cruelty and blood at the gallows, being all executed together the 11th of June.

N.B.—Gow, as if Providence had directed that he should be twice hanged, his crimes being of a twofold nature, and both capital, soon he was turned off, fell down from the gibbet, the rope breaking by the weight of some that pulled his leg to put him out of pain. He was still alive and sensible, though he had hung four minutes, and able to go up the ladder the second time, which he did with very little concern, and was hanged again; and since that a third time, viz., in chains over against Greenwich, as Williams is over against Blackwall.

Adventures of Captain John Gow - Contents

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