The Prologue is co-authored by Mrs Roberts. Any additional comments by her presented thus.
All written herein is absolute truth, with no glorification, for there is no reason for it, as this is one bit of history that is filled with it's own incredible sensationalism.
All quotes are italicized & presented in a different font. All reference numbers are within the bibliography.
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"John," he hollers from across the field, no doubt looking about fer me.
"Here, sir," I reply, whilst waving my right hand high in the air.
Walking towards me, now being fairly close, his voice mellows. "I have received word," says he, "that the coal shipment has arriv’d early in Saint Bride’s Bay. "Best be a-going with both wagons to Little Haven come early morn. Within one already be the grain order that needes delivering en route."
"Yes, sir," I replied to him.
"Yer eldest brother, William, shall be driving in the second wagon, fer I am not feeling up to the journey this month."
"Yer not ailing are you sir?" Asking in a concerned tone.
"Just tired is all, John." Turning to start walking back to the house. "You and William shall stay with my business associate, as do wee, when in the village. He’s honest, but ‘tis most important a’ is correct, so ye keep a sharp eye on things."
Opening the door; allowing my father to enter first, "You canne count upon me, sir," says I, beaming with confidence.
Morning came quickly and though it is my first time to goe off alone to fetch to the lime and coal alone, meaning without my father along. Having bin there countless times with him, ‘tis great confidence that dwells within me. With Little Haven some twenty miles from my home here in Little Newcastle, the journey will take most of the daye. I knows my brother, William, is excited. Tho’ onely a few yeeres younger than I, and this shall be his first trip away from home, and such, he eagerly dashes out towards the barn to hitch the teams.
As I climb up into the wagon my father asks, "Have you the map?"
"Yes, sir," I assure him, tho’ his concerns are incidental and worried I am not, for I know the way well.
Giving me a bit of final advice amid his send off, "Whilst there, there is no need to rush, son. Just relax and take your time."
"I shall do my best fer you, sir."
"I knows you will, John. Keep your eye on William and be sure he doth not get himselfe into trouble."
"I will, sir." Slapping the reins against the rump of the horses I headed out past the church, towards Roch Castle where, William and I shall stop to have our prepared dinner whilst resting the horses.
Later: Getting on towards six a’clock it was, when me and my brother, William, arriv’d at the coal yard. ‘Twas here where we’d be leaving the wagons, stabling the horses overnight at the livery a ways down the road, in town.
Over to me right I saw the proprietor, Mister Greaves. Calling out to him, "Good evening, sir," as I climbed down from the well padded bench seat. By the time me feet hit the ground I was met by one of his hired men. As usual, the young man tooke the reins and led the horses off where he would unhitch the team before stabling them for the night.
William, now by my side, was mett by a similar worker.
The proprietor, an associate of my fathers, came on over to greet me. "Good to see you, John, but where be your father? I hope he not be ailing."
"No, sir. He’s well enough. Just a little tired is all," I said to him. Turning to my brother, who was eager to be introduced, "This sir, is William. The eldest of my three younger brothers."
"Good daye to you, sir," William said amid a bow. My brother was obviously lighted up, but seeing it be his first time it was understandable.
"Good to meet you, young man. George, your father, and I be good friends."
Whilst they spoke briefly, I confess I was not paying much attention to the smale talk betwixt them, fer in the distance I spied a vision of loveliness. A young lady dressed in fine cloathes she was, standing patiently, as a well-bred lady ought behave, next to whom I hoped was her father. Tho’ I ought not admit it, I could not take my eyes from her. Seeing my attention fixed elsewhere, the associate of my father astutely interrupts my gaze. "A new face in town, John."
William turned to look, but being much the younger, he didst not share my enthusiasm.
"Allow me to introduce you to her, and her father."
"Thank you, sir," I said to him, gratefully.
Walking on over I found meselfe mildly nervous. Not from meeting her, of course, but rather that she may already be spoken fer.
"Mister Rees," said Mister Greaves as wee stopped before them. "This be Mister John Robert. His father, George Robert, a Gentleman, ownes a large estate and horse farm in Little Newcastle, nigh on twenty miles North East. And this young man here," patting him on the head, "is his brother, William."
"Pleas’d to meet you Mister Robert. William," said he.
"And you, sir," I replied giving him a slight bow as I turned my eyes slightly towards his pulchritudinous daughter.
Not being a’ too prudent in manners as yet, William made his greeting with a bow, but no words. Wishing to be elsewhere; anny place other than where the older sett be talking of things that did not interest him, turned to me and asked, "All right if I look around, John."
"That permission, William, is needed of Mister Greaves, but shouldst be alright with him, you have my leave to go, but keep thyself within ear shot."
"Sir?" William said looking at Mister Greaves in earnest.
"Go on with ya son," he said, again patting my brother on the head. "But keep clear of the loading."
"Yes, sir," smiling as he dashed off.
Again my attention was fixed upon the young lady, as was noticed by her father. "I should like to present," as he placed the back of his hand beneath her palm, "my daughter, Rebekah," and in the doing, offered her hand.
Slowly I exchanged his hand for mine, and as it ever so lightly it laid atop mine, shivers travelled up my spine. Lowering my head I kissed the white glove which covered her creamy white skin. Then, gently as she spoke, I lett loose of her hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Mister Robert."
My ears drank in the sound of her gentle voice as my reply came affectionately. "The pleasure is mine, Miss Rebekah."
Though in my seventeenth yeere, I had not, till this daye, mett a girl which I tooke such a fancy. So Sweet and Innocent she looked; well presenting herselfe. A fine school for young ladies she must attend I thought to meselfe.
"Whilst their house is made ready, Mister Rees and his daughter are stopping with me also." Mister Greaves information brought me from my daye dream like state to one of forward looking possibilities.
"That’s fine!" I said smiling. "‘Twould be my pleasure to helpe in that regard, sir," said I to her father.
Having much to do before the night came, and regarding me as a suitable escort, being I had bin properly introduced to him by a man of wealth and stature, he made to me a gesture for which I was honoured. "Mister Robert, it would be most helpful if ye would be so kind as to shew my daughter some of the village, and then, if you will, escort her to the residence of Mister Greaves in time for tea."
"An honour, sir." Offering her my forearm, she rested her delicate hand upon my wrist and slowly wee walked off. ‘Twas not untill wee were walking out of the area which presented possible dangers that she carry’d her hands before her, whilst mine were held behind my back.
As wee walked along, engaged in idle conversation, I pointed out to ‘er the different shoppes, naming the proprietors, also telling her a little history of the village. As I talked she listened with great interest. When I said something which amused her I became even more smittened, for her laugh was as gently sweet to me ears as was her smile to my eyes.
That night at tea, and happily so, she looked my way many times. ‘Twas just a slight smile she had for me, but it was more than enough to capture my thoughts, and together with my heart, she held them in a vice. Earlier, amid our walk, I learnt her father had bin Captain of a Merchant, recently retired. I, in turn, told her of my love of the sea and that already I had served an eight yeere apprenticeship as both a ship’s boy and a Midshipman in the British Royall Navy.
The next morn I arose early. Much too early for her to be awake, but beneath her bed chamber door I left for her a note.
The journey home was the most pleasant of my life fer my thoughts were filled with her alone.
Within a few dayes I sent forth a courier with a message to her father. The letter began with my asking his permission to pay formal court to his daughter. I further explained to him that in a fortnight a new play would be stopping for a few dayes onely and respectively asked his permission to call upon his daughter at that time, with the intention of escorting her thither.
For many dayes I brooded about, anxious for his reply, when by special messenger came forth the following message.
Much time has past and my courtship with Miss Rebekah, is now in it’s ninth month. Onely three months back I asked her father for her hand and it was jovially granted. It was the following daye that war was declared against France. The Grand Alliance be what they call it here, tho’ I prefer to be calling it by what many of the Seaman coming into port hast dubbed it, "Queen Anne’s Warr," being ‘tis for a brief spell onely that she, this daughter of that deposed tyrant, James II, hath bin our sovereign, and many be a saying ‘twas for her owne purpose, self-serving as was her father. Her ambitions be for her owne sake and not those of the country, and for this reason alone, this war hath bin thrust upon us.
This weeke my father, having that wee have had some unusually cold weather, hath decided to send me to Little Haven for an extra wagon of coal. And thus I made an unscheduled trip, and consequently, an unannounced call on my betrothed. When calling upon her at her father’s home, nigh seven of the clock it was, I walked past the open curtains of the parlour, and looking in, as was onely natural, I became disconcerted to see her in the company of a gentleman caller. A seaman he was, an officer, to whom she was sitting entirely too close. Prudently, moving backwards, I stepped sev’rall steps away from the window in the direction I had just come. Standing still for a few moments I could onely conclude that some innocent reason must exist I was as yet unaware of. But wrestle with my thoughts I did, fer ‘twas not onely that they be unchaperoned, but they sat abreast; even tho’ there was plenty of room on the settee, as well as sev’rall other chairs about the room. Notwithstanding, I decided, as I stood motionless, to give to her the benefit of the doubt and went off instead to the home of my father’s business associate, Mister Greaves, where I would bunk fer the night.
After everyone had turned in for the evening I decid’d to pay a the local tavern call. I not be one for drinking, but ‘twas here that I felt that perhaps I might learn who the man was. The moment I entered I saw sev’rall men at the bar and ‘twas there I went in search of information. Not knowing anny of them present I joined ‘em; ordering for meselfe an Ale. Being they be more or less likely gutter trash, I listened, for it be them who always knows the town dirt. After hearing the conversations that abounded throughout and noting that each of ‘em included talk about the village’s women folk, I made my owne comment. "I hear that Rees’s daughter is getting married soon to a wealthy planters son, yet onely moments ago I saw her walking out with a Naval Officer."
"Aye." replied one of the men, "The lass fancies sailors as well, This I’ve seene with me owne eyes.
"But which of ‘em shall it be?" Chuckling a third man as he lifted his glass.
"That it seemes she canne not be deciding," spoke another man.
"Too true," the first man said taking a drinke. "She seemes to fancy, not onely those which be heirs to property, but them who those who brave the sea as well."
"Aye," said the second man, speaking once more, obviously in his cups. "Perhaps it’s her aim to marry rich onely to be able to be entertain whilst she gathers fer herselfe a following of seaman to fill her bed, being this rich mans son she’s to wed is too much of a gentleman to bed the willing wench before he’s lawfully entitled."
Tho’ thoroughly abashed, I did my best not to show it. However, stay longer I could not, for that last remark gave me cause to leave forthwith. Stormed I did, a’ the way back to my lodgings onely to retire for the night, tho’ well I did not sleep.
Rising early, I left Little Haven early the next morn, ne’er again to speake to she who hath betrayed me, and in so, I decide to reenlist into the Royall Navy and forever live my life as a man of the sea, ne’er again to expose my selfe to the treacheries of the heart.
Being fortunate enough to have my brother William to carry on in my stead, this olive-skinned, broad-shouldered1,8,19, young man, who be fortunate enough to stand more than two yards tall, possessing good natural parts and sufficient personall bravery1, returned to the sea, wherby I served in the Royall Navy betwixt 1702 and 17133,13, during the time of the Spanish Succession.
Whilst the Warr raged on, I became a highly proficient seaman, navigator and handler of men, belieeving the latter was atchieved, not thro’ strict deportment, but appeasement. Ne’ertheless, when the war ended, despite being an invaluable member of the crew, I, now 31, find meselfe jobless, just as were thousands of those who earned their living upon the sea.
Life on land was as harsh as ever and work on both land and sea was scarce. As a result a great deal of men felt they had no choice, but piracy, if they were going to survive after the war ended. As it turned out, many of those who Had found work as honest seamen, found them selfes turning to piracy at the first available opportunity as a means to escape the harsh treatment and meagre rations so prevalent among both Naval and Merchant vessells.
James Plantain’s swaggering, (he eventually became the virtual King of Madagascar,) included much about his life as a seaman, among which being that he was honoured to ‘ave knowne, Captain Roberts. Boasting that when he was but a mere sailor in 1718, he signed aboard the Sloope, Terrible.
Shortly thereafter, whilst en route to West Africa, the Terrible was seized by the pyrate, Edward England, Captain of the Pearl. Seemingly most of the crew remained, remarkably keeping their places. Sailing on, sev’rall more prizes were taken. The next ship kept was renamed Victory and John Taylor, a member of Captain England’s crew, was voted as her new Captain3,d.
Despite the new prize, the recent engagements were near profitless, creating unease and much animosity began to ensue betwixt the senior officers, Captains included. Irrespective of their opinions they abided these laxities in accordance with the laws that faithfully governed their democratic society. Edward England was favoured as Captain of the Pearl whose languorous crewmen swayed by his demeanour, enjoyed his gentle, easie going nature, and consequently, impertinent, forthright opinions remained at bay untill one man, Yours Truly, motivated by Edward England’s determination, not onely to saile to the Indian Ocean, but to be made Commodore, and with so many being, for the most part, content with an easie life, chances were his wishes would come to fruition.
Being ‘twas both, a voyage and concept wherto, I disagreed with, wholeheartedlye, I held my tongue no more; utterly refusing to abide what I considered ineffectual and power craving leadership, as thus spoke openly and with conviction when the opportunity arose during conflicting suggestions made by the senior officers regarding which heading to take. Subsequently, not being able to resolve their differences, the pyrates broke ranks. Of the combined crews the majority sailed with Edward England to the Indian Ocean aboard, the Pearl and the Victory, and Captain England was indeed elevated to the rank of Commodore. Others sailed elsewhere aboard, the Terrible. The remaining men, those who belieeved and trusted in my judgment, returned to our lives as honest seaman.
Looking ever forward, I journey’d to England in search of work, securing the position of third mate3 aboard, the Princess of London, a slave ship within the Merchant Navy under the command of Captain Abraham Plumb. Not onely was this a tremendous reduction in rank and position in regards to my most recent ship board situation, but I regard the type of work a deplorable trade to be sure, however, notwithstanding these feelings, it was employment that would sustain me, and thus I signed on. Almost immediately, November 1718 it was, the Princess sett saile for the west coast of Africa to collect a cargo of slaves for the West Indies, as did with two other ships. Them being that of the Royall Hynde, a Pink, under command of Captain Hall and the Morris, a Sloope, Commanded by Captain Fenn4, wherupon the Captain’s, as were their orders, would trade for Negroes, gold and teeth1,2.
John ‘Bartholomew’ Roberts
‘Memoirs of a Pyrate Captain’
A smale isle situated along the Guinea Coast, West Africa
The Marquis del Campo, was an impressive square rigged Sloop, carrying a crew of ninety, Proud seaman they be, proud of their Captain, their ship and of the thirty cannon she carried. All of which gave them a sense of security. Among her many attributes was a magnificent great cabin, located just below the high poop deck. It alone was enough to breathe aspirations into anny Captain worthy of his salt and that be not all, for her three masts be tall and stout; her construction throughout, solidly built. Lastly and most importantly she was yare.
As was customary aboard pyrate vessells, all unneed'd bulkheads within the mighty Sloop be promptly removed as she was outfitted for their purposes, and moreover, even tho’ she be armed to the teeth, Captain Davies ordered still more cannon be mounted untill she boast'd not onely thirty-two, 8 pound cannon upon carriages, but twenty-seven swivels upon her railing, making her as formidable as anny Naval Frigate. Newly fit and ready to serve, ‘twas time it was that a new name be given to their captured prize and what was decided upon was, the Rover.
Proceeding to Annobón, which lyes along the Guinea coast, with the Royall James in consort, ‘twas betwixt the hours of twelve and one at noon on a fine February in 1719, when the pyrates espy’d the three aforemention’d ships lying peaceably at anchor, safe, or so they belieeved, being they were within sight of the Royall Africa Company’s Fort at Cape Corso Castle.
Alongside the Morris, where alone was found one hundred forty Negroes, dry goods and a considerable amount of Gold-Dust, were sev'rall canoes, whereby some of the crewmen of said ship managed to row ashore and seek helpe; altho’ ‘twas to no avail, for when they fired at the pyrates they be out of range, but be that as it may, Captain Davies’, in a defence posture, raised his black flag and return’d their fire.
Immediately, without hesitation, those having temporary power of command at that point in time, whilst a couple of the Captains of the merchant ships be ashore conducting business, knew they could expect a heated engagement and undoubtedly loss of life among their crews. Therefore, belieeving it best, they promptly surrendered and ask for quarter.
Captain Davies’ helmsmen were well suited to their duties as they kept both, the Royall James and, the Rover out of range of the harbour gunn emplacements, whereas, sailing alongside the Princess of London. The Sloopes second mate, as nervous a man as e’er seene, whose name be Stephenson, informed the pyrate vessell that both his Captain and the First Mate were on shore conducting business and he as Second Mate was acting Captain. Ergo, wishing not to engage, hoping to safeguarded them onboard he asked for quarter forthwith, thereby treating the pyrates to an easie victory.
The orders given to John Stephenson, were simply, "Come on board with all hands." Experience and faith told Stephenson that discretion was the better part of valour and boarded the Rover as he was ordered, followed by seven shipmates: John Eastwell, ship's carpenter, William Gittus, a gunner, James Bradshaw, John Jessup, John Owen, Thomas Rogers and lastly John RobertHCA1. The last man was tall, older than most, broad-shouldered, with dark curly hair, and a swarthy, stern face, browned from yeeres at sea3.
The Memoirs of a Pyrate Captain
It hast bin quite sometime since wee left England and having arriv’d at Annamaboa, our prescribed destination, the Captains and their First Mates be ashore conducting business.
Having grown content with my life at sea, I canne say that our sailing from London, England was a quiet one. However, now, tho’ unknowne to those of us upon the Merchants, ‘tis besieged wee are to be and by none other than Hywel Davies, the Famous Welsh pyrate, who, no more than a month eariler, had reportedly captured the Dutch Interloper, Marquis del Campo, off Cape Three Points Bay.
‘Twas later, during one of my talks with various members of Captain Davies’ crew, that I learnt the engagement was fervent; lasting from two bells that afternoon, a’ thro’ the night, without pause, continuing untill the third pronouncement of two bells the following morn. Each crewman giving his a’ untill the Dutch Captain, being regrettably unable to continue the fight, struck his colours and asked for quarters. And, by the look of ‘er, ‘tis a faire prize she is to be sure.
The Marquis del Campo, an impressive square rigged Sloope, carry’d a crew of ninety. Proud seaman they be. Proud of their Captain, their ship, and of her thirty cannon; a’ of which gave them a sense of security, and rightly so.
Among her many attributes be a magnificent great cabin; such so that it alone be enough to breathe aspirations into anny Captain worthy of his salt. And that be not a’, for her three masts be tall and stout, her construction throughout, solidly built. Lastly, and in mine eyes most important, they tell me she is yare.
As customary aboard pyrate vessells, a’ unneed’d bulkheads within the mighty Sloope be promptly removed as she was outfitted for their purpose, and moreover, even tho’ she be armed to the teeth, Captain Davies ordered still more cannon be mounted untill she boast’d not onely thirty-two, 8 pound cannon upon carriages, but twenty-seven swivel gunns upon her railings, making her as formidable as anny Naval Frigate.
Newly fit and ready to serve, ‘twas time it was that a new name be given to their captured prize and what was decided upon was, the Rover.
Alongside the Morris, where alone was found one hundred-forty Negroes, dry goods, and a considerable amount of Gold-Dust, were sev’rall canoes, wherby some of the crewmen from the aforementioned ship, managed to row ashore and seek helpe. Wee who witnessed their courageous act could feel onely despair, for it was to No avail, for when the fort fired at the pyrate, she be out of range. Be that as it may, Captain Davies, in a defence posture, raised his black flag and return’d their fire.
Immediately, and without hesitation, those having the temporary power of command of our two companion ships Depiction of Captain Hwyel Davies whilst their Captains be ashore conducting business, knowing they could expect a heated engagement, and undoubtedly loss of life among their mates, promptly surrendered and asked for quarter.
Captain Davies’ helmsmen, well suited to their duties, keep both the Royall James, and the Rover, out of range of the harbour’s gunn emplacements, wheras, after capturing both, the Morris and the Royall Hynde, they proceeded to saile alongside my ship. The date: February 6, 1719.
This is a fine Sloope, the Princess of London, her Second Mate however, brims with less desirable qualities. This man, who be as nervous as anny I have seene, be that of John Stephenson, who, as the pyrate drew alongside, informed them that with both his Captain and the First Mate ashore, he, as Second Mate, is acting Captain. Ergo, having hardly a skeleton crew on board, he wished not to engage. Thus, as did the other, he asked for quarter forthwith in hopes to safeguard those of us on board, thereby treating the pyrates to an easie victory.
The orders given to John Stephenson were simply, "Come on board with a’ hands." Experience and faith told Stephenson that discretion was the better part of valour and thus, did as he was ordered, boarding the Rover followed by us, his seven shipmates: John Eastwell, ship’s carpenter; William Gittus, a gunner; James Bradshaw, John Jessup, John Owen, Thomas Rogers and lastly, yours truly, John RobertHCA1.
If’n I were to deskribe meselfe whereat them whom be a reading these writings in yeeres to come canne better identify with me, I ought say it be a sable eyed man that I am, standing more than two yards tall and older than most. I am said to be broad-shouldered and confess to bearing a decidedly stern expression which be worn beneath a heavy mane of sabled coloured, wavy hair upon a swarthy complexion3d.
That same daye, after placing upon them a prize crew, Captain Davies sail’d with two of his prizes. Still having on board the crew taken from the former, Marquis del Campo, and in lieu of Captain Fenn’s, less than co-operative attitude, Captain Davies gave his ship, the Morris, to the Dutch Captain, rewarding him as it were for the gallant effort made by him and his gallant crew, wherby they, the whole lot of ‘em, went on their way, whilst us, meaning the crews of the Morris, the Royall Hynde and the Princess, having no choice, accompanied Captain Davies upon the Rover and the Royall James as he made his way down the coast towards the Isle of Princes, a Portugueze colony within the Gulf of Guiney.
Come early morn the man on watch espy’d a saile and, wasting no time, Captain Davies gave chace. The Captain of the potential prize, packing a’ the canvas his yards could hold, made an attempt to run his ship aground in an effort to escape to the safety of land. However, Captain Davies, being both shrewd and intelligent, surmising the Hollander’s intention, ordered a’ sailes to be trimmed forthwith, and foregoing the pretence of discussion or terms, sail’d alongside and fired a broadside. Affrightened, the Hollander immediately struck his colours and call’d for quarter, which was granted, as it is among the majority of pyrate vessells, tho’ such granting is specifically outlined within the articles belonging to Captain Davies, which states that "Under pain of death, Quarters, whenever call’d, Must be granted."
The Hollander, presently delayed in her return to her homeland, proved to be a rich prize, having amongst her passengers, the Governor of Acra, with a’ his belongings; including, not onely £15,000, but a wealth of valuable merchandizes, a’ of which was jovially plundered.
Captain Davies and his duly call’d, ‘House of Lords,’ being delighted with their New success, voted in privy council, wherupon restoring to Captain Hall his ship, the Royall Hynde, sending with him Captain Fenn. And to my Captain, Plumb being his name, Abraham Plumb, command of the Princess of London, less thirty-five men collectively, including the Morris Sloope, who, the exception of but one, joined readily. The remaining man was yours truly, by which, making the Onely exception of his Captaincy in such an act, forced, at point of pistol, my recruitment, once again placing me in the company of pyrates. Moreover, the pyrates, feeling charitable, voted to allow the aforesaid crew to depart without further molestation. Once plundered the Hollander, together with her crew and passengers, departed.
At first, aside from the obvious reasons, I, being a well-bred man, possessing a good education, am none too pleas’d with my situation.
Over the course of sev’rall dayes of me capture, I, however brooding, find meselfe talking with Hywel Davies, Captain of these here pyrates, at great length, during which time he and I become great friends. Ne’er did Captain Davies, attempt to force nor sway me, but has rather opened my eyes to the Mundane way of life that hath besieged me and the Despotic relationship existing betwixt the Common man and his Oppressors, otherwise knowne as the Degenerate Aristocracy, who, in possessing wealth and social position, use their high and mighty status to increase their owne selfes whilst trampling upon those, who, without recourse, labour reluctantly, to maintain them in their exalted rank.
During the course of these profound conversations I learn much about their democratic society. ‘Tis altogether different than the dictatorship aboard found a Naval vessell, or that of a Merchant and the arrogant Masters who commanded them.
During this time, however much I be softening to that which I’d bin for the whole of me life repulsed by, belieeving not onely piracy, but all forms of thievery to be a moral a sin, I am not an active member of this crew, but even so, when I see that which I feel needes correction or when I canne be giving assistance to those who request my helpe, I have and shall continue for it be my way.
Tho’ strange it may seeme, I find meselfe pleas’d, for in the few short weekes that have past, Captain Davies and his crew, Lords and Commoners, as they consider them selfes, have complemented me on my adeptness as both a seaman and mariner. Some, especially them of high regard, have commended my natural leadership abilities. In regards to these thoughts,‘tis me pleasure to write herein that I was offered, this daye, the placement of Quarter-Master on board the Royall James. However, not yet keen to the idea of officially joining their ranks, whilst at the same time wishing not to insult those who think so well of me, I graciously refus’d.
Their placement, in what is their owne private commonwealth aboard ship, is one of commanding interest, especially being this here vessell wee be aboard be a pyrate ship. Their officers, being knowne as ‘their,’ ‘House of Lords,’ is conducted with the utmost respect, referring to one another as, ‘My Fellow Noble,’ and to each other as, ‘My Noble Lord,’ whilst addressment by the commoners, those who make up the balance of the crew, is by Milord or rankN18.
These thoughts plagued me and after much deliberation and soul searching I came to the conclusion, despite the loathing I have for their incessant drinking, reprehensible language and deplorable lack of propriety, that thenceforth I shall be a willing member of the company. And to those who enquire as to my reasons; I state thus: "It is to get rid of the disagreeable superiority of some masters peregrinations had accustomed me… and the Love of Novelty and Change2," and to be knowne here and thereafter as Bartholomew Roberts.
For them who question my choice, as ‘tis belieeved by some that my chosen Christian name be taken from the Bartholomew Faire in Bristol; even tho’ the most obvious choice, which seemes to elude them, would be to state that Bartholomew is my second name. Wheras, for reasons of my owne, neither of these shall I confirm nor deny. Instead I shall make reference onely that I desire the truth of me feelings not be knowne. Ergo, I shall say simply that there be just Too many Johns about and ‘tis my ambition to be sett apart from withal.
These here pyrates be not at a’ as I had pictured them to be. Instead I find ‘em, for the most part, to be men of honour, whose word, once given, is a bond that canne be trusted. They, the whole lot, despite their ceaseless efforts to remain in their cups, function as a brotherhood for the betterment of a’ and their ship is their country. Another noteworthy aspect which is again in contrary to that of a Naval vessell or Merchant, which serves onely for the personall gain, both in wealth and social position, for not onely ‘t’s commander, but, and even more so, to them he serves in loyalty, who be generally them land lubbers whose high borne reap the benefits from those who toil, whilst atchieving no benefits of their labours.
Whilst en route to the Isle of Princes, the Royall James, sprang a leak. When Captain Davies, who hath already accustomed himselfe to making habit in seeking my advice, knowing my familiarity with these waters, asks me where wee ought find a suitable place to make repairs. I reply to him I suggest to him Cameroon Bay, letting it be knowne also, that whilst repairs be made, both timber and fresh water canne be taken on board. Unfortunately upon examination, it is discovered her hull had bin ravished by the Savage Teredo Worm and is deem’d damaged beyond repair. Resolvedly, Captain Davies orders her armament be taken, as well as a’ items of value. Afterwards she is anchored and wee depart.
Continuing forth to our destination wee soon come in sight of land. Both the ship’s Quarter-Master, Lord Walter Kennedy, and Lord Richard Jones, our Boatswain, be for direct action. But once again, I, Bartholomew Roberts, the intrepid newcomer, who knows Princes Island well, voices the particulars of this place. "Wee ought not rush in, Captain. This here port; she is well protected. As ye sees," as I point to the fortification of both yon cliffs and Fort James, "there be a battery of no less than twelve cannon that guards the mouth of the harbour and the town. Even should wee saile in unmolested, ‘twould be nigh on impossible to leave once them warning bells be sounded."
Heeding his fellow Welshman’s knowledgeable advice, Captain Davies devises an alternate plan and orders the hoisting of English colours, specifically them belonging to that of a Man-of-Warr. ‘Tis by this time, them ashore, seeing our Rover, a large, heavily armed, three-masted Sloope approaching, send forth a smale, single-masted vessell to learn our intentions. After hailing, our Captain, having seene that his crew be properly attired, dons himselfe in finery and tells ‘em wee be an English Man-of-Warr in search of pyrates, and having receiv’d intelligence of such being upon this coast, wee hath sail’d forth to investigate.
As for meselfe, I am amazed by the gullibility of these here islanders, who, without question, belieeve the Captain’s twattle, and as such, wee be well received. Such being the case, wee find our selfes duly piloted into the harbour.
As is customary Captain Davies salutes the fort with cannon fire. After wee be promptly answered our ship anchors just under the harbour gunns. Immediately thereafter, Captain Davies orders his boat hoisted out together with eight hands and a cox’n to row him ashore.
Over the next few dayes, whilst the Rover is careened and stowed with fresh water, bottled beer (a necessary commodity when no drinking water canne be found) provisions and other much need’d necessities, a’ appears to be going as plann’d.
Various members of the crew, other than them gathering supplies, venture ashore sev’rall times whilst learning, not onely the lay of the land, but the routine of the inhabitants, and where valuables be kept.
Our Sloope hath bin strategically anchored to seemingly block the harbour entrance inadvertently, brought into our lap a French ship, who, wishing to enter port, requests wee make way, but instead, to their dismay, be informed that most of our crew be ashore. Having no choice, the Frenchie, remaining within hailing distance, drops her anchor. Tho’ smale, she would be of use, replacing the Royall James. Wanting not to alarm the inhabitants, the Governor herein is told a lye, being these Frenchies be of such an ilk as to partake in unlawful dealings with pyrates and, as is his sworn duty, their vessell hath bin seiz’d in the name of the King.
Nigh on a fortnight passed, makin’ it a trifle less than six weekes since being forced, at point of pistol, onto this pyrate ship and since, much hath happened. I of course, ‘tho a member of the crew, have not as yet participated in anny plundering, or the taking of prizes, excepting the newly acquired French ship. Since my willingness to join the crew, Captain Davies hath bin inclined to more openly enjoy the company of a fellow Pembrokeshire man; being borne and reared less than twenty miles apart. Naturally, assuming ‘twould be of interest to me, Captain Davies discussed with me his plans which included his intentions of invading the women’s quarters. Tho’ I doth not approve, beyond the pilfering of this port, and said as much, he ventured ashore with most of his officers as plann’d. Below be the telling of ‘t.
‘Twas that same eve that Captain Davies again ventured ashore, taking this occassion, fourteen of his mates. But alas, for reasons unbeknownst to them, their plans went awry, necessitating the lot of ‘em to make a hasty retreat back to the ship. Upon their return, ‘twas voiced by a’ that they be quite sure they not ‘ave bin recogniz’d.
Considering the events of last eve, ‘tis best to sally, but not before wee, being, ‘Gentlemen of Fortune,’ sack and loot the island. With the ship careened, provisioned and ready to make saile, ‘tis the opportune time to sett the Captain’s strategy in motion.
To the Governor, in appreciation for the fine hospitalities afforded him and his officers, Captain Davies will present a dozen Negroes, with his compliments, and afterwards invite the Governor, his entourage, and as is customary, a few friars, on board for some ship board entertainment, wherby the lot of ‘em, save one (the messenger), shall be slapped in irons and held for £40,000 ransom2.
As a shew of respect, Captain Davies shall present his gift personally, taking with him the Rover’s Burley Quarter-Master, Walter Kennedy, and nine others, to serve as escort for the Governor and his party. Leaving in command of the Rover, be my selfe, whilst Lord Richard Jones, our Boatswain, be charged to the new French prize.
Hardly have they bin gone when wee see Lord Kennedy returning not onely alone, but in haste. Terribly shaken he is, as he tells us the plan went not as expect’d. "The shore party was ambushed," says he, "but fortunately I managed to escape."
His youth, he claims, being but three and twenty, aided him as he fled into the awaiting long boat, wherby his brawn muscled the oars, makin’ good his return to the ship.
Knowing what wee know, it may be unwise to remain here whilst awaiting the return of our mates who be fishing. In a few minutes, as our anchor be hoisted, wee see ‘em returning.
‘Tis blessed wee be, thinks I, seeing them come along side, bringing with ‘em, another man from the shore party. Once on deck he tells of the ambush, stating withal be slaughtered, but "Captain Davies fought brilliantly, firing both his pistols as he fell mortally wounded, demonstrating to the last, the strength of his resolve."
The hullabaloo on board is deafening as the crew, halfe wanting to flee and withal bent on revenge; avenging our Captain and mates, is besieged by anarchy.
Despite the devastation brought to my soul regarding this news, being that Hywel Davies was not onely our Captain, but to me personally, an inspirational friend whom I held as a brother. As it is, tho’ it greatly pains me, I knows ‘tis a necessity that wee, who be anchored beneath the harbour’s twelve gunns, depart in due haste, as I says to ‘em, "Wee be in grave danger. First wee must escape this harbour, for it is death she holds for us a’. Once out of harms way, then canne our plans be made."
Rallying the men, my advice is heeded, but alas more ills serge upon us, for the winds doth not favour us. To ensure our survival, I excersize the command entrusted to me by my murdered Captain, and altho’ not spoken with conceit, ‘tis by virtue of my adroitness, that the necessary speed is made in getting our great ship under saile, and, despite the heavy gale, the crew works feverously under my direction, tacking us out of the harbour.
‘Tis not too long before our Rover, and a fine sailor she is, be positioned to lay off the coast of Cabo de Lopo Gonsalves, and now, after saving both ship and crew, I step down.
Free from danger, plans canne commence. First however, as the perplexity of ensuing chaos arises, one member of the company points out a necessity, saying: "The good of the whole, and the maintenance of order, demands a head, but the proper authority be deposited in the community at large; so that if one should be elected who did not act and govern for the general good, he could be deposed, and another be substituted in his place<sup>1,2."
And thus, tho’ I be not amongst them, this second weeke in July, 1719, there be sev’rall who stand for Captain, including Walter Kennedy. Withal being: Lords Henry Davis, Thomas Anstis, Valentine Ashplant, Christopher Moody, Dennis Topping, James Phillips, Thomas Sutton and lastly David Sympson.
Having had his fill of their debate, our master gunner, Lord Henry Dennis, rises and makes a memorable speech: "It is not of anny great Significance who is dignify’d with Title of Commander; for really and in Truth, a’ good Governments have, like ours, the supreame Power lodged with the Community, who might doubtless revoke and depute authority as suited Interest or Humour. Wee are the original holders of this claim and should a Captain be so sawcy as to exceed Prescription at anny time, why down with him! It will be a caution after he is dead to his Successors, of what fatal Consequence anny sort of assuming may be. However, it is my Advice, that, whilst wee are sober, wee pitch upon a Man of Courage, and skill’d in Navigation, one, who by his Council and Bravery seemes best able to defend this Commonwealth, and ward us from the Dangers and Tempests of an unstable Element, the sea, and the fatal Consequences of Anarchy; and such a one I take Roberts to be. A Fellow! I think, in a’ Respects, worthy of your Esteem and Favour2!"
His speech, so eloquently presented, is afforded a great deal of jubilation by a’, except that of Lord Sympson, who, after growing sullen, leaves us saying; "I care not who ye choose as Captain, so ‘tisn’t a papist, for against them I hath conceived an irreconcilable hatred1,2."
His reason, I hath bin told, be that his owne father had bin a sufferer in Monmouth’s rebellion.
Despite being but a mere six weekes amongst them, I find meselfe elected accordingly to a position I have dreamt of since going to sea as a midshipman.
Amid the rejoicing feelings so prevalent within my heart, I stand and accept the honour afforded me, saying, "Since I hath dipp’d my Hands in muddy water and must be a Pyrate, it is better being a Commander than a common Man2."
A couple crewmen, not belieeving that which they just heard, knowing me as they do, made comments. After a moments pause, I state my disposition stating:"No! A merry Life and a short one, shall be my Motto2."
Our first order of business is to replace those Lords killed in the ambush. The voting on matters of such importance gathered together the makers of punch. In addition, them who smoaked brought out their pipes, wherby much talk commenced.
After a spell the vote is taken and our new government is settled. Captain Davies’ good nature and affability gained him much respect, creating a unanimous concord. After a brief discussion a concordat to avenge not onely his murder, but those of our Mates is decided. Nigh on a weeke hath past since that fateful daye and wee now be en route to the Isle of Princes, determined to avenge our loss.
Lord Kennedy, tho’ wicked and a profligate1,2, is knowne also for his boldness and daring. Having bin ashore sev’rall times, his placement as Quarter-Master and familiarity with the terrain, he suggests the best course of action is to venture overland, attacking the forts rear flank. My better judgment goes against his proposed expedition and instead I devise a strategy for a frontal assault. After deskribing me plans of having Lord Kennedy lead a ground assault; going ashore with thirty men whilst I command the seaside attack with cannon from aboard ship. The crew, tho’ ready for action, have reservations. I tells ‘em that such a shew of daring will implant such awe within their hearts that the soldiers and townspeople will flee.
Tho’ unsure at first, I was, after careful explanation, able to impress upon my company the logic of my proposal and such being the case, me plans for our line of attack be readily accepted.
Once making land fall, displaying tremendous fortitude and courage, off they march’d; up the steep embankment, directly towards the harbour gunn emplacements, fearlessly trudging beneath the bombardment of our gunns.
Looking thro’ the spyglass, the Portugueze, once discovering our shore party, fired into their ranks and, just as I had predicted, the Portugueze, seeing their gunns had no effect, quitted their posts and fled towards the sheltered town, wherupon Lord Kennedy and his men march’d onward without opposition. Even at such a distance, knowing the men’s disposition, I could see, as well as feel, both their fury and sense of satisfaction as they heave the heavy cannon over the ridge, sending them tumbling down the cliff and into the sea below. After the completion of their task they sett the fort ablaze whilst displaying some merriment before quietly and quickly making their way back to the ship without casualty1,2.
However successful was the delivery of our Revenge, ‘twas not look’d upon as sufficient satisfaction for the loss of Captain Davies nor that of our mates. The majority of the company be for burning the town, which agreeably I will yield to, should anny means be proposed that shan’t bring forth our owne destruction. Pointing out that the town has a securer situation than the fort, having a thick wood coming almost upon it, affording cover to the occupants, who, under such an advantage, I tell them, is a thing to be affrighted and once again I suggest to me crew a veary different plan of action, stating: "Would fire stand better than cannon? Besides, the burning of bare houses would yield a thin reward for our trouble and loss."
Altho’ my prudent advice prevails, I think against using, the Rover, as the water being shoal, she is not fitting for our purpose. "However," I explain; "Within our possession still, wee have the French ship. She is shallow of draft and I suggest that wheron, will she not better suit our purpose?"
The Lords and Commoners concurring, light’n the vessell that shall do our bidding; fitting her with cannon untill she numbers twelve and towing even more that be lashed upon rafts, positioning them thus that they float nigh as possible to the beach.
Once ready, those of us who shall be aboard ‘er, meselfe commanding the assult, run the French ship along the shore, therewith wee thoroughly and well shell the town, and in doing so, batter down many of yon outlying houses; after which, return to our Sloope, and having no further use for it, abandon the French ship.
Our revenge, now satisfied, wee saile out of the harbour by the light of two Portugueze ships, which I am pleas’d to say wee sett ablaze1,2,3,15.
Nigh on August, 1719, it is, and wee be sailing Southward. After having sail’d for a short time onely wee mett a Dutch Guineaman2.". After now having plundered ‘er I wished to sett an example; One that will speake Loudly to a’.
To them who freely co-operate with me, whilst maintaining the proper respect which I feel is my due, I shall permit to depart unharmed, less of course anny swag, or other need’d items found on board. A’ seaman thereof wishing to join with me shall be welcome, providing he agrees to the signing of me Bible, whilst pledging to me his loyality. However, being I owe it to a’ who saile with me, I shall have onely the best crewmen and sea artists available; men worthy to our endevours. Ergo, should anny man prove not so, he shall choose for himselfe a place along our route and together with a paper, should he so desire one, I shall state, written in my owne hand, that he was forced, therby allowing him to escape the halter and return home, should he so choose to do. Continuing with regards above, A’ others shall pay the price of their owne Arrogance, and in a manner which pleases me at the moment. And now, having no neede of this here vessell, ‘twas voted the Captain and his crew be allowed to be on their way.
Two dayes later wee tooke an English ship call’d the Experiment whilst off Cabo de Lopo Gonsalves. ‘Twas one of the oddest of happenings, for it seemes that none, barring two, of the seaman aboard the Briganteen liked what it was that earned ‘em their bread. Excepting her commander, Captain Cornet, and sailing master, one Thomas Grant, a’ the rest, the lot of ‘em, eagerly joined me crew. ‘Twere these two men alone who did not see fit to becoming that of a pyrate, and this not be all. One man, without knowne cause to my selfe, nor that of me crew, enraged our quick-tempered Quarter-Master, who, being knowne to him, hauled Mister Grant into the Great Cabin, cursing at him.
"Damn you!" Said he. "I knows you and will sacrifice you3." Whereby his deliverance, hitting him in the mouth, be a most severe blow, sending him to the deck, bleeding profusely from the wound3."
As Lord Kennedy begins to beat him mercilessly, ‘twas evident Mister Grant be fearful for his life. ‘Tis lucky he was indeed that sev’rall of me crew see fit to intervene, for I my selfe am not of a mind to offer anny assistance to that self-aggrandizing sea rat.
Whilst restraining Lord Kennedy they be shouting for the Sailing Master to get out, of which, he immediately pays heed, whilst I instead take to writing a note to Captain Cornet inviting him for Tay and Conversation whilst me crew conducted their business. The note, which was delivered Forthwith, was forever a rule, extended to a’ my guests. Captains and Governours alikeN1."
Being a pompous man, he, to his owne regret, declined my invitation, for which, I, in response to his arrogance, and to further shew those who shall later be within my grasp, maketh knowne forthwith that this be not a wise decision, wherby; "This daye, the Experiment, Captain Cornet, master, which I was obliged to send to the bottom since the good Captain refused me offer of Tay, so wee put him ashore in a smale boat and less dignity16."
Carrying on with business, ‘tis Lord Kennedy, in accordance with his duties, who sees to it the Experiment is thoroughly stripped of her valuables and before setting the torches to ‘erHCA2."
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