Fascinating Irishman’s Diary today in the Irish Times by Frank McNally[subs req] on the events of this day in 1631, when two hours before dawn a Dutch-born Islamic convert Jan Jansen, also known as Morat Rais, led a force of 230 Barbary pirates and highly trained troops of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the Janissaries, in a raid on the small harbour village of Baltimore, County Cork. The Irish politician and poet Thomas Davis retold the story in his poem The Sack of Baltimore, but the article uses the recent book The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates by Des Ekin as its main source – out of stock with O’Briens but available from Amazon.
In June 1631 pirates from Algiers and armed troops of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, led by the notorious pirate captain Morat Rais, stormed ashore at the little harbour village of Baltimore in West Cork. They captured almost all the villagers and bore them away to a life of slavery in North Africa. The prisoners were destined for a variety of fates — some would live out their days chained to the oars as galley slaves, while others would spend long years in the scented seclusion of the harem or within the walls of the Sultan’s palace. The old city of Algiers, with its narrow streets, intense heat and lively trade, was a melting pot where the villagers would join slaves and freemen of many nationalities. Only two of them ever saw Ireland again.
The O’Driscoll website has an extract from the Annals of Kinsale
“The 20 day of June, betwixt the hours of one and two in the morning, they landed their men, who divided themselves, some to one house, some to another, and so on a sudden surprised all of the houses on that part which is called the Cove to the number of 26, and carried with them young and old, out of their beds, to the number of 100 persons, and two they killed. Then the said Captain, leaving in ambush 60 musqueteers betwixt the said Cove and the town himself with about 120 or 140 Turks and one John Hackett an Irish Papist, presently assaulted the said town, when they in like manner surprised ten English Inhabitants, and had further proceeded (after breaking open 40 houses and rifeling of 37) had not one William Harris (wakened with the noise) discovered them to be Turks, and with divers shots in defence of himself wakened the rest of his neighbours, who beating the drum in the upper part of the town, caused the said Rice, with the rest of his company, presently to retrait to their aforesaid amush, and thence to their ship, where they continued at anchor until 3 or 4 o’clock of the afternoon.
On the day aforesaid, before it was light, news came to one Thomas Bennett by some that escaped of the first surprisal, who presently held a letter to Mr. James Salmon, of Castlehaven, praying him to use his best endeavours to persuade Mr. Pawlett, who then lay in the harbour with his ship, to haste to the rescue of the foresaid captives, who it seems could not prevail. Then Mr. Salmon presently, with all speed, sent to Captain Hooks, Captain of the King’s ship then riding in the harbour of Kinsale, informing him of the premises, and said Samuel Crooke likewise sent a letter to the Sovereign of Kinsale, manifesting the calamities aforesaid, and praying him to hasten the captain of the King’s ship to their rescue. Mr. Salmon’s man, by his direction, went also from Kinsale to Mallow, to inform the Lo. President of the premises who presently sent his commands to the Sovereign of Kinsale and Capt. Hook to set forth with the King’s ship and to hasten her to the service, who came accordingly within a few days. But the Turks not continued in the harbour longer than they could bring in their anchor and hoyse sail, were gotten out of view, and the King’s ship followed after them , but could never get sight of hem.
The second relation of the Turk’s insolency done at Baltimore, which is more true and punctual than the former, this being attested by the Sovereign, the Burgesses and Sir Samuel Crooke, Baronet.
The list of Baltimore people carried away by the Turke the 20 June 1631
Wm. Mould – himself and boy
Ould Osburne – himself and mayd
Alexander Pumery – his wife
John Ryder – himself, wife and two children
Robert Hunt – his wife
Abram Roberts – – himself, wife and three children
Corent Croffine – himself, wife, daughter and three men
John Harris – his wife, mother, three children and maid
Dermod Meregey – two children and maid
Richard Meade – himself, wife, sister and four children
Stephen Broddebrooke – his wife and two children (she great with child)
Ould Haunkin – himself, wife and daughter
Evans and the Cook- Evans and his boy, Cooke, his wife and maid
Bessie Floodd – herself and sonne
Stephen Pierse – himself, wife, mother and three children
William Symons – himself, wife and two children
Christopher Norwey – himself, wife and child
Sampson Rogers – himself and sonne
Beese Peeter – her daughter
Thomas Payne = himself, wife and two children
Richard Watts – himself, wife and two children
William Gunter – his wife, maid and seven sonnes
John Amble – himself
Edward Cherrye – himself
Robert Chimor – his wife and four children
Timothy Corlew – his wife
John Slyman – himself, wife and two children
Morris Power – his wife
The sum of all carried from Baltimore is 107
Timothy Curlew – slayne
John Davys – slayne
Ould Osburne – sent ashore again
Alice Heard – sent ashore again
Two of Dungarvan – sent ashore again
One of Dartmouth – sent ashore again
They have taken 9 Portingales, 3 Pallicians, 17 Frenchmen, 9 Englishmen of Dartmouth and 9 from two boats of Dungarvan, 47. The sum of all captives is 154.
The Irish Times article points to a complicated clash of cultures as well as political and financial intrigue behind the raid.[subs]
An official inquiry into the raid uncovered inevitable corruption among those responsible for the marine defence of Munster. Having failed to save the villagers, however, the various parties had greater success in covering their own rear ends.
A scapegoat was found in the form of Dungarvan fisherman John Hackett, who was hanged for his role in piloting the corsairs into Baltimore. Davis compares him to Judas Iscariot and Diarmuid MacMurrough. But as Des Ekin writes in The Stolen Village – a fascinating and occasionally thrilling account of the pirate raid – nothing about it was quite as it seemed, starting with the village itself.
The captives’ names – Gunter, Arnold, Broddebrooke, Amble, and so on – betray the fact that Baltimore circa 1630 was an English settlement. Its founders were not aggressive colonists, however. They were Protestant dissenters seeking the freedom and pilchard fisheries of Ireland’s far west and paying an honest rent to the old chieftain, Fineen O’Driscoll, who was impoverished after the disaster at Kinsale.
The villagers’ nemesis, Morat Rais, was complex too. A Dutchman who converted to Islam, he became an enthusiast for taking war to the infidels of his native Europe and enriching himself in the process. But his raid on Baltimore may have been personal, after the collapse of a deal in which he offered to convert back to Christianity and serve England.
Even the fate of the captives was muddled. Little is known about their lives in North Africa, although Ekin assembles a credible picture from the recorded experiences of others. The abler men may have endured the horrors of the galley: probably the grimmest prospect for any slave. Harems awaited some of the women. But experiences varied greatly and not all were intolerable, especially for those able to earn their freedom.
As early as 1634, the English consul in Algiers reported that 40 of the Baltimore prisoners were either dead or “turned Turk” (he did not differentiate). And when 10 years later – during the English Civil War – an expedition was finally dispatched to buy the captives back, only two could be secured. Ekin speculates that between what we now call “Stockholm Syndrome” and general assimilation, there was no returning even for many of those who had the option.
The murkiest issue of all in the raid, he suggests, was the ownership of Baltimore. The village had been the subject of a triangle of claims between an unscrupulous Irish lawyer, an opportunist planter and the penurious O’Driscoll, who had either leased or sold the land, or possibly both.
The younger O’Driscolls – exiled in Spain, angry at their patriarch’s betrayal, and possibly in communication with pirates – may have been another factor in the intrigue. But in one seemingly significant transaction, dated 20th of June 1610, the hapless villagers secured title to their lands at Baltimore on a 21-year lease. It was an agreement that would expire exactly 376 years ago today, the morning the corsairs arrived.
The younger O’Driscoll’s exile in Spain would, of course, be a result of the historical alliance between some Irish chiefs and Catholic Spain against a Protestant England under Elizabeth I. That alliance included the seige and Battle of Kinsale, when a Spanish fleet captured and held Kinsale port while Irish Chiefs rallied armies to their support. The O’Driscoll website notes the divided loyalties among the clans here [scroll down].
Subsequent to that defeat the Irish chiefs sought various terms with Elizabeth I, culminating in the Flight of the Earls.
The defeat of the Irish and Spanish forces at Kinsale also heralded an end to the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585 – of which the Nine Years’ War in Ireland played a not insignificant part – and a formal declaration, following the death of Elizabeth I, came in the 1604 Treaty of London.