A historical interlude..

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.

O’Brien’s also have the preface to the book and the first chapter available to download [both pdf files] Adds The first chapter describes the raid itself.

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.

and the recorded list of those captured in the raid

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.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Fascinating stuff! I once read a novel about such an attack on the south west coast of England that took slaves for the Turkish controlled barbary coast of Algeria. Not a widely known period of history but very, very interesting!

  • joeCanuck

    Pete, I hope you realize the havoc you play with my book allowance with articles like this.

  • andy

    The Prince
    They have some folk festival in Padstow, Cornwall were people “black themselves up”. A bit un-pc now – but it is meant to relate to the barbary pirate raids of that period.

    There was a documentary on it, I think on BBC2, about ten years ago.

  • Bloody Islamofascists! I’m surprised ATW hasn’t had something to say about this by now.


  • susan

    I am wondering what Ould Osburne and Alice Heard did to get themselves set ashore again. As they were settlers it could not have been the entrancing Cork accent alone. :o)

  • Pete Baker

    Ah.. Sorry about that, JoeC ;o)


    I suspect the rather mundane, if slightly chilling, reason for that might be a combination of a lack of cargo room and the estimated value of those set ashore.

    As well as noting the “Two of Dungarvan” and “One of Dartmouth” also sent ashore the Annals go on to point out

    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.

    I should probably include that in the original post.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Maybe they were diseased?

  • snakebrain

    Fascinating account of a French shipwreck off the West African coast, and the desperate overland attempt at survival.


    Might be of interest if your tastes lean towards epic adventures against all the odds..

  • susan

    “I should probably include that in the original post.”

    Yes you should, Pete. You would not want us to rush out and do anything rash.

    I did realise that when they are calling you “Ould Osborne” your best harem/galley slave days are probably behind you.

    Very interesting accounts of what must have been not only a terrifying but a completely bewildering ordeal.

  • Pete Baker

    More than that, susan, at least from the implication of the final paragraph in the IT article.

    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. [added emphasis]

    Almost seems too much of a coincidence..

  • snakebrain

    Are we to infer that O’Driscoll wanted the settlers off his land the day their lease expired and possibly even hired a ship full of heavies to make sure of it?

  • susan

    Nah. It was that Dungarvan fella.

  • snakebrain

    Well, possibly deserving of slightly subtler analysis..

    I might keep the idea in mind for the first time I get a huge water bill – just sell the nearest seaside village off into slavery. Larne might do.

  • Pete Baker


    The auld O’Driscoll was getting the rent/or had done.

    The younger O’Driscolls seem to have been in dispute with him – presumably because of whatever terms he had agreed to allow him to stay in Ireland while they were exiled.. and the land they may have thought of as their inheritance.

    And they were, it’s suggested, in contact with pirates.

    It could have been intended as a message to him.

  • páid

    I doubt that such a self-contained immigrant community would have had a Cork accent; English west country, I’d say.

    Not that it matters that much when you’re being carted off to Tangiers.

  • Harry Flashman


    Bloody Islamofascists! I’m surprised ATW hasn’t had something to say about this by now.

    Posted by GerryOS on Jun 20, 2007 @ 09:56 PM

    Actually if David Vance did mention it in these terms he wouldn’t be far from the truth, the Barbary pirates were actually the “islamist terrorists” of their day. Unlike the famous pirates of the Caribbean who were solely interested in plunder there was a very strong element of jihad behind the motivation of the Barbary pirates.

    It is also interesting how the western powers of the time handled this problem, to the Europeans (chiefly French) the solution was to try diplomatic means, send ambassadors and envoys to the Sultans’ courts and to try buying them off. No prizes for guessing how effective this was.

    However when the pirates messed with the ships of the new United States the Americans took a somewhat more robust attitude. They sent a squadron of warships and marines to North Africa and blew the pirates to bits (the second line of the US Marine Corps hymn, “to the shores of Tripoli”), after this the world was no longer plagued by the depredations of the Barbary corsairs.

    Plus ca change and all that.

    (I recommend Giles Milton’s “White Gold” if you want to learn more about this subject)

  • snakebrain

    So Oedipus complex run amok then?

    Nah, I get it now, having finally read it properly.

    Skullduggery all round.

  • Nice to see Slugger getting literary occasionally.

    I caught the Ekin book last autumn: the “out-of-print” status says more about the production-line that is modern publishing than anything else. It didn’t appear on the British lists until some time after its Irish publication.

    In my mileage, it isn’t a particularly good book. Its credentials would be improved with a decent index, for a start. It has a good story, but is based on very limited original material. Too much of Ekin’s effort is extrapolation or mere speculation. Apart from the O’Driscoll feuding (what else has remained unchanged in West Cork over four centuries?), he has a nice line in implying that skull-duggery at the highest levels may be behind the Baltimore raid.

    As Harry Flashman @ 01:30 AM implies, Giles Milton’s “White Gold” is a better book by far, and based on more solid foundations (it is also clearly the model for Ekin).

    Following the erudite Flashman, I have also used (and liked) Frederick C. Leiner’s “The End of Barbery Terror: America’s 1815 War against the Pirates of North Africa” (ISBN 0-19-518994-9). No! Don’t switch off! There’s significant local input and interest herein, too.

    It was President Madison (and a government and navy stuffed with Ulster-Scots, mainland Scots and their descendants) who took on the Barbery states, while the British and others were happy to pay the “Danegeld” (Yeah: sound familiar). Space is limited here, but I’ll probably use my blog-site to pursue some loose threads: glad to debate further there.

    Oh, and sorry again for coming late to this party.

  • andy

    interesting stuff. I seem to remember the guy who lead the US expedition as being a bit of a legend. Can’t remember his name though.

    So, were the barbary pirates essentially a maritime wing of the Ottomans, or did they just have a coincidence of interests?

  • andy @ 12:40 PM:

    You are reaching for the name of Stephen Decatur. Crazy name, crazy guy.

    The Secretary of the Navy who gave him the task was Jacob Crowninshield.

    Decatur’s rival was William Bainbridge.

  • Unlike the famous pirates of the Caribbean who were solely interested in plunder there was a very strong element of jihad behind the motivation of the Barbary pirates.

    Dubious. The more we learn about these pirates, the more it seems that Western European, Christian, sailors sailed on many Barbary Coast pirate ships and were particularly valued by their Arab comrades-in-blood if they brought skills learned in the Caribbean.

    The Ottoman Empire was at best lukewarm towards jihad – conversion to Islam in the Ottoman Balkans happened largely in Bosnia and Albania, both difficult borderlands in the struggle between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and in both of which formal Christianity had relatively shallow roots. Bosnia had previously been the heartland of the Bogomils, one of medieval Europe’s more interesting heretical sects.

    More firmly Orthodox and Catholic areas remained so with minimal conversion to Islam although some local nobles did and some Muslim Turks emigrated from Anatolia. Millions of these were murdered in the late 19th Century in incidents that were deliberately misreported in the West and are now all but forgotten about; except, of course, by the Turks, which goes along way to explain why they get so touchy when asked to publicly flagellate themselves about the Armenian Genocide.

    The North African coast never under more than tenuous Ottoman control, particularly after Ottoman sea power was broken at the battle of Lepanto. And slave raiding was hardly unique to the Arabs at this stage; and nor were religious questions that came with it – many black slaves who ended up in the Americas came from areas which were overwhelmingly Muslim by the 17th Century, yet Islam does not seem to have survived the plantation system, and I would suppose also the virtually enforced illiteracy that came with it.

    To be fair, Harry, I suppose it’s probably attractive from someone with your political perspective to read positive messages about GWB’s foreign policy into the history of the Middle East. After all, there’s sod all positive to read into its present.

  • Regarding pirate raid on Baltimore c.1631. Sir Samuel Crooke was my gt(9 times) grandfather. See my website for more info.