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Feas of Clestrain \ James I \ James II \ James III \ James IV \ James V \ James VI \ John Gow


Daniel Defoe picks up his account of the "outrageous pirate, Captain Gow" aboard the George Galley on 3rd November 1724, the ship having lain for two months at Santa Cruz. A long list of complaints was taken to the captain, who was in the presence of some merchants whom he was entertaining on board.

The take over of the ship took place that night:

Between Nine and Ten at Night, all being quiet and secure, and the poor Gentlemen that were to be Murther'd , fast asleep, the Villains that were below gave the Watch-Word, 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 Hannocks of the Chief Mate, Super Cargo, and Surgeon, they cut all their Throats; the Surgeon's Throat was cut so effectively that he could struggle very little with them, but leaping out of this Hammock, ran up to get upon the Deck, holding his Hand upon his Throat, but stumbled at the Tiller, falling down, had no Breath, and consequently no Strength, to raise himself, but dyed where he lay.

"An Account of the Conduct and Proceedings of the Late John Gow...." (1725) - Daniel Defoe, p7-8

Clearly there would have been a lot of noise subsequently on the take over of the ship. John Gow was one of the instigators and responsible for the death of the captain of the George.

The mutineers decided to turn pirate and chose John Gow to be their Captain. They changed the name of the ship to the Revenge. The ship had twelve guns mounted when they had left Holland but had six more in the hold. These were now brought out and mounted.

Their first prize was an English sloop, the Delight of Poole, which was commanded by Thomas Wise. It turned out that the sloop was bound from Newfoundland to Cadiz with a load of fish and consequently the cargo was of no value to the pirates.

The next prize on 21st November 1724 was a Scottish vessel, the Sarah, bound from Glasgow to Genoa and commanded by John Somerville of Port Patrick. It was loaded with herring and salmon and also of little value to them.

They cruised eight or ten days after this, off the coast of Portugal, without seeing another vessel and were about to sail northwards when they saw a sail to the south. This ship was as big a their own. They gave chase for three days and nights but were unable to catch this French ship.

By this time, they were much further to the south and resolved to stand away for the Madeiras. Men went ashore at Santa Panta, to buy refreshments, and were courteously received. The Governor "with more Courtesie than Discretion" went on board the Revenge with a party of nine or ten of his principal people, to pay the English captain a visit.

....Gow, handsomely dress'd, received them with some ceremony, and entertaine'd them tollerably well for a while; but the Governor having been kept by Civillity as they could, and the Refreshements from shore not appearing, he was force 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 Musquests and an Officer at the head of 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.

"An Account of the Conduct and Proceedings of the Late John Gow...." (1725) - Daniel Defoe, p17

Provisions were obtained and the Governor and his men were released.

Gow and the crew headed back for the Spanish coast and intercepted a New England ship, the Bachelor, commanded by a Captain Cross, loaded with staves bound for Lisbon. Again they had the misfortune to take a ship with a cargo of no value to them.

Some days later they met a French ship, laden with wine, oil and fruit. They manned this ship with their own men and set off, with the view of dividing the spoils nearer land. A lot of the cargo, especially the wine and some of the oil and almonds were transferred to the Revenge. The French ship was given to Captain Sommerville, the Glasgow captain whose ship they had sunk previously and to Captain Cross, the New England captain.

Captain Sommerville had all his men with him, bar one who had decided to join the pirates. The men of Captain Cross were all detained although whether this was by force or choice is not known.

Life on board the Revenge must have been rough and brutal. Gow's lieutenant, Williams, seems to have been particularly dangerous and was strenuously opposed to Gow's decision not to take on a French ship which had superior forces in every way to that of the Revenge. Defoe says of Williams:

...Willams 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 inhumane to those whose Disaster it was to fall into his Hands, as had frequently appear'd in his Usage of the Prisoners, under his Power, in this very Voyage.

"An Account of the Conduct and Proceedings of the Late John Gow...." (1725) - Daniel Defoe, p21

While John Gow clearly had a temper and must have been a strong man to lead such a band, he also had more logical thought to his actions and could show some civility.

Williams fired a pistol at Gow, which did not go off. Another couple of the pirates fired their pistols at Williams who was shot through the arm and in the belly. Williams ran to the powder room, cocked a pistol to his head and threatened to blow them all up. The men were eventually able to secure him and he was put on a Bristol Man, which they capture a couple of days later. This ship was bound from Newfoundland to Oporto. The ship had a cargo of fish, which they left alone.

This ship was the last prize, which the pirates took off the coast of Portugal or anywhere else. Some of the crew argued for going to Guinea or the West Indies and numerous other places.

There was a need for fresh water and provisions. Gow argued that no one would imagine that they would head northwards and that that way was a safe option.

In January 1725, they arrived at Cairston near Stromness in Orkney.

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