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:
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.
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:
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.