Little Bits of History

June 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 20, 2017

1631: The Sack of Baltimore is carried out. Baltimore lies in County Cork in Ireland and is the southernmost parish in the country. The English were in control of Ireland at the time and Sir Thomas Crooke, 1st Baronet was given permission from King James I to establish a center there in 1605. The lands were leased from Sir Fineen O’Driscoll, head of the O’Driscoll clan. Baltimre had an established, lucrative sardine fishery and was a pirate base. It was said all the women of Baltimore were either the wives or mistresses of pirates and when the English took over, not much changed.

A raid was spearheaded by the Dutch captain, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, also called Murad Reis the Younger. He was joined by other Dutchmen, Moroccans, Algerians, and Ottoman Turks working the slave trade. The attack on this day remains the largest by Barbary pirates in either Ireland or Great Britain. Murad’s crew captured a fishing boat and coerced Hackett, the fisherman, to lead them stealthily into the village upon which time he would be granted his freedom. Hackett led the armed pirates in and they then captured most of the villagers. There were at least 108 English settlers taken with 237 given from another source. Most of the local people were taken away as well. The captured people were taken away to be sold into slavery in North Africa.

There are some theories about the day’s event. It has been suggested that Sir Walter Coppinger, a Catholic lawyer and member of a leading Cork family was vying for control of the lucrative assets of the village. Coppinger had become the dominant British power in the region after the death of Cooke. However, the O’Driscoll family was still in nominal control of the money being paid for the use of their fisheries. Coppinger wished to gain complete control of the village, the fishery, and the farming done by English settlers. Another possible reason for the attack was the exiling of the O’Driscoll family with many of them having gone to Spain after the Battle of Kinsale (1601-1602). With little hope of legally retaining their control over Baltimore from abroad, they may have orchestrated the raid to thwart Coppinger. Or perhaps, Murad thought it up all by himself.

It should be noted that there were rumors of a Barbary pirate attack on the Cork coast but it was thought Kinsale was a more likely target than Baltimore. In the wake of the attack, Hackett was seized by the remaining villagers who hung him. They then scattered and Baltimore was deserted for generations. Most of the captured were relegated to becoming galley slaves and rowed pirate ships for others until they died. More were placed as domestic slaves or laborers. Three of the captured were returned to Ireland via ransoms paid; one almost at once and two more were ransomed in 1646.

Life’s pretty good, and why wouldn’t it be? I’m a pirate, after all. – Johnny Depp

I don’t really know much about pirates, or pirate culture. I’d be a contrarian pirate. – Todd Barry

If ye can’t trust a pirate, ye damn well can’t trust a merchant either! – unknown

Even pirates, before they attack another ship, hoist a black flag. – Bela Kiraly


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