Read CAPTAIN JOHN GOW ALIAS SMITH AND HIS CREW of Pirates , free online book, by Claud Lovat Fraser, on ReadCentral.com.

John Gow, alias Smith, was born at a place called Caristoun, in the Orkney Islands, and was brought up a sailor from his youth, having served on board several Men-of-War, and last of all on board the Suffolk, along with T. Swan, who was engaged with him in the conspiracy to murder Captain Ferneau, and seize the ship and cargoe, as they went off the Texel, but they were prevented by James Belvin, who was led into the secret and discovered it. Captain Ferneau taking little notice of it, contented himself with turning off Swan, and preferred Gow to be second Mate and Gunner.

They sailed on board the George Galley, August the 1st, 1724, from the Texel to Santa Cruz, having 15000_l._ on board, when Gow designed to have seized the Ship as they went out, but could not get a party strong enough to join with him, till he worked up a misunderstanding between the Captain and part of the crew, concerning the provisions of the ship, particularly Winter, Peterson, and Mc.Cawley, who came upon the Quarter-Deck, in presence of the Owners, just before they sailed, and made a long complaint against the Captain; who assured them that if there was any wrong done them, it was not by his consent; and that he would enquire into it as soon as they had unmoored the ship.

About eight a clock at night, Captain Ferneau, as usual, called them up to prayers in the great Cabin, and then set the watch, and went to sleep, little thinking his end was so near, when Winter, Rawlisson, and Melvin, begun the scene of blood, Gow lying snug in his hammock, as if he knew nothing of the matter, till he saw whether the villany would succeed, or not. Winter cut the Doctor’s throat as he was asleep in his hammock, and then went up to Melvin and Rawlisson, who in the mean time had seized the Captain and cut his throat also, but not touching the windpipe, Gow stept up and shot him with a brace of bullets, and then threw him over-board. Mc.Cawley cut Stephen Algiers the Clerk’s throat, as he lay in the hammock, and Williams shot him dead afterwards. Peterson cut the throat of Bonaventure Jelphs, the Chief Mate; and Michael Moor, at the Command of Williams, shot him.

After this Williams came upon the Quarter-Deck, and saluted Gow with Captain Ferneau’s sword, first striking it upon one of the guns, and saying, Welcome Captain Gow, welcome to your new Command. After which, Gow told the men, That if any of them durst murmur or cabal together, they must expect to meet with the same Fate; and then calling a Council, they agreed to go, Upon the Account, as they called it.

They called the ship the Revenge, and mounted six more of her guns, she being able to carry four and twenty in all. But instead of going to Genoa as intended, they sailed for the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in hopes of getting a ship laden with wine, to keep up their spirits; but all was alike they met with; and instead of wine, they contented themselves with fish, which they took out of a ship called the Delight of Poole, Thomas Wise, Master, bound from New-England to Cadiz, out of which they took the men, and what they wanted, and then sunk the Ship, to prevent their being discovered to the English Men-of-War who lay in the Straights.

On the 18th of December, they took the Snow-Galley, out of which Crew they kept Rob, and discharged the Captain and the rest of the men, after having plundered the Ship of the arms, ammunition, cloth, provisions, sails, anchors, cables, and then let her go.

By this time, they were got a great way to the southward; and being in want of water as well as wind, they agreed to go to Maderas, which Island they made in two days, cruising about it near a week, expecting some vessel to come in or come out; but the Country discovering what they were, they were disappointed in their attempts. Then they stood away for Porto Santa, where they put up British Colours, and sent their Boat ashore with a compliment to the Governor, desiring leave to Water, and buy some refreshments; which he readily agreed to, and went with them to pay the English Captain a Visit, who received him in a very grand Manner. But the refreshments not coming as expected, he at length told him he was his Prisoner, and must remain so till the provisions were come on board, which was not till next day, when Gow discharged him, giving him three Ceróns of Bees-wax, and three Guns at his going away.

Having now got provisions, they agreed to return to the Coasts of Spain and Portugal; where they had not been above two days, before they met with the Batchelor, Benjamin Cross Master, from New-England bound to Cadiz; out of which they took Cross and his Men, and gave the Ship to Captain Wise, as also 24 Ceróns of Bees-wax to him and his mate, and to his four men 8 Ceróns. After this they took a French Ship from Cadiz, loaded with wine, oil, and fruit, which was what they wanted, and manned her with their own men, taking on board the Revenge the French Master, and his 12 Men, and most Part of the cargoe, with five guns and their carriages, ammunition, small arms, and sails, and gave the ship to Somerville, Captain of the Snow Galley; and to Captain Cross the New-English Man, to who they gave half the ship and cargoe and Somerville had all his Men, but Alexander Rob, whom they detained, and who was executed in 1725, for engaging along with them.

Soon after they saw a large ship to the windward bearing down upon them, which at first they thought to have been a Portugueze Man-of-War; but they found afterwards, it was a French Merchant Ship coming home from the West-Indies, which not fearing them, came on to the windward. Gow perceiving she was a Ship of great strength, called all his men together, telling them they had a great many prisoners on board, and that he could not trust many of his own men; besides, six of his best Hands were on Board the other Ship, therefore he advised them not to meddle with her, she being far superior in Force. This so exasperated Williams, that he demanded of Gow to give his orders for fighting; but he, by the advice of the whole crew, declined it; whereupon Williams snapt his pistol at his Face; which not going off, made him still madder. Winter and Peterson standing by him fired each a Pistol at Williams, one shooting him through the arm, and the other in the belly; at which he fell, and they believing he was killed, were going to throw him overboard, when he leapt up, and ran into the Powder-Room, with his pistol cocked in his hand, swearing he would blow them all up; which he had certainly done, had they not prevented him that very moment, he having opened the scuttle to do it.

They immediately put him in irons, and hand-cuffed him, and then put him between decks, in a place prepared for prisoners.

Two days after this, they took the Triumvirate, a Bristol Sloop, Joel Davis Master, bound from Newfoundland to Oporto, with fish; from whence they took all her provisions, arms, sails, and two of her men, and then let her go with the rest, and all her cargoe. Not knowing what to do with Williams, they resolved to put him on board them, and send him away, for fear of further danger, ordering the Master to put him on board the first English man of War he should meet with, to hang him for Piracy; which when Williams found they were resolved to do, he made all the submission he was able to Captain Gow, begging for pardon, knowing if he was carried to Lisbon he should meet with his deserts. But all his entreaties would not do, he was brought up double fettered, when he begged they would throw him into the sea, and drown him, rather than give him up to be hanged in chains, which he knew he deserved from the Portugueze as well as English. This made many of them begin to relent and pity him; but considering his savage disposition, they knew there was no safety to keep him on board, and so resolved to let him go, and give him a hearty curse at parting, wishing him a safe voyage to the gallows, not dreaming that they themselves should accompany him.

The Bristol Captain obeyed their orders, and as soon as he came to Lisbon put him on board the Argyle man of War, Captain Bowler Commander, who brought him home not above three days before Gow and his Crew came to keep him company.

In the middle of last January, they arrived at Caristoun in the Isles of Orkney, when Gow gave them instructions, what account they should give of themselves to the people of the country, to avoid suspicion. But now began their misfortunes, for several of their men began to think of making their escape, the first was one Read, who took an opportunity to get away when the boat went ashore, who went to a farm-house which lay under a hill where he hired a horse and rode to Kirkwall, a market town about twelve miles off, where he informed them what they were; whereupon they raised the Country to defend themselves. The Pirates soon hearing what was done, ten more of them went away with the longboat, making the best of their way for Scotland, who were some time after taken in the Frith of Edinburgh, and made Prisoners.

This so provoked Gow, that he resolved to plunder the Country, be the consequence what it would, and in order thereto, he sent Belvin his Boatswain, with Rob and Four more, to Mr. Honnyman’s house, the Sheriff, who not being at home, his Servants let them in, not suspecting their design. They immediately fell to work, but Mr. Honnyman’s Daughter had the presence of mind to hide the money in a tub of feathers, till she found an opportunity to carry it away, by the contrivance of Alexander Rob, who was placed centinel at the door. But when the Boatswain found the treasure was gone, Gow having before told them where it lay, he swore he would burn the house, and all that was in it, which the young Lady hearing, she runs to the Charter-room where the Treasure lay, and threw it out of the Window, jumping herself after. However, they plundered the house of about fifty pounds, and some plate, and then forced a servant who played on the bag-pipes, to pipe before them to the ship, whom they also detained, and was brought along with them to the Marshalsea, where he was sick till his release.

The next day they weighed anchor, and came to Calf-Sound, where the boatswain went ashore again with four armed Men, meeting with no Plunder. From thence they went to the Island of Eda, to plunder the house of Mr. Fea, whom Gow had formerly been School-fellow with, and knowing him to be a Man of Courage, believed that the Alarm at Caristoun had drawn him thither: But Mr. Fea’s wife at that Time being very sick in Bed, kept him at home, and having notice of them he sent a letter to Gow by James Laing, to desire him to withdraw, assuring him that most of the inhabitants were fled to the mountains on the report of his being a Pirate, desiring him to send the messenger safe back, at whose return the affrights of the people would be over. Gow sent him word back, that he would write to nobody, but if Mr. Fea would send his men with a Boat, he would reward them handsomely, which Mr. Fea hearing, he ordered his great Boat to be staved, and sunk, and the sails to be carried out of sight. In the mean time, perceiving Gow’s boat come on shore, with five men in it, well armed, he met them, and said if they would go to a Publick House in the neighbourhood, and take a cup of ale with him, he would see what he could do to serve them, which they agreed to, seeing Mr. Fea was all alone, not suspecting any danger. Mr. Fea had before given orders for half a dozen men, well armed, to lie in ambush to surprize them, which being done, Mr. Fea sent to Mr. Gow to let him know, that the country was alarmed, and that it would be his best way peaceable to surrender, which Gow did in a day or two, thinking thereby to make himself an evidence; but it would not do, although he complied so far as to delude all his men ashore one after another, who would certainly have cut his throat, had they known of any ways afterwards to have escaped.

They were put on board the Greyhound, which delivered them into the Marshalsea, March 30, 1714, where they continued till June following, when eight of them were hanged at Execution Dock, viz. John Gow, James Williams, James Belvin, John Winter, Peter Rawlisson, Daniel Mc.Cawley, William Ingram, for another Piracy under Anstis, and a month afterwards Alexander Rob was hanged for Piracy under Gow.