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Biographies of Famous Pirates

Captain George Lowther


    Not much is known of George Lowther before he signed on in England as first mate aboard the Gambia Castle. She was a slaver for the Royal Africa Company commanded by a Captain Charles Russell. Also on board at the time was an army officer Captain Massey and his company of soldiers. Lowther had never been on a slave ship and was not aware of what lay ahead of him. The Royal Africa Company was in the business of collecting slaves around the Gambia River. Normally this meant the slave ships would remain off the coast for months on end until they had enough slaves to make their efforts worthwhile. There would be little for the crew to do at that time, and no place to go on shore. To make matters worse, the weather their was unbearable, and diseases such as dysentery, malaria, and scurvy could easily take there toll on the crew. It was not long after starting their voyage to Africa that Lowther began to make friends within the crew. As their trip progressed Captain Russell became more suspicious of Lowther because of this interaction with the crew. Not that he was a bad captain, but he seemed more concerned with the slave shipment than with the well-being of his crew. This eventually led to a critical point when Russell order Lowther flogged for a minor infraction, and many of the crew took up their marlin spikes and dared anyone to pick up a whip. What had caused such a division among the crew was the appalling conditions aboard the ship after arriving at Gambia in May of 1721. The slave trade was almost at a stand still and the ship remained docked for a long time. The Royal Africa Company seemed to care little about the crew and to make matters worse, Captain Massey and his soldiers had to retreat from their fort and return onboard the now over-crowded ship. It seems that the head of the Royal Africa Company in Gambia had taken ill from the numerous disease carrying mosquitoes that plague the area, and the fort was in such a poor state that it had become unlivable. Massey was furious over the plight his troops were in.

    Lowther and Massey met to discuss their situation one night when Captain Russell was not on board and they both decided at that point that they should leave. The ship set sail on June 13th 1721, leaving Russell behind. At this point Massey wanted to return to England with his men, but Lowther had other ideas. Lowther gathered the whole crew, plus Massey's soldiers and told them of his intentions. He explained there was no turning back for himself, for he knew that England would not excuse his actions but if the crew were to vote to return to England his only request was to be set ashore someplace safe. Then he explained his true intentions to go "on the account". This was met with a resounding cheer, and all aboard signed the articles of Piracy, electing Lowther as their Captain. Massey and Lowther then formed an uneasy but workable alliance and together the crew of the newly named ship, "Delivery" went on to pillage several ships. Later Massey found it very difficult to adjust to the slow pace of the Sea. He therefore put forth a plan to sack a town. Lowther was completely against such an endeavor due to the many risks it involved. However, as pirate custom demanded, it was put to a vote. Massey lost by a large margin and he then requested that he and his supporters be allowed to go their own way. Lowther had obtained a second smaller sloop from a previous plunder and was happy to be rid of Massey and his followers. With that Massey and his men parted company. This sort of separation was common practice aboard pirate ships with two strong personalities.

    Lowther then set sail in late 1721 to the Carolina's. It is there that he put in to careen his ship, debauch, and spent his loot. Shortly after his careening he left for the Grand Caymans in his newly named ship "Happy Delivery". On the way he came upon the ship Greyhound commanded by Benjamin Edwards. Lowther ran up his Jolly Roger and signaled with a cannon shot for the Greyhound to surrender. To his amazement the Greyhound gave him a broadside back. Lowther and his crew prepared grapplers and swivel guns and moved in for the fight. The engagement was brief and shortly after the Pirates managed to board, Edwards struck his ensign. The usual penalty for such an act of defiance was no quarter, and while there is no evidence that every man was killed, it is clear that Edwards and his crew were beaten and the Greyhound was put to the torch. By now Lowther had several small ships under his command as well as the Happy delivery and sailed to Guatemala to careen them. Unfortunately when his men were in the middle of careening they were attacked by local natives and had to hastily try to move the ships out to sea. Several of his crew were lost and some of his ships were left or damaged. Lowther had no choice but to transfer all of his men and their meager supplies to one ship, the "Revenge", and continue on. In May of 1722, they were prowling off the island of Diseada where they took another brigantine. Several ships later, off the coast of South Carolina, the pirates ran afoul of a ship, the "Amy", that was in no mood to surrender. After several broadsides it forced the pirates to beach and escape ashore. The crew wintered ashore and slowly repaired their ship. 

    In the spring of 1723 they set to sea again and made for Newfoundland, where they took a couple of ships before returning to warmer climates among the islands. It was now time to careen again and clean the ships. Lowther chose a small cay called Blanquilla, which is northeast of Tortuga. It was a small island but very well concealed. Lowther ordered guns, provisions and crew on shore, which was customary, and commenced careening his ships. They had almost finished when the sloop HMS Eagle commanded by Walter Moore spotted the ships. Catching them by surprise, Lowther, a cabin boy, and three of his crew tried to run but it was fruitless, as the little island held no real cover for them. A search party was sent ashore to hunt down his men and bring them back in irons. Lowther must have realized that his time was running out to have chosen his next course of action. For it was sometime later that the search party discovered Lowther. In a secluded spot along the beach they found him with an empty pistol in his hand and a bullet through the brain. He had chosen to kill himself rather than face the Hangman. This account of his death has been widely accepted. However, a newspaper article dated May 2, 1724 suggests that Lowther did not die that day in 1723, but managed to escape the island with a few of his men. Since their is no record of him after 1723, I believe it is unlikely that he survived. In any case for a brief two years, Lowther and his crew became fairly successful at piracy. But by this time the western powers were united in their distain for all pirates. As they were deemed to be just bad for everyone's trade business. Nations began using more of their naval forces to seriously hunt down these outlaws, and this in turn brought an end to the Golden Age of Piracy.




Pirate Biographies



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