Captain John Gow

    John Gow alias, John Smith or John Goffe, was a Scotch pirate, born in the early 1690s at Cariston in the Orkneys. Gow sailed from Amsterdam as a foremast hand in the "George Gally", a ship of 200 tons and 20 guns commanded by Captain Ferneau. He was soon promoted to be second mate and gunner. While sailing from Santa Cruz on November 3, 1724, Gow and a few of the crewmen conspired to mutiny and then to go "upon the account." Ferneau and several others were killed and Gow was then elected as the captain. They renamed the vessel the "Revenge", and cruised off the coast of Spain, taking an English sloop with a cargo of fish from Newfoundland, commanded by Captain Thomas Wise of Poole. Their second prize was a Glasgow ship loaded with herrings and salmon.

    They next sailed to Madeira, where Gow presented the Governor with a box of Scotch herrings. About this time Williams, the first mate, insulted Gow by accusing him of cowardice because he had refused to attack a large French ship, and snapped his pistol at his head, which fortunately did not go off. Two seamen standing near shot Williams, wounding him severely, and to get rid of him they put him aboard one of their prizes. Discussions now took place as to where to sail, and Gow, who was said to be in love with a lass in the Orkney Islands, suggested sailing there, as a good place to traffic their stolen goods. On arriving at Carristown they sold most of their cargo, and one of the crew, going on shore, bought a horse for three pieces of eight and rode to Kirkwall the chief town of the Orkneys and surrendered himself. Next day ten more men deserted, setting out in the longboat for the mainland of Scotland, but were taken prisoners in a customs-house boat belonging to Queens-Ferry. By now the whole countryside was alarmed, and after quickly plundering the local houses, Gow decided it was best for them to sail away.

    They now sailed to a small island called Calf Sound, after finding no plunder they seized two young girls and took them aboard using them in a most inhumane manner. Next they headed to the Island of Eda to plunder the house of a Mr. Fea, an old schoolmate of Gow's. Arriving there on February 13th, things started to go wrong as they ran their vessel aground on the rocks. Fea eventually managed to trap Gow and all of his twenty-eight man crew. Help was sent for, and the frigate "Greyhound" took the captured Gow and his crew to London, arriving on March 26th, 1725. The prisoners were taken to the Marshalsea Prison in Southwark, and there by fate they found their old first mate, Williams who had arrived a day or two before from Lisbon.

   On May 8th, their trial began at Newgate but Gow refused to plead. He was ordered to be pressed to death, which was the only form of torture still allowed by the law. At the last moment Gow yielded, and pleaded "not guilty." Gow was found guilty anyway, and hanged on June 11th, 1725. As he was hanging, he fell down from the Gibbit, the rope breaking by the weight of some of the men that had been pulling on his legs. Although he had been hanging for four minutes, he was able to climb up the ladder a second time, which seemed to concern him very little, and he was hanged again. His body was then taken to Greenwich and there hanged in chains displayed as a warning to others thinking of piracy.