Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thomas Hollingsworth - Pirate or Privateer?

A break from lists of names to bring you the story of a man caught up in a moment of history.

Thomas Hollingsworth - Pirate or Privateer?

Thomas Hollingsworth first appears in the Indian Ocean and disappears again from Galway City, Ireland. Where he came from, or went to, I don’t know. Neither do I know whether he is related to the American or Irish Hollingsworths, or in fact if he is the son, born about 1670 or 1678, of Thomas Hollingsworth and Martha Scampton.

Charles Grey in his book “Pirates of the Eastern Seas” suggested Hollingsworth sailed with Captain Kidd in the Sunflower and landed in Dunfanahan on the north-west coast of Ireland. Actually, he may not have done either. But though his appearances are brief, he does manage to pop up in the middle of one of the great sea odysseys of the so-called “Golden Age of Piracy”.

To give context to his appearance, and perhaps to give a clue as to his origins or his later fate, here is the full tale as I perceive it:

La Coruna

La Coruna, Galicia, Spain 7 May 1694: The crew of the frigate Charles II had been unpaid for months. While the captain was drunk, the crew mutinied, led by the former first mate, Henry Every. Every declared “I am captain of this ship now. I am bound to Madagascar, with the design of making my own fortune, and that of all the brave fellows joined with me.” They renamed the ship “The Phancy" or "The Fancy” and set sail for Cape Verde. Heading south along the African coast, the pirates plundered three British vessels at the Cape Verde Islands and took two Danish vessels near Sao Tomé/Principé off the west coast of Africa.

Early in 1695, they reached Johanna Island (Anjouan) in the Comoros, where Every seized a French pirate ship loaded with booty. Most of its crew joined him, making them more than 170 men. It was at Johanna that Every wrote his famous letter:

"To All English Commanders.
Let this satisfy that I was riding here at this instant in the Fancy, man-of-war, formerly the Charles of the Spanish expedition who departed from La Coruna 7th May 1694, being then and now a ship of 46 guns, 150 men, and bound to seek our fortunes. I have never yet wronged any English or Dutch, or ever intend whilst I am commander. Wherefore as I commonly speak with all ships I desire whoever comes to the perusal of this to take this signal, that if you or any whom you may inform are desirous to know what we are at a distance, then make your ancient (ship’s flag) up in a ball or bundle and hoist him at the mizzen peak, the mizzen being furled. I shall answer with the same, and never molest you, for my men are hungry, stout, and resolute, and should they exceed my desire I cannot help myself. As yet an Englishman’s friend,
At Johanna, 18th February 1695
Henry Every
Here is 160 odd French armed men at Mohilla who waits the opportunity of getting any ship, take care of yourselves."

After a brief stop at Madagascar to replenish supplies and wait for suitable weather, Every set sail for Perim Island at the mouth of the Red Sea with the intent of intercepting vessels carrying pilgrims travelling between Mecca and India. He reached Perim by September 1695. Several American pirates were already there - Captain Joseph Faro (Farrell) on Portsmouth Adventure from Rhode Island and Captain William Want on Dolphin from Philadelphia. These two new ships each had a crew of about 60, so the pirate fleet now had three ships and over 350 men. Three days later, even more American pirates arrived - Captain William Maze on Pearl from Rhode Island, Captain Thomas Tew on Amity from New York, and Captain Thomas Wake on Susannah from Boston.

Mandab Strait.

On 8 September 1695, the pirate fleet sighted two vessels. The first was the Fateh Mahmamadi, an unarmed merchantship owned by Abd-ul Ghafur, which carried gold and silver valued at more than £50,000. The second ship proved more significant; it was the Gang-i-Sawai, one of the Great Moghul’s largest ships. Armed with forty to eighty great guns and four hundred musketeers, captained by Muhammed Ibrahim. Although the forty-six gun Fancy was no match for the larger ship, Every didn’t hesitate to attack. One of the pirates' first shots broke the main mast and one of the Gang-i-Sawai’s guns exploded, killing or wounding a number of sailors. The Gang-i-Sawai didn’t surrender, though, and the battle at Cape St. John, raged for hours.

Every’s crew looted their prizes at the island of Socotra and split the booty at Réunion Island, where most of the French pirates remained. The East India Company estimated the plunder at 325,000 pounds. After giving small sums to the other pirate ships, each man received about 1,000 in cash plus some of the jewels, Every taking two shares as captain.

Somewhere here Thomas Hollingsworth joined the Phancy. Some reports state that Henry Every tricked the other crews into putting all the booty onto the Phancy and then he sneaked away. Others suggest that Thomas Wake’s ship, the Susannah, was looted. For whatever reason, Thomas Hollingsworth, Captain Smithsend and James Brown came aboard the Phancy, which then sailed for the Bahamas, stopping at Sao Tomé before crossing the Atlantic.

"Examination (dated March 25, 1700) of James Brown who sailed from Rhode Island in 1695 on the Susanna, Thomas Wake, Commander, as a privateer with a Commission from the Governor or Deputy Governor. The company were all upon shares. In the seas of India they met with the Phancy, Henry Every, Commanding, who plundered the Susanna. Examinant being weary of being aboard in those parts, with one Capt. Smithsend, and THOMAS HOLLINGWORTH, embarked on the Phancy, which was then designed for Providence."

Also "Deposition of Sampson Pendley, Master of the Mayflower of Boston. In 1696 he heard Daniel Smith, William & Benjamin Griffin, THOMAS HOLLINGSWORTH, ??? Mincks, Anthony Packer & Thomas Joy, several times declare that they came to Providence in the Fancy with Henry Avery (sic) the Pirate.” Dated July 12, 1700 at Bermuda."

In the Caribbean, the pirates sold some of their plunder at Saint Thomas and sailed to the Bahamas in April coming to Royal Island off Eleuthera, fifty miles from New Providence in the Bahamas, in late April 1696. To gain the governor’s goodwill, they gave him their ship, gold, and ivory tusks valued at £1,000. The pirates hoped to gain pardons, but as Governor Nicholas Trott wasn’t a Royal governor, he lacked the power to grant them. Thomas Hollingsworth was one of three or four people who brought Every’s letter of offer to Trott. Two of the others were Robert Chinton and Henry Adams.


“T South to the Lords Justices of Ireland Dublin, 15 Aug 1696. Hollingsworth left money with Governor Trott. Wake had already had a pardon for piracy in King James’s time.”

Affidavit of Philip Middleton. November 11, 1696 "this Deponent was informed a Packet was sent (to Trott) by Hollandsworth's (sic) sloop, which sailed before that in which this Deponent was".

Not having any success with Governor Trott, hey sailed for Jamaica in hopes of obtaining the pardons from Jamaican Governor William Beeston. On 15 June, he wrote to the Council for Trade and Plantations in London, “They are arrived at Providence and have sent privately to me, to try if they could prevail with me to pardon them and let them come hither; and in order that I was told that it should be worth to me a great sum (i.e. £24,000), but that could not tempt me from my duty.”

After Governor Beeston refused a pardon, Every returned to the Bahamas where he and his men lived aboard the Phancy, even though they had given her to Governor Trott. Either purposely or through negligence, the ship was driven ashore in a gale. After salvaging her guns and whatever else they could, the pirates dispersed.

Hollingsworth left from New Providence mid-May 1696 on the sloop The Isaac. Every followed about three weeks later on The Sea Flower.

From the deposition of John Dann we learn that Every landed at Dunfanaghy in The Sea Flower - with John Dan(n), John Sparks, Joseph Dawson and Philip Middleton aboard - at the latter end of June. The Sea Flower was then given to Joseph Faroe (Farrel? Faro?) who intended to return in her to America. This may be where Charles Grey’s confusion with Joseph Farrel, 'Dunfanahan' and the Sunflower arises.

The following document appears to give us a new enlightenment. It suggests that the Isaac let off most of the crew and cargo at the remote Achill Island (not actually an island, but an isthmus) before arriving at Westport. It then made the short journey down the coast to Galway, with Thomas Hollingsworth as Master.

"An Abstract of Letters relating to the Sloop Isaac of Providence, whereof Captain Thomas Hollandsworth Commander. Thomas Bell Esqr., Sheriff of the County of Mayo, in his Letter of the 16th of June 1696 says that on the 7th instant came into Westport a small Vessell of about 30 tuns, whereof he had no account till the 14th, upon which he immediately went thither, and only found the Master, whom they call Captain Thomas Hollinsworth, and two men more on board. That they had no other Loading but Gold and Silver, which they conveyd away, and sold the Ship to one Thomas Yeeden and Lawrence Deane of Gallway, Merchants. It was a very considerable Sume they had, of which Mr. Bell desires the Government may be informd, that he may have further direction therein. The said Mr. Bell in his Letter of the 20th of June further says, That since the writing of the above Letter he mett two of the Crew belonging to the said Vessell, by name, James Trumble and Edward Foreside, in whose hands he found about 200 pounds, and seizd on their persons and goods, but found none of the said Guilt or Bullion in their Custody, and now hath them with their said goods in his hands, and hopes to find a great deale more of the said Guilt and Bullion in the Country, or those that carry it away, the common report being that the said Ship was worth Twenty Thousand pounds in Gold, Silver and Bullion.

"Mr. Lee the Collector of Gallway, in his Letter of the 26th of June, gives an Account That the Sloop that lay at Westport is come into the Harbour of Gallway; That the Master (Thomas Hollingsworth) hath made Report of his Ship and Invoyced upon Oath at the Custom House, and entred into Bond with Security not to depart without Lycence as usuall; That the Master says each person on board took his share of the Silver and Gold and went away with it, That Mony paying no Duty, and being frightned in thither by a Privateer, there being no place there to make a Report, he could not hinder the men to carry off their Fortunes, but on Oath denys the knowledge of any other Goods whatsoever.

"Mr. Vanderlure, Collector at Ballinrobe, in his Letter of the 2d of July writes, That two of the Ships Crew are st[op]t and in Custody of the High Sheriff of the County of Mayo by a Warrant from Major Owen Vaughan, a Justice of Peace. The names of the said Seizd persons are Edward Foreside and James Trumble, who desire themselves and cash might be removd to Dublin, to answer what shall be laid to their Charge."

Galway Bay

Henry Every escaped capture, but several of his men were brought to trial. Joseph Dawson, Edward Forseith (Was this the Edward Foreside from Hollingsworth’s ship?), William May, William Bishop, James Lewis, and John Sparkes were tried and found guilty. They were executed on November 26, 1696 in London, at Execution-Dock.

Next it's reported that Hollingsworth left Galway before 15 August 1696 intending to meet up with Thomas Wake in Providence.

“T South to the Lords Justices of Ireland Dublin, 15 Aug 1696. The owners of Captain Wake’s ship live in Boston, New England, and were going in a brigantine to bring clothes and necessaries to meet him at Fernando; but hearing that we were coming to Providence they followed us thither but did not arrive till after we came away. Thomas Hollingsworth, now sailed from Galway, will meet Wake at Providence, where Wake will certainly be within six or eight weeks, or else not till after Christmas.”

We also hear the following from Philip Middleton:
“Narrative of Philip Middleton, of the Ship Charles Henry, to the Lords Justices of Ireland, given on 4 August, 1696 ... another sloop commanded by HOLLINGSWORTH was chased into Dublin by a French Privateer. She had 16 more of the crew of Charles Henry aboard.”

These two reports apparently contradict each other. Did Hollingsworth actually go to the Bahamas to meet Thomas Wake, making the Philip Middleton statement false? Or did he encounter a French Privateer on leaving Galway? In which case, if he sailed into Dublin Bay there would be nowhere to go but to ground.

If Thomas Wake was double-crossed by Every in the Indian Ocean, and Hollingsworth joined Every on the Phancy, why would Hollingsworth be wanting to meet him? So, did Thomas Hollingsworth come from Boston? And did he go to New Providence or end up trapped in Dublin?

Another thing – why was Thomas Hollingsworth the one who took the letter to Governor Trott AND the one who brought the Isaac to legitimate landfall in Galway? Was it because he was in some way 'respectable'? Was it linked to the deception of Thomas Wake? Could he have used Wake’s piracy-pardon to become legitimate?

We have no record of the Ulster Hollingsworths from the mid 17th Century. But then, a Samuel (son of Thomas?) pops up in County Wexford from nowhere in the early 1700s. Were Thomas' family disposessed in Ulster and driven underground in the 1640s? Did his position force him to become a pirate or "sea tory"? Is he the origin of the Dublin and Wexford Hollingsworth?


leks hollingsworth said...

as im a hollingsworth and from what my family know it was thomas's son henry hollingsworth that became the first of the Ulster hollingsworths as documented in the guard of the crown. as Henry hollinsworth Duchey of Cheshire son of thomas ( the pirate)was Englands first justice of the Peace sent by the crown in establishment with Sir Thomas Bryson to set up the Ulster Plantation

leks said...

leks hollingsworth