Algerian pirates sack an Irish village
Corsairs attack Baltimore, on Ireland’s south-west coast, and kidnap 100 people
T20 June 1631 he corsairs struck at two o’clock in the morning. Armed with muskets and iron bars, they descended on the Irish village of Baltimore like a ravaging horde, tearing through the houses in search of booty.
By the time the residents had realised what was happening, it was already too late. Even as one resident, William Harris, began firing a musket to warn his neighbours, the corsairs had captured at least 100 people from the village. Most of them were English settlers who worked in the fishing industry. Some 20 of the captives were men; the rest were women and children, carried off into slavery.
The Sack of Baltimore, which took place in the early hours of 20 June 1631, has gone down in Irish folklore. For years afterwards, the village was virtually deserted, as residents fled for fear that the corsairs would return.
Contrary to legend, though, many of the corsairs were not north African. Even their leader, the dreaded Murat Reis, who ruled his own tiny state in modern-day Morocco, was actually a Dutch privateer, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, who had originally been taken to north Africa as a prisoner before becoming a corsair.
Few of Murat’s prisoners ever saw Baltimore again. Most of the men were destined for lives as galley slaves, working at the oars of pirate ships and toiling miserably in horrendous conditions. The women and children were better treated, but only because they were headed for the slave markets of Algiers. Baltimore’s women and girls were bound for the harem; the boys, however, were destined to become Ottoman slave soldiers.
In 1631 a group of corsairs (pirates based in north Africa) attacked the Irish village of Baltimore, as our illustration shows