Al­ge­rian pi­rates sack an Ir­ish vil­lage

Cor­sairs at­tack Bal­ti­more, on Ire­land’s south-west coast, and kid­nap 100 peo­ple

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversar­ies -

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

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