Seawolves: Pirates & the Scots

Seawolves: Pirates & the Scots

Seawolves: Pirates & the Scots

Seawolves: Pirates & the Scots

Synopsis

During this period, many Scots left their hard lives in places like Aberdeen, Stornoway and Orkney in order to find fortune, adventure and fame on the dangerous high seas of more exotic locations like Madagascar, Brazil or the Caribbean. Some, like Captain James Macrae from Ayr, became well-respected pirate hunters, champions of the law upon the ocean, and bravely faced many violent encounters and unsavoury characters. Others, such as John Gow from Orkney, were these unsavoury characters. Their dastardly deeds captured the imagination of the Scottish public and this morbid fascination is reflected in the work of Scottish writers like Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson. Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island, among others, cemented the notoriety of the pirate in the public mind. provides a fascinating and enlightening account of the lifestyle of those who followed the skull and cross bones, often to their death on the gallows. Gripping and entertaining, The Seawolves shows a different, darker side to the famously enterprising Scot.

Excerpt

Pirates! Eric Graham has a riveting tale to tell. Too much of Scottish history is either ill-written text or retold romance. Not this: it is an account of brutal criminals preying on legitimate merchants sometimes scarcely less brutal than themselves, of sensational crimes and short lives (few pirates outlived their thirtieth birthday), and it is a story of law enforcement equally cruel and often grossly unjust. It goes with pace: it is informed by original records form the Scottish Admiralty Court, many unused before. It uncovers a world of historical fact unimagined by most of us.

In Scottish literature, it was Robert Louis Stevenson who was the unrivalled master of pirate stories, but the journalism of Daniel Defoe and the folklore collecting of Walter Scott predated and informed Treasure Island. Until now, few historians have explored this topic, and when Eric Graham does so he discovers a truth harsher than fiction, but no less colourful. What novelist could outdo the contemporary description of Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts, pirate captain, fighting to his death dressed in a rich crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his hat, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond cross hanging to it, a sword in his hand and a pair of pistols hanging . . .

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