Monday 30 June 2014

Jack Quelch: Pirate Scourge of the Portuguese

John Quelch (London, England, 1666 - New Hampshire, America, 30th June 1704)

Just a few days ago my wonderfully artistic friend, Karl, at the House of K sent me the fabulous paper cut out of a pirate ship that you can see below. Paper cutting is, of course, an 18th century art form that has fallen out of favour of late yet Karl toils long hours in his artist's garrett, candle wick guttering, the chophouse forgotten as he works at his wonderful creations. The image of the pirate ship set me thinking once again of those nautical rogues and since one of them met a sticky end today, join me in welcoming John Quelch to the salon!

Paper Cut by The House of K

Quelch blazed a brief but terrible trail across the high seas, leading a mutiny aboard The Charles, the ship on which he was serving as lieutenant. With the captain thrown unceremoniously into the sea, the ship sailed on for a voyage of piracy. The crew helped themselves to the contents of a number of Portuguese ships as well as the immensely valuable cargo being carried by The Charles

However, this enthusiastic targeting of Portuguese shipping was to prove Quelch's undoing as, upon his return to Marblehead less than a year after he seized control of the ship, he found himself under arrest. England and Portugal had recently become allies and, crucially, Portugal was not mentioned in the letter of marque given to The Charles, meaning that the crew should have left that country's ships well alone.

Quelch and his crew were tried before the first admiralty trial to be held outside England, meaning that there would be no jury to hear his case. Swiftly found guilty, the men were taken to the gallows where Quelch refused to repent and instead doffed his hat and bowed to those who had gathered to watch his execution. Before the noose was placed around his neck he told the spectators, "They should take care how they brought Money into New England to be Hanged for it."

And what of their booty? Well, legend has it that some of the plunder is still buried out on Star Island today, just waiting for someone to come along and dig it up...


Unknown said...

I love a good pirate yarn!

Catherine Curzon said...


stillfeelingyoung67 said...

Great story and a great history lesson

Catherine Curzon said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it!