Captain George Lowther


 George Lowther set sail from London down the River Thames aboard the ship, the Gambia Castle, a slaver for the Royal Africa Company. He had signed on as First Mate to Captain Charles Russell. Also on board was an Army officer Captain Massey and his Company of soldiers. Lowther had never been on a Slave ship and was not aware of what lay ahead of him. The Royal Africa Company was in the business of collecting slaves around the Gambia River. As it was the slave ships would remain off the coast for months on end until they had enough slave to make their efforts worthwhile. There was little for the crew to do, no place to go on shore, and little to do on ship. To make matters worse, the weather was unbearable, and diseases such as dysentery, malaria, and Scurvy would take there toll on the crew.

Lowther had from the beginning of the trip found favor with the crew. Captain Russell, while not a bad Captain, was more concerned with the slave shipment than with the health of his crew. He distrusted Lowther because of how "familiar" he had became with the crew. The division between captain and crew reach a critical point when Russell order Lowther flogged for a minor infraction, and many of the crew took up their marlin spikes and dared anyone to pick up a whip. What had caused such a division among the crew was the appalling conditions aboard the ship after reaching Gambia in May of 1721. The slave trade was almost at a stand still and the ship remained docked for a long time. The Royal Africa Company seemed to care little about the crew and to make matters worse, Captain Massey and his soldiers had to retreat from their fort and set up headquarters on board the over crowded ship.

It seems that the governor of the Royal Africa Company in Gambia had taken ill from all the mosquitoes and the fort was in such a poor state that it had become unlivable. Massey was furious over the state of affairs his troops were in. He and Lowther met to discuss their situation one night when Captain Russell was not on board and they both decided that they should leave. With any further discussion, the ship set sail on June 13th 1721, leaving Russell behind. At this point Massey was in mind to return to England but Lowther had other thoughts. He immediately summoned the whole crew, plus Massey's soldiers before him and told them of his intentions. He explained there was no turning back for himself, for he knew that England would not excuse his actions but if the crew were to vote to return to England his only request was to be set ashore someplace safe. Then he explained his intentions to go "on the account".

This was met with a resounding cheer, and all aboard signed the articles of Piracy, electing Lowther as Captain. (It should be mentioned that Massey originally intended to return to England.) Massey and Lowther formed an uneasy but workable alliance and together the crew of the newly named ship, Delivery, went on to pillage many a ship. But Massey found it very difficult to adjust to the slow pace of the Sea. He therefore put forth a plan to sack a town. Lowther was completely against such an endeavor due to the many risks it involved. However, as pirate custom demanded, it was put to a vote. Massey lost by a large margin and he then requested that he and his supporters be allowed to go their own way. Lowther had obtained a second smaller sloop from a previous plunder and was happy to be rid of Massey and his followers. With that Massey and his men parted company. This sort of separation was common practice aboard pirate ships with two strong personalities.

Lowther then set sail in late 1721 to the Carolinas. It is reported he put in to careen his ship, debauch, loot and pillage. More likely he careened, debauched and spent his loot. In any case, shortly after his careening he left for the Grand Caymans in his newly named Happy Delivery, again on the account. On the way he came upon the Greyhound command by Benjamin Edwards. Lowther ran up his Jolly Roger and signaled with a cannon shot for the Greyhound to come to. To his amazement the Greyhound gave him a broadside back. Lowther and his crew prepared Grapplers and Swivel guns and moved in for the fight. The engagement was brief and shortly after the Pirates managed to board, Edwards struck his ensign. The usual penalty for such an act was no quarter, and while there is no evidence that every man was killed, it is clear that the Edwards and his crew were beaten and whipped and the Greyhound was put to the torch.

By now Lowther had several small ships under him as well as the Happy delivery and again went ashore in Guatemala to careen. Unfortunately when his men were in the middle of careening they were attacked by Indians and had to set sail. Several of his crew were lost and some of his ships were left or damaged. Lowther had no choice but to transfer all of his men and their meager supplies to one ship, the Revenge, and continue on. In May of 1722, they were prowling off the island of Diseada where they took another brigantine.  Several ships later, off the coast of South Carolina, the pirates ran afoul of a ship, the Amy, that was in no mood to surrender to the pirates and after several broadsides forced the pirates to beach and escape ashore. The crew wintered ashore and repaired their ship. 

In the spring of 1723 they set to sea again and made for Newfoundland, where they took a couple of ships before returning to warmer climates among the islands. It was now time to careen again and clean the ships. Lowther chose a small cay called Blanquilla, which is northeast of Tortuga. It was a small island but very well concealed. Lowther ordered guns, provisions and crew on shore, which was customary, and commenced careening his ships. They had almost finished when the sloop Eagle commanded by Walter Moore spotted the ship. Lowther, a cabin boy, and three of his crew tried to run but it was fruitless, as the little island held no real cover for them. A search party was sent ashore to hunt down his men and bring them back in irons.

Lowther must have realized that his time was running out to have chosen his next course of action. For it was some time later that the search party recovered Lowther. In a secluded spot along the beach they found him with an empty pistol in his hand and a bullet through the brain. He had chosen to kill himself rather than face the Hangman. Lowther and his crew had threatened the Caribbean and the east coast of America for over two years and they were fairly successful. One of the things that Lowther's story brings out is the need to careen regularly, and the vulnerability of the pirates while in this state.