Born : UnknownCaptain Lowther set sail from
London down the River Thames in June of 1721 aboard the ship, the Gambia Castle.
For the last time he sailed past Execution Dock and Newgate Prison, never again
to see England again. He had signed on as First Mate to Charles Russell, on
board the Gambia Castle, a slaver for the Royal Africa Company. Also on board
were Captain Massey, an Army officer and a Company of soldiers.
Died : 1723
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 its toll on the crew.
Lowther, had from
the beginning of the crew, found favor with the crew. Russell, while not a bad
Captain, was more concerned with the slave shipment than with the health of the
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 state of condition aboard ship upon
reaching Gambia. The slave trade was almost at 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 head quarters 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 no further
discussion, the ship set sail, 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 soldiers before him and told
him his intentions. He explained there was 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
Massey and Lowther formed an uneasy but workable alliance and
together the crew of the newly named, 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 with that
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 of
Lowther. This sort of separation was common practice aboard pirate ships with
two strong personalities.
Lowther then set sail to the Carolinas, in
late 1721, where 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 careenage 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 broad side 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 to put 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. Lowther managed to come across a brigantine well stocked, and with more
bluff than anything else, replenished his supplies.
It appeared that
Lowther was back on track to becoming a truly prosperous pirate by 1722 and his
crew was happy again. Lowther had to once again careen. He 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
the men and bring them back in irons. Lowther must have realized that his time
in the war of the Pirates was up to have chosen his next course of action.
It was some time later that the search party recovered Lowther. In a
secluded spot along the beach of Blanquilla 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.