Captain 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 was
Captain Massey, an Army officer and a 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 its toll on
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 marlinspikes 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 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, 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
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.
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