The History of Leith

October 3, 2011

A family war with the Portuguese

For nearly a hundred years the Bartons carried on a kind of family war with the Portuguese. The quarrel began in 1476. In that year John Barton, the first of that family to come into fame, was voyaging from the port of Sluis, in Flanders, homeward bound in the good ship Juliana, laden with a valuable cargo, when he was attacked by two armed Portuguese vessels. After a stout resistance the Juliana was captured, and the survivors among the crew were thrust into a boat and cut adrift. Among them was their gallant skipper, John Barton, who made his way to Lisbon to seek redress
for the wrong that had been done him, but in vain ; nor were the efforts of James IIT. with Alfonso V., King of Portugal, any more successful.
Letters of reprisal, or warrants, were therefore granted by the Scottish king to the Barton family, authorizing them to seize Portuguese vessels and cargoes until they had made good their father’s losses, which were reckoned at 12,000 ducats, or about £6,000—a great sum for those times. Andrew Barton seems to have been the most active of the three brothers in capturing the richly laden
caravels of Portugal returning from India and Africa. The Portuguese were not slow to retaliate, and for years a regular war on the high seas ensued between the Bartons and other bold Leith mariners on the one hand, and the Portuguese on the other.

Source-The Story of Leith

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