The History of Leith

June 4, 2012

The capture of Scottish mariners by the pirates of Algiers

In parochial and other records of those days
many instances are noted of the capture of Scottish
mariners by the pirates of Algiers, and of collections
being made in the several parishes for their
redemption from slavery. In the Register of the
Privy Council, under date January, 1636, we find
that a ship called the John, of Leith, commanded
by John Brown, when sailing from London to
La Rochelle, on the coast of France, fell in with
three Turkish men-of-war, which, after giving him
chase from sunrise to sunset, captured the vessel,
took possession of the cargo and crew, and then
scuttled her.
Poor Brown and his mariners were all taken to
Salee, and there sold in the public market as
slaves. Each bore iron chains to the weight of
eighty pounds, and all were daily employed in
grinding at a mill, while receiving nothing to eat
but a little dusty bread. In the night they were
confined in holes twenty feet deep among rats and
mice, and because they were too poor—being only
mariners—to redeem themselves, they trusted to the
benevolence of his Majesty’s subjects. By order
of the Council, a contribution was levied in the
Lothians and elsewhere, but with what result we
are not told.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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