Arrgh! Adventures of 17th-Century Pirate Alliance Uncovered: Page 2

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The pirates also collaborated to deal with common problems. For instance, in 1609, the pirateselected an "admiral" named Richard Bishop, Kelleher said. "Bishop could perhaps correctly be called the pirates' broker, as he successfully bridged the gap between official and unofficial operations, middleman to the middlemen," Kelleher wrote in the journal article.

The pirates also decided to limit their attacks to ships coming from countries that they judged to be traditional enemies of Britain, such as Spain.

Growing strength

The strength of the pirate alliance grew quickly, outmatching anything the Royal Navy could send against them.

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In 1609, a senior government official in Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, wrote to Lord Salisbury, saying the pirates "are grown to a height of strength and pride that [efforts to combat them] will hardly prevail without the assistance of some of His Majesty's good ships." King James, who had reduced the size of the Royal Navy to save money, did not have the ships in Ireland to take on the pirate alliance, Kelleher said.

In addition to their home bases in Ireland, the pirates sailed seasonally to North Africa and Newfoundland (in modern-day Canada) making contacts with the people there that allowed them to resupply their ships. This extended their range and allowed them to send their fleets away from Ireland when the weather became inhospitable.

Defeat of the pirate alliance

While King James was unable to take on the pirate alliance, the Dutch were. The pirates had been preying on Dutch ships, and by 1612, the Dutch government was making plans to attack them, suggests a detailed "anti-pirate" chart showing Munster's pirate bases dating to that time. [10 Epic Battles That Changed History]

In 1614, after getting consent from King James to capture the pirates and turn them over to local authorities, the Dutch attacked Crookhaven. Dutch Capt. Moy Lambert destroyed a pirate fleet under Capt. Patrick Myagh, Kelleher wrote in her journal article.

A scroll written by English trader Edward Davenant and analyzed by Kelleher gives a play-by-play of the attack. "In an attempt to escape, Capt. Myagh, his two sons and fellow crew members jumped overboard but were caught and murdered by Lambert's crew; his third son survived but was seriously wounded. Others also attempted to make it ashore and were assisted by locals," Kelleher wrote.

Lambert proceeded to loot Myagh's ship, the scroll noted. "What he did manage to take included 3 whole pieces of satin, 3 whole pieces of silk grograine, about 1 whole piece of velvet, 120 whole pieces of Holland cloth, 24 whole pieces of canvas, 1 chest containing about 300 turbans, 2 great chests of sugar, 1 chest of sweetmeats, silver and gold, coined and uncoined, to the value of £3,000," Kelleher wrote. "The goods taken were given an overall value of some £5,000.” Some of these goods were obtained through plunder by Myagh's men, but some, such as the turbans, may have been from trade the pirates conducted in North Africa, she said.

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The defeat of the pirates exposed the vulnerability of their base at Crookhaven. Additionally, the same year, a port used by the pirates at Mamora, in North Africa, was lost to the Spanish, and new legislation was passed that allowed for pirates to be tried and executed in Ireland. (Before that, the pirates had to be sent to England for trial.)

"Piracy continued, however — but in a changed format from 1615 onwards, when we see the Algerian Turks and Barbary Corsairs taking over," Kelleher said in the email.

Shipwrecks that are more than 100 years old are protected under Ireland's National Heritage Law, and people who wish to dive down to see them must get a license from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Kelleher noted.

Original article on Live Science.

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