Algerian Raiders

Dun Na Sead Castle

Reinforcements at Dun Na Sead Castle came too late.

Pirates claim a long history in Ireland as one invading horde after another — the Celts, Romans, Vikings and Normans — sailed from foreign waters to seize land, property and people. The most shocking raid occurred in 1631 when Murat Reis the Younger sacked the village of Baltimore, Ireland, and kidnapped more than 100 residents.

Reis, originally a Dutchman named Jan Jensen, began pillaging and plundering from his home port of Haarlem, where he held letters authorizing the harassment of Spanish vessels during the Dutch War of Independence. After a few months of unprofitable assaults, Reis made his way to the Barbary Coast in North Africa and used its independent ports to pick off foreign vessels, switching his ship’s colors depending upon the prey. In 1618 Barbary corsairs captured Reis in the Canary Islands and carried him to Algiers where he converted to Islam and abandoned his Christian name.

Reis’s alliance with the fierce Barbary pirates allowed him a certain amount of protection from the Turkish Sultan and the freedom to attack Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, Corsica and other island states. The range of his vessel and personal ambition seems to have had no limits. He and his crew sailed to Iceland in a raid which resulted in some salted codfish, a few hides and a handful of Icelanders and Danes.

With little cash nor treasure to show for his latest assault, Reis turned to a captive, John Hackett, and demanded information on a vulnerable site to attack in Ireland. Hackett was a Roman Catholic resident with a long hatred of the English Protestants who had seized Irish land. Moreover, he was a native son of Waterford, a town whose long feud with the people of Baltimore was legendary. Hackett naturally suggested Baltimore.

Reis ordered two ships to set sail and traveled over 1,000 miles to Ireland’s southwestern coast. The ships anchored overnight at a place called the Cove, and before dawn the pirates attacked the village, setting its houses afire, and seized 107 residents.

Hackett’s ruse had worked. His misdirection saved Waterford, and only British residents, not Irish, were abducted to North Africa where they were sold as slaves, never to be heard from again.

The Lezovi are circumnavigating Ireland, the ninth country in their tour of Europe.

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About Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

Mom, first mate and writer aboard a 40' Manta catamaran, S/V Happy Times.
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