Captain Kidd was born in Dundee in January 1645 and it is thought that he began his piratical career as a member of an English/French pirate crew. He and some of the members of the crew mutinied and sailed the ship to Nevis, a British colony. With his ship he joined a small fleet to defend the island against the French with whom England was now at war.
Then the powerful East India Company with its huge fleet of merchant ships claimed that it was being ‘jeopardised by pirates’ who were flourishing in the Red Sea areas.
Captain Kidd, although reluctant to agree, was chosen to command a ship named ‘Adventure’ as a privateer and was given 14 months to sail round the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean and capture freebooters and their ships to sail back to Boston.
He was disadvantaged from the outset as he was given a crew of misfits and society’s castoffs, not really fit for military life and discipline. The ‘Adventure’ was also unfit for service, being in very poor condition.
Kidd’s journey began on September 6th 1696 when he set sail for the Indian Ocean but, en route, a plague hit the ship and 30 of his men died, to be replaced by even more undesirable seamen.
Continuing up the Indian Ocean, Kidd managed to board a few small ships, gathering barely enough booty to satisfy his hungry and dissatisfied crew, who were sailing under the ‘no prey, no pay’ articles. But luck came in February 1698 when the ‘Quedah’ was captured. This ship was manned by Moors, owned by Indians but carried a French pass, thereby making it ‘legal’ for Kidd to attack.
As the ‘Adventure’ was now beyond repair he sailed the ‘Quedah’ with enough booty to satisfy all interested parties.
Meanwhile, stories of Kidd circulating in America and England claimed that he was a villainous and bloodthirsty pirate. As a result, when the ‘Quedah’ reached the Caribbean there was no sanctuary for Kidd. Not being of a criminal nature he did not know how to handle the situation, so moored his ship up a small river in Hispaniola and, taking a small amount of booty, purchased a sloop and sailed for home.
On the way he stopped at Gardiners Island off Long Island, New York to bury a chest of treasure, later dug up by John Gardiner who returned it to the authorities. The chest contained gold, coins, rings and precious stones amongst other valuable items, worth £4,500.
In England Kidd was arrested and imprisoned in Newgate with no access to counsel, no visitors and he was not even allowed to write letters. At trial he told the court that he was ‘the innnocentist person of them all’ but was convicted for murder on the evidence of deserters from his crew. No better or worse than most, he became one of history’s victims, the wrong man doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Captain Kidd was hanged.
by Terry Took © 2015
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.