Biography of Pirate George Lowther:
George Lowther was an English sailor and pirate captain. He was active in piracy from 1721 to 1723. His ultimate fate is not known for certain, although he likely died marooned on a desert island.
Lowther Sails to Africa:
Sometime in late 1720 or early 1721, the Gambia Castle, a medium-sized English Man of War, sailed to Africa. On board were some 30 sailors, including Second Mate George Lowther and Captain Charles Russel. The Gambia Castle was bringing a contingent of soldiers to garrison a small castle on the African coast: these soldiers were commanded by a man named John Massey. The Gambia Castle arrived at their destination in May of 1721.
Once the ship arrived, the trouble began almost immediately. Captain Massey was aghast at the conditions he and his men were supposed to live in. Merchants – mostly slavers – were supposed to provide food and supplies for the soldiers, but the traders didn't like the expense and brought insufficient supplies (and low quality ones at that). Meanwhile, Lowther had fallen out with Captain Russel. It didn’t take much for Lowther to convince the men to turn pirate, and to convince Massey and his soldiers to join them.
Lowther Turns Pirate:
Lowther and Massey conspired to capture the Royal Gambia, and most of the sailors and soldiers were with them. They agreed to turn pirate and renamed the ship Delivery. They drew up pirate articles and everyone swore to them. The articles included punishments for cowardice, fighting on board the ship and cheating as well as how to divide duties and loot. It also called for extra loot for those who lost a limb in battle. Lowther's code is important to historians, as it is one of only a few that has survived to this day.
The Company Splits:
The Delivery had been attacking merchant ships for about a month or so in June of 1721 when tensions arose between Lowther and Massey. Massey wanted to land and attack French settlements, while Lowther preferred to stick to the sea. The men took sides, and it looked for a while like the pirates might fight it out on the ship, but then they spied and captured a small ship. This solved the problem, as Massey and his men were given the ship. Massey sailed to Jamaica, where he turned himself in to the governor and pleaded for mercy, offering to go and hunt Lowther down. Instead, he was tried and hanged for piracy.
Lowther and Low:
Meanwhile, Lowther had made his way to the Caribbean, where he was terrorizing shipping off of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Honduras. Around Christmas of 1721, they met up with a small ship of pirates led by Edward Low
. Low and his men impressed Lowther, who invited them as a group to join his force. They agreed, and Low was made a lieutenant. Together they took several ships in the Bay of Honduras and soon they had a small fleet. On May 28, 1722, Low and Lowther decided to part ways. It seems that the parting was friendly, although it's likely that Lowther was relieved to be rid of the ambitious Low.
Death of George Lowther:
Lowther and his men spent most of 1723 engaged in piracy, first off of Newfoundland and then in the Caribbean. Sometime that October, they needed to clean the ship's hull, so they put in at dry, remote Blanquilla Island (currently part of Venezuela). While their ship was careened, they were spotted by the Eagle, a well-armed merchant ship. Assuming (correctly) that the careened ship was a pirate, the Eagle attacked. The pirates scattered, hiding in the trees and brush. The Eagle captured some of the pirates, but Lowther and some others eluded them, as they did some Spanish sent to search for them. Lowther was never captured: anecdotal evidence suggests he shot himself on the island.
Legacy of George Lowther:
Lowther was good at what he did, namely, piracy. Unlike many (if not most) of his contemporaries, there is little to suggest that he was needlessly cruel in the treatment of his victims (although he could be hard on crews and captains that had tried to fight or flee when he caught them). He terrorized shipping lanes for about two years, which is a pretty good amount of time for a pirate. He had perhaps the greatest impact on the world by setting up Edward Low in piracy: Low would go on to a much more distinguished career than his mentor. Lowther has not captured the popular imagination today in the way that some other pirates such as Blackbeard or William Kidd have, in spite of the fact that he had a "better" career than either of them.
Defoe, Daniel (Captain Charles Johnson). A General History of the Pyrates. Edited by Manuel Schonhorn. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1972/1999.