William Drimmie
and
The Barbary Pirates

For the western world, "real" piracy emerges from the misty past
in the deeds of the Barbary coast corsairs who plied their evil trade
and perpetrated their wickedness along the Mediterranean coast
and then with ocean going ships, renegade captains, navigators and gunners,
burst out of the Mediterranean, bringing the 'Turkish peril' nearer home.
In France, Italy, Spain and England, redemptionist priests painted lurid pictures
of the sufferings of Christian captives who had fallen into the hands of the Turks.
In 1622 the small town of Barnstaple raised the considerable sum of
two hundred and forty pounds to redeem six local seamen who were said to be
enduring "unspeakable tortures" in Algiers.
The redemptionist racket, based on the myth of the Terrible, Licentious Turk,
gave lucrative employment to a small army of middlemen, lay and ecclesiastical.

In England in 1624 a nation-wide collection was made
but only about a sixth of the seventy thousand raised was used for redemption,
the rest being siphoned off by the Admiralty.
In the 1570's the Burgh of Aberdeen made voluntary contributions
for the relief of Scottish mariners from Ayr and other places
held captive by the Algerines and Turks.

There are many recorded instances of the mariners of Scotland
being held captive by the pirates of the Barbary coast
and the one which is of interest to us took place in the year 1677
this is drawn from the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland and reads:

1677 The Lords of His Majesties Privy Council,
having considered a petition presented to them in behalf of,
Robert Williamsone skipper in Montrose, David Wood his mate,
William Williamsone, Thomas Hog, David Simpsone,
William Drimmie, James Bonar, William Wood,
James Boutchart and John Millar, mariners for themselves
and in name and behalf of the remanant seamen and mariners
of the good ship Issobell of Montrose,
representing that in September last bypast,
they having the fore said ship loaden from Rotchell with salt and Brandy,
were most unfortunately encountered by a Turkish Man of War belonging to Algiers,
and by him carried up to the said port
and ever since detained and imprisoned and barbarously used as slaves
not having the means to ransom or procure their liberty.
And warrant therefore might be granted for a voluntar and charitable contribution
to be collected for ransoming the prisoners with the Turks
and ordains John Gentleman merchant in Montrose to be collectour.

Duncan Fraser in his book, "The Smugglers" has this to say,
"a national subscription was launched to pay their ransome
but by the time the money was raised the master and several of the crew
were dead and the rest had made their escape.
The money was no longer needed for them but still it was put to good use.
There were plenty of other Scottish seamen needing to be ransomed from the Turks.
That problem, however, had been more or less solved by 1707.
By then you could buy a Mediterranean Pass for immunity from those Barbary pirates.
And ships that were bound from Montrose for the Portuguese coast
or the Mediterranean invariably bought one."

We have no knowledge of what actually happened to William Drimmie,
if he survived to return to his home he may be
the William recorded in the year 1702 in the parish records of Bervie
which is only a few miles up the coast from Montrose
and in the Fettercairn parish records in 1722 a William Drimmie's death is recorded.
As to when he was born and to whom the sketchy records which we have
show a William Drummie born to Alexander Drummie and Jonat Donaldson in Dundee in 1658,
the spelling is of no account as at the birth of the next child 1659
the spelling has changed to Drimmie.
As there are no other Williams close enough perhaps we may assume
that these are his parents and close our account at this point.



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Last Update To This Page 27th December 2004
©Alan Mitchell Drummie 2004