In addition to Red Legs Greaves, there have been several other famous Irish pirates and two of them were women! Edward England, Edward Jordan, Walter Kennedy, Anne Bonny and Grace O’Malley are the most famous.
Born in Ireland as Edward Seegar sometime around 1685 He was probably raised as a Catholic. He was said to be an educated man. Seegar changed his surname to England when he turned pirate. England made his way to Jamaica and became a mate on a sloop. He was captured by the pirate captain Christopher Winter and forced to join the crew. Winter most likely took England to the pirate base on Nassau, Bahamas, for England is next reported as Charles Vane’s quartermaster, in March, 1718. Vane’s sloop, the Lark was captured by the Royal Navy, but England and the rest of the crew were released to induce the other pirates of Nassau to accept the King’s pardon. He was a famous African coast and Indian Ocean pirate captain from 1717 to 1720. The ships he sailed on included the Pearl (which he renamed The Royal James) and later the Fancy, for which England exchanged the Pearl in 1720. His flag was the classic Jolly Roger with a skull above two crossed thigh bones on a black background.
Edward Jordan (1771–1809) was an Irish rebel, fisherman and pirate in Nova Scotia. He was typical of the violent but short-lived pirates in the 19th century following the end of “Golden Age of Piracy” in the 18th century. Born in County Carlow, Ireland, he took part in the Irish rebellions of 1797-98 but was pardoned and attempted to start a new life as a fisherman in Nova Scotia. On 13 September 1809, desperate to avoid debts, he slaughtered the crew of a merchant who came to seize the schooner he owned named Three Sisters. However the captain, John Stairs, managed to escape overboard to be rescued by a passing fishing schooner and survived to spread the alarm. A few weeks later the Royal Navy schooner HMS Cuttle captured Jordan. He was convicted of piracy and executed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His body was covered in tar and hanged from chains in an iron cage called a gibbet at Black Rock Beach in Point Pleasant as a warning to others. His gibbet joined those of four other across the harbour on McNabs Island who had been executed for mutiny aboard the brig HMS Columbine in the same year. His skull was eventually deposited at the Nova Scotia Museum. It was recently displayed in the exhibit “Pirates: Myth and Reality” at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, serving as a grim reminder of the reality of piracy.
Walter Kennedy (ca. 1695 – July 21, 1721) was an English pirate who served as a crew member under Howell Davis and Bartholomew Roberts. Kennedy served in the Royal Navy during the War of Spanish Succession, where he heard tales of pirates from Henry Morgan to Henry Every, and dreamed of becoming a pirate himself. He was a crew member on the sloop-of-war Buck, part of the fleet that Woodes Rogers took to the Bahamas in 1718 to suppress piracy there. Woodes sent the Buck to Havana with a letter for the Spanish governor assuring that official that he was not a pirate, but was in Nassau to suppress piracy. Some recently pardoned pirates were added to the crew of the Buck, and before it reached Havana they, along with some of the original crew, including Kennedy, mutinied, killing the captain, Jonathan Bass, and other crew members who did not join the mutiny. Howell Davis, another mutineer, was elected captain. Kennedy was with Davis on the island of Principe when his party was ambushed by the Portuguese. He was the only member of the shore party to escape back to the ship alive. With Davis dead, Bartholomew Roberts was elected as his successor. When Roberts and forty of the crew chased a possible prize in a captured sloop off the coast of Surinam, Kennedy was left in charge of Roberts’ ship, the Royal Rover, and a large part of its crew. He took advantage of this to abandon Roberts and proclaim himself captain. Kennedy headed for Ireland, but having no skill in navigation landed on the north-west coast of Scotland instead. Seventeen of the crew were arrested near Edinburgh and put on trial for piracy, with nine of them being hanged. Kennedy himself was able to reach London where he is said to have kept a brothel in the Deptford Road. When one of his prostitutes accused him of theft, he was sent to the Bridewell Prison, where he was denounced as a pirate by the mate of a ship he had taken. Kennedy was transferred to the Marshalsea prison and put on trial for piracy. He was hanged at Execution Dock on July 21, 1721.
Anne Bonny was born on March 8, 1702 birth name Anne Cormac, in Kinsale County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of a servant woman, Mary Brennan, and her employer, lawyer William Cormac. Official records and contemporary letters dealing with her life are scarce and most modern knowledge stems from Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates (a contemporary collection of pirate biographies, the first edition accurate, the second much embellished). Bonny’s family travelled to the new world very early on in her life; at first the family had a rough start in their new home. Her mother died shortly after they arrived in North America. Her father attempted to establish himself as an attorney, but did not do well. Eventually, Bonny’s father joined the more profitable merchant business and accumulated a substantial fortune. It is recorded she had red hair and was considered a “good catch”, but may have had a fiery temper; at aged 13 she supposedly stabbed a servant girl with a table knife. She married a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny. James Bonny hoped to win possession of his father-in-law’s estate, but Anne was disowned by her father. There is a story that Bonny set fire to her father’s plantation in retaliation; but no evidence exists in support. However, it is known that sometime between 1714 and 1718, she and James Bonny moved to Nassau, on New Providence Island; known as a sanctuary for English pirates. Many inhabitants received a “King’s Pardon” or otherwise evaded the law. It is also recorded that after the arrival of Governor Woodes Rogers in the summer of 1718, James Bonny became an informant for the governor. While in the Bahamas, Bonny began mingling with pirates in the local taverns. She met Jack “Calico Jack” Rackham, captain of the pirate sloop Revenge, and became his mistress. They had a child in Cuba, who eventually took the name of Cunningham. Many different theories state that he was left with his family or simply abandoned. Bonny rejoined Rackham and continued the pirate life, having divorced her husband and marrying Rackham while at sea. Bonny and Rackham escaped to live together as pirates. Bonny, Rackham, and Mary Read stole the Revenge, then at anchor in Nassau harbour, and put out to sea. Rackham and the two women recruited a new crew. Rackham’s crew spent a lot of time in Jamaica and the surrounding area. Over the next several months, they were enjoyed success, capturing many, albeit smaller, vessels and bringing in an abundance of treasure. Bonny did not disguise herself as a man aboard the Revenge as is often claimed. She took part in combat alongside the men, and the accounts of her exploits present her as competent, effective in combat, and respected by her shipmates. Her name and gender were known to all from the start. Governor Rogers had named them in a “Wanted Pirates” circular published in the continent’s only newspaper, The Boston News-Letter. Although Bonny has historical renown as a female Caribbean pirate, she never commanded a ship of her own. In October 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a “King’s ship”, a sloop captained by Jonathan Barnet under a commission from the Governor of Jamaica. Most of Rackham’s pirates did not put up much resistance as many of them were too drunk to fight; other sources indicate it was at night and most of them were asleep; however, Read, Bonny, and an unknown man fought fiercely and managed to hold off Barnet’s troops for a short time. Rackham and his crew were taken to Jamaica, where they were convicted and sentenced by the Governor of Jamaica to be hanged. According to Johnson, Bonny’s last words to the imprisoned Rackham were that she was “sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang’d like a Dog.” After being sentenced, Read and Bonny both “pleaded their bellies”: asking for mercy because they were pregnant. In accordance with English common law, both women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. Read died in prison, most likely from a fever, though it has been alleged that she died during childbirth. There is no historical record of Bonny’s release or of her execution. This has fed speculation that her father ransomed her; that she might have returned to her husband, or even that she resumed a life of piracy under a new identity.
Grace O’Malley (c. 1530 – c. 1603; also Gráinne O’Malley, Irish: Gráinne Ní Mháille) was Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille clan following in the footsteps of her father Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille. Upon his death, she inherited his large shipping and trading business (sometimes accused of being a piracy trade). The income from this business, the land inherited from her mother, and the property and holdings from her first husband, Dónal an Chogaidh Ó Flaithbheartaigh, allowed her to become very wealthy (reportedly owning as much as 1000 head of cattle and horses). In 1593, when her sons, Tibbot Burke and Murrough O’Flaherty, and her half-brother, Donal-na-Piopa, were taken captive by the English governor of Connacht, Sir Richard Bingham, O’Malley sailed to England to petition Elizabeth I for their release. She formally presented her request to Elizabeth at her court in Greenwich Palace.Many folk stories and legends about O’Malley have survived since her actual days of pirating and trading. There are also traditional songs and poems about her.
A widespread legend concerns an incident at Howth, which apparently occurred in 1576. During a trip from Dublin, O’Malley attempted to pay a courtesy visit to Howth Castle, home of Lord Howth. However, she was informed that the family was at dinner and the castle gates were closed against her. In retaliation, she abducted the Earl’s grandson and heir, Christopher St Lawrence, 10th Baron Howth. He was eventually released when a promise was given to keep the gates open to unexpected visitors and to set an extra place at every meal. Lord Howth gave her a ring as pledge on the agreement. The ring remains in the possession of a descendant of O’Malley and, at Howth Castle today, this agreement is still honoured by the Gaisford St. Lawrence family, descendants of the Baron. (Commemorating these events, there is in Howth a street of 1950s local council housing named ‘Grace O’Malley Road’.) The legendary reason for O’Malley seizure of Doona Castle in Ballycroy was that the MacMahons, who owned the castle, killed her lover, Hugh de Lacy, the shipwrecked son of a Wexford merchant she had rescued. When the guilty members of the MacMahon clan landed on the holy island of Caher for a pilgrimage, O’Malley captured their boats. She and her men then captured the MacMahons and killed those responsible for her lover’s death. Still not satisfied with her revenge, O’Malley then sailed for Ballycroy and attacked the garrison at Doona Castle, overpowering the defenders and taking the castle for herself. Her attack against the MacMahons was not the first time she interrupted someone at their prayers. Legend tells of another chieftain who stole property from O’Malley and fled to a church for sanctuary. She was determined to wait out the thief, maintaining that he could starve or surrender. The thief dug a tunnel and escaped, however, and the hermit who took care of the church broke his vow of silence to scold her for attempting to harm someone who had sought sanctuary. Her reply is not included in the legend. More than 20 years after her death, an English lord deputy of Ireland recalled her ability as a leader of fighting men, noting her fame and favour that still existed among the Irish people.