Infamous Pirates > George Lowther

George Lowther

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Background

George Lowther (Unknown - 1723) was a 18th century pirate who operated in the West Indies and the Atlantic colonies of England. He is known for helping spawn the career and share the same copy of the pirate code with Edward Low who he partnered with during his early career. Like all pirates, not much is known about George Lowther before he was made second mate aboard the slaving ship Gambia Castle under the command of Charles Russell.

Infamous Pirates - George Lowther

George Lowther - A General History of Pyrates (1725)

However as like with all captains who care more for their cargo than their crew there started to breed discontent aboard the ship. Lowther was very popular with the crew and one time when the captain decided to have him flogged many people stood up for him. This bred even more distrust among the group. Lowther partnered with a British Captain Massey along with his company of soldiers in order to overtake the vessel.

Massey wanted to return to England, however Lowther and his group had other ideas. One night while Captain Russell was off ship Massey and Lowther set sail without him. Lowther was made captain by a vote and renamed the ship Delivery. The two groups captured many ships, however when Massey wanted to use his troops to invade a village he was outnumbered and lost the vote. Lowther obtained a smaller ship and named it the Happy Delivery before parting company with Massey and his soldiers.

Lowther abandoned the coast of Africa and instead went to the Carolinas where he developed the tactic of ramming his ship into another one. Then his men would board the ship and loot it. Around 1721 he was next in the Cayman Islands where he ran into the ship the Greyhound that was captained by Benjamin Edwards. As Lowther shot cannons off the bow as a warning shot the >Greyhound responded with a full fledged broadside attack. After a lengthy engagement the pirates then boarded the Greyhound and beat the entire crew before taking them captive and burning the ship.

Once aboard the pirate ship Lowther offered the sailors a tankard of rum and gave them the option to join his pirate crew. A man named Charles Harris accepted and would become one of the most prominent pirates in the group. At this point it is known Lowther had multiple ships at his command. Harris was eventually given command of one of the ships within Lowther's fleet and the two continued to pirate together. However, when he sailed his fleet through Guatemala he was attacked by native Amerindians and forced to abandon some crew and ships. All the remaining crew and supplies were transferred to a ship called the Revenge and in 1722 the crew sailed to a secluded island named La Blanquilla.

Infamous Pirates - George Lowther - George Lowther 1725

George Lowther - A General History of Pyrates (1725)

Lowther is known to have one of the only copies of authentic pirate codes to survive via A General History of Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. He shares this copy with his partner Edward Low who may very well have been part of his fleet for some confrontations. His pirate code is as follows:

I. The Captain is to have two full Shares; the [quarter] Master is to have one Share and one Half; The Doctor, Mate, Gunner and Boatswain, one Share and one Quarter.

II. He that shall be found guilty of taking up any Unlawfull Weapon on Board the Privateer or any other prize by us taken, so as to Strike or Abuse one another in any regard, shall suffer what Punishment the Captain and the Majoirty of the Company shall see fit.

III. He that shall be found Guilty of Cowardice in the time of Ingagements, shall suffer what Punishment the Captain and the Majority of the Company shall think fit.

IV. If any Gold, Jewels, Silver, etc. be found on Board of any Prize or Prizes to the value of a Piece of Eight, & the finder do not deliver it to the Quarter Master in the space of 24 hours he shall suffer what Punishment the Captain and the Majority of the Company shall think fit.

V. He that is found Guilty of Gaming, or Defrauding one another to the value of a Ryal of Plate, shall suffer what Punishment the Captain and the Majority of the Company shall think fit.

VI. He that shall have the Misfortune to loose a Limb in time of Engagement, shall have the Sum of Six hundred pieces of Eight, and remain aboard as long as he shall think fit.

VII. Good Quarters to be given when Craved.

VIII. He that sees a Sail first, shall have the best Pistol or Small Arm aboard of her.

IX. He that shall be guilty of Drunkenness in time of Engagement shall suffer what Punishment the Captain and Majority of the Company shall think fit.

X. No Snaping of Guns in the Hould.

Eventual Fate

As soon as they were about to dock, Lowther and his crew spotted the British man-of-war named the HMS Eagle. Lowther managed to climb out of his cabin window and escape to sea along with a dozen of his crew. Only four made it to shore from the long and tiring swim as most pirates ironically did not know how to swim. Lowther managed to make it ashore and from here no one really knows what happened to him next. After an extensive search by the soldiers they claimed they finally recovered his body. According to the authorities narrative, Lowther had realized his predicament and instead of being taken prisoner he shot himself in the head.

George Lowther - George Lowther (1888 Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Card)

George Lowther - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

However, the only known copy of the Post-Boy newspaper to report on the subject in existence suggests on 2 May 1724 that Lowther did not die in 1723 actually and gives some wonder to the claims of the soldiers that found his body. Owned by Eric Bjotvedt, it reads:

The last Letters from S. Christopher bring Advice, that on the 20th of February, the Eagle Sloop, h ted out from that Island, had brought in thither the Pyrate Sloop she had taken from Lowther, with twenty of the Men that were on board, (Lowther himself and many of the Crew having made their Escape) and it was believed that twelve or thirteen of them would be convicted of Pyracy, and that the others would be clear’d, as being forced into the said Pyrates Service.

Overall much like many of the pirates of the Post Spanish Succession Period he follows the typical model of either being caught by the authorities or disappearing completely, as his other pals Edward Low and Francis Spriggs had done.

Edward Low & Associates

Sources

Primary Sources

Johnson, C. (1724). A General History of the Pyrates (2nd Edition, Volume I). London, Great Britain: T. Warner.

Johnson, C. (1724). General History of the Pyrates (2nd Edition Volume I) - Chapter XII, Of Captain George Lowther and his Crew. London, Great Britain: T. Warner.

Secondary Sources

Johnson, C., & Fraser, C. L. (1922). Pirates..the Lives and Adventures of Sundry Notorious Pirates. New York: R.M. McBride and Company.