Touting 130 years of influence

They anchored undetected outside Baltimore Harbour ‘about a musket shot from the shore’ late in the night of June 19th. They launched their attack on the sleeping village before dawn.

More than 200 armed corsairs crept ashore and upon a signal, torched the thatched roofs of the houses and carried off the terrified inhabitants as they fled their burning beds. In minutes, they had taken more than 100 souls, English settlers all. They herded them back to the ships and bore them away from the shores of Ireland to the slave markets of Algiers.

The raid on Baltimore, immortalized in verse by the poet Thomas Davis, was the worst-ever attack by Barbary corsairs on the British Isles. Very few of the 107 known captives were ever heard of again (three women at most, who were ransomed up to 14 years after their abduction). As for the rest, their fate was certain: they ended their days at the oar as galley slaves or as concubines in North African harems. For his part John Hackett was arrested and hanged on a clifftop outside the village.

It is certainly possible that the Sack of Baltimore was a random event, that for Murat Reis, Baltimore was merely a target of opportunity. More likely, however, the raid was orchestrated by the O’Driscoll clan, who had been displaced by the English planters, or the result of a conspiracy between Reis and the notorious Sir Walter Coppinger, a local attorney, magistrate, and staunch anti-English Catholic who had famously employed both legal and illegal means in an attempt to oust the English settlers from Baltimore and secure it for himself. In the end, whether by happenstance or design, Reis achieved both the O’Driscoll’s and Coppinger’s goals and made a veritable fortune for himself in the process. 

The Sack of Baltimore

By the summer of 1631, the local Irish population had endured an English plantation settlement in Baltimore for more than 30 years. The locals saw the settlers, here to work Roaring Water Bay’s lucrative pilchard fishery, as interlopers, unwelcomed agents of the English crown. To infuriate local sentiments further, the settlers and particularly the settlement’s founder, Thomas Crooke, stood accused of involvement in the piracy rife along the shores of West Cork. Local community leaders had repeatedly challenged the plantation’s legitimacy in court, disputing the validity of the lease under which they operated, but to no avail.

Algiers, in North Africa, was, at the time, the centre of Barbary piracy. Corsairs raided villages across the Mediterranean Sea, capturing sometimes entire populations to be sold, man, woman, and child, in the city’s slave markets. As the pirates grew bolder, they ventured beyond the Mediterranean, seizing ever faster European sailing vessels on the high seas and imprisoning their crews.

The most successful of these corsairs was a renegade Dutchman named Jan Janszoon, who had adopted the moniker Murat Reis. He commanded a fleet that could rival all but the largest navies.

Reis set sail for Ireland in the spring of 1631. Over the course of his 1,000-mile journey, he had seized and burned a number of smaller vessels, imprisoning their crews. A Dungarvan man by the name of John Hackett was the captain of one such ship. In exchange for his freedom, Hackett would pilot Reis and his ships to Baltimore.

Murat Reis (also know as Jan Janszoon)

Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, alias Murat Reis, was perhaps the most notorious of the Barbary pirates and the perpetrator of the Sack of Baltimore. 

Born in Haarlem, Holland sometime around 1570, little is known of Janszoon’s early life. It wasn’t until around 1600 that he appears on the scene as a p sailing from his home port of to harass Spanish shipping during the Eighty Years' War under the auspices of the Dutch crown. 

In 1618, shipwrecked in Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, he found himself captive of Soliman Reys a fellow Dutchman who had turned to piracy and had risen to command a vast fleet from the Barbary “capital” of Algiers.

Imprisoned in Algiers, Janszoon "turned Turk”. Converting to Islam, he adopted the name Murat Reis, “Captain Ambition”. Although he likely converted as a way to save himself from a life as a galley slave, Reis embraced the religion and lived to become a passionate Muslim missionary.

Freed from slavery, he relocated to Salé, in what is now Morrocco, he became a full-fledged Barbary corsair.

From Salé, he attacked ships of every foreign state using false flag tactics, quickly becoming “Reis” or leader of the pirate nest, commanding a fleet of sixteen or seventeen ships.

He eventually returned with his fleet to Algiers and from there he launched ever bolder attacks on shipping beyond the confines of the Mediterranean. Using larger and much faster European-built ships he tormented shipping up and down the Atlantic coast and as far afield as Iceland where he raided villages in search of slaves.

 He captured the island of Lunin the in 1627, holding it for five years and using it as a base for raiding expeditions. He held his prisoners on Lundy before sending them on to the slave markets of

It was in the spring of 1631, off the southern coast of Ireland, that Reis seized a ship under the command of a man named John Hackett. In return for his freedom, Hackett would guide Reis and his ships to Baltimore.

There, in the early morning hours of June 20th, Reis invaded and captured more than 100 men, women and children. Hackett was later hanged for his treachery.

Then, in 1635, near the Tunisian coast, Reis’ luck ran out. Ambushed and outnumbered by the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian military force, he found himself languishing in the notorious dark dungeons of Malta for five years until a massive attack by fellow Corsairs finally freed him. He returned to Morocco broken and in ill health, but a hero. 

As a reward for his service, he was appointed as Governor of the great fortress of Oualidia, near Safi He relocated his home to the Castle of Maladia. That same year the ship “Gelderlandt” arrived from Holland on a diplomatic mission. On board was Reis’ daughter from a Dutch marriage, Lysbeth. When Lysbeth arrived, she found Reis feeble from his captivity, but "seated in great pomp on a carpet, with silk cushions, the servants all around him".  Lysbeth spent some months with her father before returning to Holland. 

Little is known of Reis’ fate thereafter. Rumours circulate that he died at the end of a sword, though, more likely, he ended his days immersed in opulence under the care of his large harem. The date of his death is not known. 

The Familial Link Between Murat Reis and Some of the Most Prominent Families in America

Anthony’s daughter Eva Antonis married Ferdinandus van Sycklin, an original immigrant to New Netherlands for whom Van Siclen Avenue in Brooklyn is named. They are the ninth great grandparents of Humphrey Bogart.

Sara, who married John Emans, was the fifth great grandmother of Warren G. Harding, the 29th US President.

Anthony Janszoon van Salee, Murat Reis’ fourth son by a Moorish wife named Margarita, grew up with his parents on the Barbary Coast before emigrating as a very wealthy man to America (quite possibly as the first Muslim to settle in the New World). Anthony was an original founder and prominent landowner in what is now New York City. He had extensive landholdings in Manhattan as well as Brooklyn. He also founded settlements on Coney Island and Long Island.

Anthony had four daughters:

Annica, the eldest, married Thomas Southard, a farm hand on her father’s farm. She would become the great, great-great-grandmother of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. One of Cornelius’ great-great-granddaughters was fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, whose son, Anderson Cooper is a well-known TV presenter in America. Another of Cornelius’ fourth great grandsons is actor Timothy Olyphant.  

Dún na Séad Castle

Dún na Séad castle was built in 1215 and has had a long and fascinating history. It fell into a ruined state in the middle of the seventeenth century, however, and remained a ruin until recent works of restoration, which began in 1997 and continued until 2005, made it habitable once again. The following is a brief account of its history to the present day.

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On a misty morning in May 1915 the Cunard liner Lusitania passed eastwards off Baltimore on course for her fateful encounter with the submarine U-20 which was to shape the course of World War I. The Lusitania is the most famous shipwreck off West Cork, but she is far from the only one.

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‘Pride of Baltimore’

A somewhat special relationship exists between the two Baltimores on opposite sides of the Atlantic — Baltimore, West Cork and Baltimore, Maryland. In May 1985 an official proclamation was issued by the mayor of Baltimore MD, William Donal Schaeffer, sending greetings through an unusual ambassador — the sailing schooner Pride of Baltimore.

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