Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This Day in Pirate History

Today is the 290th anniversary of the death of Richard Worley, an English pirate of note for being one of the first to fly a skull and crossbones flag.

Worley set out from New York in a small boat with a skeleton crew of eight men, scored some loot along the east coast, picked up a few more crew members, and headed for the Bahamas.

It was about this time that King George I issued a proclamation ordering the execution of any pirate who refused his generous offer of royal pardons, a threat backed up by the departure of the 24-gun HMS Phoenix, sent to the Caribbean to hunt pirates.

Worley and his crew managed to evade the Phoenix, and signed a set of articles that included a pledge to fight to the death if captured. Worley decided to head back to the colonial waters that were proving so lucrative for the likes of Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet. The governor of North Carolina got wind of his plans, and sent out two warships to intercept him.

Unfortunately, Worley mistook the two warships for merchant ships and tried to block their entry to Jamestown harbor, effectively removing his avenue of escape. All hands were killed in the battle, save Worley and one other crewman. Worley was injured, and the authorities wanted to be sure his sentence was carried out before he died of his wounds. He was sentenced to be hanged the following day, February 17, 1719. Let us remember our fallen brother on this day!

Fly your own skull and crossbones in his honor:


  1. I must respectfully disagree with your analysis.

    Emmanuel Wynn, a Frenchman, is the person who should get credit for flying the first Jolly Roger. In fact, British records confirm this to be true. On July 18, 1700, the HMS Poole recorded in her records that it engaged Wynn's ship off the Cape Verde Islands.

    That's a good 18 years before Worley!

    Wynn's flag had the skull and bones on it over an hour glass to indicate that time was running out and only surrender could help escape death.


  2. To be fair, the post does say "one of the first," not THE first. But, aye, eighteen years is a long time, and I doff my tricorn to ye researchings. So to clarify, "this day" in pirate history is the death of Worley, not the first flying of the skull and crossbones (also: not all "Jolly Rogers" had the skull and bones motif... I'll post on that soon). I was just excited that I had something to note on a specific date on the second day of me blog. Most piratical happenings are not known to the day, and sometimes not even to the year!