George Lowther and Richard Worley
Story by Lois Carol Wheatley
George Lowther was Second Mate aboard the Gambia Castle, a slave ship commanded by Captain Charles Russell. Apparently the captain took better care of the slaves than he did of the crew and, according to one version of the story, Lowther tried to turn that around, maybe make some improvements in circumstances for some of the sick men. An enraged captain set about beating Lowther, inspiring an uprising that put Lowther in charge.
Another version is that Lowther actively encouraged mutiny but more than 100 members of the crew failed to support him. Once in charge, Lowther left those men on a desolate African shore and nearly three-quarters of them died of fever within a year.
When Lowther assumed command of the Gambia Castle, he renamed the ship Delivery and began assaulting other ships. The crew wanted to raid a village and Lowther objected, thinking it too risky. This split of opinion created a second mutiny, and Lowther and his group of loyalists moved to a smaller ship they called the Happy Delivery.
Now he focused on the Carolinas and his fleet grew to include several ships, one of them commanded by Edward Low. An attempt to take a British ship went so badly that Lowther ran his ship ashore in order to escape. This happened again in 1722, when the Eagle, commanded by Walter Moore, ran him ashore, chased down his men fleeing on foot, and beat them severely.
A search party found Lowther's dead body on the beach with an empty pistol in hand. He'd taken his own life rather than be captured and tried.
This fellow went down in history as the first to fly a proper skull-and-crossbones flag, rather than some of those other more cluttered designs. It's a real shame no Betsy Ross has ever come forward to take full credit.
Worley and eight other men launched their criminal careers by heisting some household goods from a ship anchored in the Delaware River. Law enforcement officers considered this mere burglary and, since Worley aspired to piracy, he had to escalate his efforts. He commandeered a sloop and set sail for the Bahamas where he did remarkably well, possibly due to the clear and unmistakable message sent by his snappy new flag.
He returned to the coast and that's where the waters get murky. By one account he tried to block the harbor at Jamestown, Virginia, cornering four ships he believed were merchants. Unfortunately they were warships and disabled his ship with cannon fire followed by a militia raid. The pirates were killed except for Worley and one other guy, who were tried and hanged the next day, on February 17, 1719.
In another version of the story, he was killed in the fight and 25 of his men were hanged at White Point in Charles Town, South Carolina.
Terms: North Carolina Pirates, William Kidd
Information on North Carolina Pirate William Kidd.