The Sack or Expedition of Baltimore by Murad Rais
Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
The 20th of June 1631
History not only tells us about the past, it does influence our present, and surely it will shape our future, on the basis of this very vivid and worthy definition, while recalling our Muslim background history, indeed to our both deep sorrow and much chagrin, the last Muslim bastion in Granada’s Muslim Andalusia fell on the 02nd of January 1492, a red signal for Muslims was in fact launched as Muslims were driven out of Spain by force and those who remained were forced into Christianity and suffered through the horrors of the infamous “Spanish Inquisition”.
It was a catastrophe not felt by the people of other Muslim countries, although those living in neighbouring Morocco and Algeria volunteered to extend a helping hand, subsequently, tempted by their first victories, the Spaniards grew fiercer, and their appetite for conquest dramatically increased.
As a consequence, numberless campaigns were to be launched over many centuries against Muslim towns and villages. Algerian and Moroccan coastal towns were particularly targeted by Portugal and Spain, the Moroccan coastal towns of Sabta, Tangier and Asila were occupied by the former, whereas the Algerian cities of Mers Al Kebir, Bijaya and Oran were occupied by the latter, in Oran and on the 19th of May 1509, an atrocious massacre was perpetrated where over four thousand Muslims were killed in cold blood.
In another major event, many European countries, including Spain, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium joined forces under Charles Quint or Charles V, the king of Spain (1500-1558), blessed and encouraged by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), so came the would be “sack” or expedition of Charles Quint in Algiers on the 24th of October 1541 and went on to besiege the city and tried to take its inhabitants into surrender, Muslim Combatants or Mujahideen from all different ages decided to resist, and Muslim battalions started flocking on the city and engaged in skirmishes against the imperial army and defeated the Italian brigade.
The Spanish army was in shambles and enemy ships sustained direct hits by the Muslim Mujahideen, having been prevented by torrential rains and violent gales from extending support to his ally the Spanish emperor, Andrea advised him to withdraw, which he did.
As a result of this failed expedition by Charles Quint to Algiers, and in view of the continuous menace and threat from the outsider enemy, all Sultans and Commander of Algiers were at bay and in total alert.
Moreover after 90 years of this expedition, the then Rais or Commander of Algiers Murad (a former Dutch captain Muslim convert, Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem) also known as Murad Reis the Younger.
Murad decided to change tactics and from the defensive he went on to the offensive in a bid to thwart all enemy’s pots and to deter any future foreign expeditions, as such In the summer of 1631, exactly on the 20th of June 1631, Baltimore fell victim to a sensational Conquest by Murad’s troops, at that time the population consisted chiefly of settlers from England who had arrived some years earlier to work in the lucrative pilchard fishery under lease from the O'Driscoll chieftain, Sir Fineen O'Driscoll.
Piracy was rife along the shores of West Cork, much of it of a home-grown variety; indeed the settlement's founder, Thomas Crooke, stood accused of involvement himself. However, the danger in this case was from much farther afield.
It was revealed by Historians that the raid’s informer was made by a man called Hackett, the captain of a fishing boat he had captured earlier, in exchange for his freedom. Hackett was subsequently hanged from the cliff top outside the village for his conspiracy.
Murad's crew, made up of Dutchmen, Algerians and Ottoman Turks, launched their covert attack on the remote village on June 20th 1631. They captured 108 English settlers, who worked a pilchard industry in the village, and some local Irish people. The attack was focused on the area of the village known to this day as the Cove.
According to European sources, it was said at most three of them ever saw Ireland again , as one was ransomed almost at once and two others in 1646. Since several others are known to have been still alive in 1646 why they were not ransomed is unclear, it has been argued through the same above sources that Algerians, on the whole, treated household slaves kindly enough and that after fifteen years some may simply have preferred to remain where they were.
Conspiracy theories abound relating to the raid. It has been suggested Sir Walter Coppinger, (a prominent Catholic lawyer and member of the leading Cork family), who had become the dominant power in the area after the death of Sir Thomas Crooke first Baronet, the founder of the English colony, orchestrated the raid to gain control of the village from the local Gaelic chieftain, Fineen O'Driscoll. It was O'Driscoll who had licenced the lucrative pilchard industry in Baltimore to the English settlers.
Nevertheless, it was obvious that the strategy of Murad as a great Warrior and Pirate needs no help in such circumstances and surely he planned the raid without any help.
In the aftermath of the raid, the remaining settlers moved to Skibberreen and Baltimore was virtually deserted for generations.
The incident inspired Thomas Osborne Davis to write his famous poem, The Sack of Baltimore, also a detailed account of the sack of Baltimore can be found in the book The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates by Des Ekin ( see cover Book).
Publication Date: May 2, 2008
In June 1631 pirates from Algiers and armed troops of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, led by the notorious pirate captain Morat Rais, stormed ashore at the little harbour village of Baltimore in West Cork. They captured almost all the villagers and bore them away to a life of slavery in North Africa. The prisoners were destined for a variety of fates - some would live out their days chained to the oars as galley slaves, while others would spend long years in the scented seclusion of the harem or within the walls of the Sultan's palace. The old city of Algiers, with its narrow streets, intense heat and lively trade, was a melting pot where the villagers would join slaves and freemen of many nationalities. Only two of them ever saw Ireland again. The Sack of Baltimore was the most devastating invasion ever mounted by Islamist forces on Ireland or England. Des Ekin's exhaustive research illuminates the political intrigues that ensured the captives were left to their fate, and provides a vivid insight into the kind of life that would have awaited the slaves amid the souks and seraglios of old Algiers. "The Stolen Village" is a fascinating tale of international piracy and culture clash nearly 400 years ago and is the first book to cover this relatively unknown and under-researched incident in Irish history. It was short-listed for the Argosy Irish Non-fiction Book of the Year Award.