The likes of Blackbeard, Ching Shih and Black Bart are well known for their piracy on the high seas, but there is one buccaneer who’s often forgotten in the annals of history. His name? Edward Low. His reputation? Terrifying.
After a youth of petty crime, thievery and generally acting like a thug in London, he went first to the New World in 1710 and then to sea on a ship chartered for Honduras in 1714. Employed as a woodcutter, Low and his colleagues eventually got tired of manual labour and decided the best course of action was to aim a musket at their captain’s head. Somehow Low missed and his punishment, along with a dozen other mutineers, was exile. Marooned on a small rowing boat, it wasn’t long until Low assumed sole charge, and his first act was to take over the nearest ship. He and his band of followers had embraced a life of piracy.
One of the most daring raids undertaken by Low was the capture of 13 fishing vessels in Port Roseway in 1723. The fisherman surrendered almost instantly, frightened of the consequences if they put up any resistance. This suited Low down to the ground as he had always been savvy enough to realise that battle was only drawn if absolutely necessary. The plunder taken by the pirates included an 80-ton schooner by the name of Fancy. This event was early in his pirate career and only enhanced his notoriety.
Low’s exploits were fast becoming too much to ignore. Despite a rule of never hurting women and reportedly missing his daughter dearly, it was clear that the caption was turning into a psychopath. It says a lot that Low was so well known in the Caribbean, a renowned pirate hotbed in the Golden Age of Piracy. This was down to his brutality against the men he captured, which often involved mutilating and even burning alive prisoners. Edward Low wasn’t content with his captives walking the plank and was much more brutal in his methods. Perhaps his most terrible torture was cutting a rival captain’s lips off, cooking them and then feeding them back to him. Low didn’t just burn ships he didn’t need; he’d tie the crew to the ship, and then burn it. However, his taste for violence would get the better of him in the end.
10 June 1723 was not a good day for the biggest and baddest pirate of them all. The authorities had now had quite enough of his buccaneering and dispatched the warship HMS Greyhound to rid the waters of his evil once and for all. The 29-gun English ship almost pummelled Fancy into oblivion, with Captain Low and a skeleton crew managing to escape. The defeat enraged him but for once his crew stood up against his ghastly treatment and turned the tables on their captain, leaving him for dead marooned on an island. Things get a bit hazy from here on out and after 1724, the records of one of the most fearsome pirates of all time cease. It is believed that he either died on the island or was found by the French and promptly executed. A cruel end fitting of a cruel man.