A General History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

An Account of the Pyracies and Murders committed by Philip Roche, &c.

Philip Roche was born in Ireland, and from his Youth had been bred up to the Sea; he was a brisk genteel Fellow, of 30 Years of Age at the Time of his Death; one whose black and savage Nature did no ways answer the Comliness of his Person, his Life being almost one continued Scene of Villany, before he was discovered to have committed the horrid Murders we are now speaking of.

This inhumane Monster had been concerned with others, in insuring Ships to a great Value, and then destroying them; by which Means, and other Rogueries, he had got a little Money; and being Mate of a Ship, was dilligent enough in trading for himself between Ireland and France, so that he was in a Way of getting himself a comfortable Livelihood: But, as he resolved to be rich, and finding fair Dealing brought in Wealth but slowly, he contriv'd to put other Things in Execution, and certainly had murthered several innocent Persons in the Prosecution of his abominable Schemes; but as I have now forgot the particular Circumstances of those Relations, I shall confine my self at present to the Fact for which he suffer'd.

Roch getting acquainted with one Neal, a Fisherman at Cork, whom he found ready for any villainous Attempt, he imparted his Design to him, who being pleas'd with the Project, brings one Pierce Cullen and his Brother into the Confederacy, together with one Wise, who at first was very unwilling to come into their Measures, and, indeed, had the least Hand in the Perpetration of what follows.

They pitch'd upon a Vessel in the Harbour, belonging to Peter Tartoue, a French Man, to execute their cruel Intentions upon, because it was a small one, and had not a great Number of Hands on Board, and ’twas easy afterwards to exchange it for one more fit for Pyracy; and therefore they apply'd themselves to the Master of her, for a Passage to Nantz, whereto the Ship was bound; and accordingly, the Beginning of November 1721, they went aboard; and when at Sea, Philip Roche being an experienced Sailor, the Master of the Vessel readily trusted him with the Care of her, at times, while he and the Mate went to rest.

The 15th of November, at Night, was the Time designed for the Tragedy; but Francis Wise relented, and appear'd desirous to divert them from their bloody Purposes. Roche (sometimes called Captain) told him, That as Cullen and he had sustained great Losses at Sea, unless every Irishman present would assist in repairing their Losses, by murthering all the French Rogues, and running away with the Ship, he should suffer the same Fate with the French Men; but if all would assist, all should have a Share in the Booty. Upon this, they all resolved alike, and Captain Roche ordered three Frenchmen and a Boy up to hand the Topsails, the Master and Mate being then asleep in their Cabins, The two first that came down, they beat out their Brains and threw them over-board: The other two seeing what was done, ran up to the Topmast Head, but Cullen followed them, and taking the Boy by the Arm, tost him into the Sea; then driving down the Man, those below knocked him on the Head, and threw him over-board.

Those who were asleep, being awakened by the dismal Skrieks and Groans of dying Men, ran upon Deck in Confusion, to enquire into the Cause of such unusual Noises; but the same Cruelty was immediately acted towards them, e'er they could be sensible of the Danger that threat'ned them.

They were now (as Roche himself afterwards confess'd) all over as wet with the Blood that had been spilt, as if they had been dipp'd in Water, or stood in a Shower of Rain, nor did they regard it any more. Roche said, Captain Tartoue used many Words for Mercy, and asked them, if he had not used them with Civility and Kindness? If they were not of the same Christian Religion, and owned the same blessed Jesus, and the like? But they, not regarding what he said, took Cords and bound the poor Master and his Mate Back to Back, and while that was doing, both of them begged with the utmost Earnestness, and used the most solemn Intreaties, that they would at least allow them a few Minutes to say their Prayers, and beg Mercy of God for the various Sins and Offences of their Lives: But it did not move them, (though all the rest were dead, and no Danger could be apprehended from them two alone) for the bound Persons were hurry'd up and thrown into the Sea.

The Massacre being finished, they washed themselves a little from the Blood, and searched the Chests and Lockers, and all Places about the Ship, and then set down in the Captain's Cabin, and refreshed themselves with some Rum they found there, and (as Roche confessed) were never merrier in their Lives. They invested Roche with the Command of the Ship, and calling him Captain, talked over their Liquor, what rare Actions they would perform about Cape Briton, Sable Isle, and the Banks of Newfoundland, whither they designed to go as soon as they had recruited their Company, and got a better Ship, which they proposed speedily to do.

Roche taking upon himself the Command of the Vessel, Andrew Cullen was to pass for a Merchant or Super-cargo; but when they bethought themselves, that they were in Danger of being discovered by the Papers of the Ship, relating to the Cargo, as Bills of Lading, &c. therefore they erase and take out the Name of the French Master, and instead thereof, inserted the Name of Roche, so that it stood in the Ship's Papers, Peter Roche Master; that then having so few Hands on Board, they contrived if they met any Ships, to give out, that they had lost some Hands by their being washed overboard in a Storm, and by that Means screen themselves from being suspected of having committed some such wicked Act, by Reason of the Fewness of their Hands on Board; and also might prevail with some Ship to spare them some, on Consideration of their pretended Disaster.

In going to Cales they were in Distress by the Weather, and being near Lisbon, they made Complaint to a Ship, but obtained no Assistance. They were then obliged to sail back for England, and put into the Port of Dartmouth; but then they were in fear least they might be discovered, therefore to prevent that, they resolve to alter the Ship, and getting Workmen, they take down the Mizzen-Mast, and build a Spar Deck, and made Rails, (on pretence that the Sailors had been wash'd overboard) to secure the Men. Then they took down the Image of St. Peter at the Head of the Ship, and put up a Lion in its Place, and painted over the Stern of the Ship with Red, and new nam'd her the Mary Snow. The Ship being thus alter'd that they thought it could not be known, they fancy'd themselves pretty secure; but wanting Money to defray the Charge of these Alterations, Roche, as Master of the Vessel, and Andrew Cullen, as Merchant, apply themselves to the Officers of the Customs for Liberty to dispose of some of the Cargo, in order to pay the Workmen; which they having obtained, they sold fifty eight Barrels of Beef, and having hired three more Hands, they set Sail for Ostend, and there having sold more Barrels of Beef, they steer their Course to Rotterdam, dispose of the rest of the Cargo, and took in one Mr. Annesly, who freighted the Ship for England; but in their Passage, in a stormy Night, it being very dark, they took up Mr. Annesly their Passenger, and threw him into the Sea, who swam about the Ship a pretty while, calling out for Life, and telling them they should have all his Goods, if they would receive him again into the Vessel: But in vain were his Cries!

After this, they were obliged to put into several Ports, and by contrary Winds, came to the Coast of France, and hearing there was an Enquiry made after the Ship, Roche quits her at Havre de Grace, and leaves the Management to Cullen and the rest; who having shipp'd other Men, sail'd away to Scotland, and there quitted the Vessel, which was afterwards seized and brought into the River of Thames.

Some Time after this, Philip Roche came to London, and making some Claim for Money, he had made Insurance of, in the Name of John Eustace, the Officer was apprized of the Fraud, and he arrested and flung into the Compter; from whence directing a Letter to his Wife, she shewed it to a Friend, who discovered by it, that he was the principal Villain concerned in the Destruction of Peter Tartoue, and the Crew. Upon this, an Information was given to my Lord Carteret, that the Person who went by the Name of John Eustace, was Philip Roche, as aforesaid; and being brought down by his Lordships Warrant, he stifly deny'd it for some Time, notwithstanding a Letter was found in his Pocket, directed to him by the Name of Roche; but being confronted by a Captain of a Ship, who knew him well, he confessed it, but prevaricated in several Particulars; whereupon he was committed to Newgate upon violent Suspicion, and the next Day was brought down again at his own Request, confessed the whole, desired to be made an Evidence, and promised to convict three Men worse than himself. Two were discovered by him, who died miserably in the Marshalsea, and Roche himself was afterwards try'd, (no more being taken,) found Guilty of the Pyracy, and executed.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:28