78 Members of the History Group were present at the February meeting to hear Carole Clements, one of our members, speak about Sir John Mucknell, the English Pirate.
The well-presented talk was illustrated with photographs, maps and artefacts which supported the story of Sir John, a loyal Royalist, at the time of the Civil War in England. As the captain of the ‘John’, Sir John commanded the sleekest, fastest and biggest ship of the East India Company fleet. A brilliant seaman, Sir John was also manipulative, controlling and devious, conducting a reign of terror on the high seas, using the flagship of the English pirate fleet as his base.
True to his nature, Sir John made outrageous demands for extra cannons, food, arms, money etc when the ship set sail from England, on 1st January 1644, under the guise of being a trading ship. In fact it was Sir John’s intention all along to be a pirate vessel.
As a staunch Roman Catholic, Sir John was heavily involved in the conflicts and controversies between the Royalist Roman Catholic faction and the Puritans and Parliamentarians.
He ran aground his ship, in 1645, off St Mary’s Island, in the Scilly Isles, after it was damaged in a battle with sailors sent by Charles I. Since then, its exact location has remained a mystery. To this day, St Mary’s Island is surrounded by many registered and unregistered wrecks dating from the 14th Century to the present day. The wreck of the ‘John’ was found and identified by a local diver, Todd Stevens, who has written a book about the colourful life and times of the English Pirate and the thorough and well researched account, based on this book, gets under the skin of Sir John, a volatile, ruthless man but also a ‘loveable rogue’.