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Pellew/Pellow - Thomas

 

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PELLEW or PELLOW, THOMAS (b. 1704 - d. ?)

A captive in Barbary during twenty-four years, was the child of parents descended from a branch of a family in the south west of England, Cornwall and Devon, and of which Lord Exmouth was the a distinguished representative. After some years at Penryn school, upon the death of his father young Pellew obtained leave in 1715 to go to sea with his uncle, Captain John Pellew. He embarked at Falmouth in the spring of 1715, in the merchant ship Francis, and before that vessel's arrival at the port of Genoa he had outlived his maritime ambition. Unfortunately for his resolution, the Francis on its return journey was surprised and captured off Cape Finisterre by a couple of Sallee rovers. The rovers were surprised in turn off the bar of Sallee by an English cruiser commanded by Captain Delgarnoe, but the Moors saved themselves by running ashore. After getting to land as best they could, the prisoners, consisting of twenty-five English-men and seventeen Frenchmen, were conducted to a prison, and thence, after a brief delay, were despatched to 'Mesquinez,' where the palace of the sultan Maley Ismail was situated. Being a mere boy at the time, Pellew was at first sent to clean arms in the armoury, and was then given as a slave to the emperor's son, Muley Spha, by whose influence, with the assistance of the bastinado, he was induced to adopt the faith of Islam. He was in consequence excluded as a renegade from the ransom effected by Commodore Stewart in 1720, when two hundred and ninety-six Englishmen, most of whom were sailors, were recovered and restored to their homes. The full printed account of Stewart's embassy was subsequently incorporated by the compiler in Pellew's narrative of his captivity. On arriving at manhood Pellew was trained in military exercises, and about 1725 was entrusted with the command of a Moorish castle at Tannorah; he was subsequently employed by the sultan to put down an insurrection in Guzlan. Muley Ismail died in 1727, after a reign of fifty-five years, and was succeeded by Maley Ahmed IV, during whose brief reign Pellew made an unsuccessful attempt to escape to Gibraltar, being recaptured and narrowly escaping execution. He had a share in the siege of Fez, and in the course of 1728 took with great equanimity the death of a mahommedan wife, whom he had married under Muley Ismail's orders, and of his daughter by her. The poisoning of Ahmed IV by one of the old sultans wives, and the eventual succession of Muley Abdallah V (1728-1757), only involved him in a change of masters. During the next few years he was busily occupied as a captain of horse in assisting to put down the frequent insurrections inseparable from Moorish methods of government. During the fratricidal wars that followed Ismail's death Maley Abdallah was deposed six times, and as many times reinstated; and in all the vicissitudes of the earlier portion of his reign Pellew had an active share. He was also according to his own account, entrusted with a large caravan to Timbuctoo in quest of slaves and other merchandise. If, as seems probable, he may be identified with a certain 'Pilleau,' a renegade of influence, who is mentioned in Braithwaite's 'History of the Revolutions in the Empire of Morocco' (1729), the importance of the services he claims to have rendered is to some extent corroborated. Braithwaite writes under date 27 Nov. 1727:

'To-day we were visited [in Mequinez] by one Pilleau, a young fellow of good family in Cornwall, but now turned Moor. He was taken very young with Captain John Pilleau, his uncle, and, being a handsome boy, he was given by Muley Ismael to one of his sons. The Christian captives give this young man a wonderful character, saying he endured enough to kill seven men before his master could make him turn . . . . He spoke the Arabick language sat well as the Moors, and having traversed this vast country, even to the frontier of Guinea, was capable of giving a very good account of it.'

Pellew was occasionally employed as an interpreter at the embassy, but his staple employment was as a soldier, in which capacity he had to gain a precarious livelihood by plunder. It was probably the continuous strain of this hazardous method of life that forced him, though in many respects prosperous, to meditate his escape. It was not, however, until the commencement of 1738 that he was able to put his plan into execution. The difficulty was to find a ship's captain bound for England who would take on board a Moorish subject and conceal him until safe out of the sultan's dominions. To attain this object, after leaving his quarters at Mequinez, he had to tramp the country for several months in disguise. After travelling with a party of conjurers, and as an itinerant quack, and after having been several times stripped literally naked by brigands, who robbed him even of the pots of ointment in which he concealed his money, he arrived at Santa Cruz. There he lived for a long time in a cave in company with other mendicants and outcasts; but failing to find a vessel, he set out for El Waladia, where he was reduced to stealing carrots to keep himself from starvation. Ultimately he reached Sallee, where. he managed, without the knowledge of the' Moors, to get a passage to Gibraltar in a small trading vessel, commanded by a Captain Toobin of Dublin. From Gibraltar, where a subscription was raised on his behalf, he sailed for London in the Euphrates, Captain Peacock; and, after a few days in London, where the account of his long captivity excited some little notice, he returned to his native town of Penryn (15 Oct. 1738), nothing further being known of his career.

The narrative of his experiences appeared in 1739, under the title 'The History of the Long Captivity and Adventures of Thomas Pellow in South Barbary; giving an account of his being taken by two Sallee rovers and carry'd a slave to Mequinez at eleven years of age. . . Written by himself, for R. Goadby', London, n.d., 8vo. A second edition appeared in 1740, and a third, as 'Adveatures of Thomas Pellow of Penryn, Mariner,' was edited by Dr. Robert Brown, with a copious introduction and valuable notes, for the 'Adventure Series,' 1890, 8vo. There are strong reasons, both external and internal, for believing that the kernel of Pellew's narrative is founded upon fact, but it was evidently edited with a great deal of latitude and with some literary skill. In addition to the incorporation of Stewart's 'Embassy,' already alluded to, the book is padded out by long extracts from Windus's 'Journey to Mequinez’. It is probable that other volumes on Morocco were pirated in the same way, especially for the somewhat hackneyed details given of the 'miseries of the Christian slaves’. The most genuine and also the most graphic portion is the account of Pellew's flight, which affords a vivid picture of the barbarous and unsettled state of the country under Malay Abdallah.

[Pellow's History; Boase and Courtney's Bibiotheca Cornub.; Chenier's Recherches Hist. sur les Maures; Braithwaite's Hist. of the Revolutions in the Empire of Morocco 1729, p.192; Houdas' Le Morocco 1631 à 1812 - extrait de l'ouvrage de Aboulqasem ben Ahmed Ezziani.]

T. S.

 

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