The Worcester Timeline

As I have said, the story of the Worcester is complex but, having spoken so much about it, I feel I need to explain what happened for those not familiar with the story. What follows is a very simplified timeline, starting with two other ships:

26 May 1701: The Speedy Return and the Content departed from Newport, Glasgow, with Captain Robert Drummond in command. The voyage to the East Indies was an attempt by the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies (or Scots Company) to trade itself out of its financial difficulties following their loses in the ill-fated Darien venture.

16 December 1701: The contract for the voyage of the Worcester was signed by Thomas Bowrey and his fellow freighters for a similar voyage to the East Indies. The following week, they started fitting out the ship on the Thames.

February 1702: The Worcester sailed for the Downs, near Deal. Her master was Thomas Green and he was awaiting the arrival of Robert Callant. Callant was to be the supercargo, the man responsible for trading on behalf of the freighters.

8 March 1702: After many delays the Worcester was eventually able to set sail.

March 1702: The Speedy Return and Content arrived at Madagascar having stopped at Madeira to trade in wine on the way. They anchored off St Mary’s Isle, a Madagascar pirate settlement. Here they sold strong liquor to the residents and agreed to transport a consignment of slaves to Isle Bourbon.

27 March 1702: Callant wrote from the Worcester: Our ship sails very heavy and is not a little cranke, but wee spare not for saile to push her forward, nor shall any means be wanting to make us a speedy passage as may be.

10 July 1702: The Worcester arrived at Delagoa Bay in present day southern Mozambique on the east coast of Africa. Here the crew assembled the dismantled sloop they had carried in her hull and christened it Delagoa.

July 1702: After returning to Madagascar, the Speedy Return and Content headed south along the coast of the island to Maritan in search of new customers. Maritan was where the pirate John Bowen had raised a new settlement. Captain Drummond and other officers went ashore. Bowen boarded the Speedy Return on the pretence of trading but, instead, took it over and, later, also the Content. Some days later, Bowen took the two ships to Isle Bourbon and then the short distance to Mauritius in an unsuccessful search for prey before returning to Madagascar. Drummond and some of his crew had been left stranded at Maritan. The rest had been force to join Bowen’s pirates. The Speedy Return returned to Madagascar with the Content which was damaged by hitting a rock. The Content was driven ashore and burnt, the crew having first been transferred to the Speedy Return. At this point, Bowen decided to seek out another pirate group headed by Captain Thomas Howard of the Prosperous with the objective of joining forces with them.

26 August 1702: The Worcester left Delagoa. If Green followed his instructions, he sailed between the east African coast and the island of Madagascar thus avoiding the known pirate colonies on St Mary’s Isle and at Maritan.

14 November 1702: The Worcester, sailing very heavy, arrived at Anjengo on the coast of Malabar. She then spent the next few months trading along the coast.

December 1702: For some time Callant and three or four others were detained ashore for some time at Quilon by the Indian locals in a dispute over the price agreed for pepper. Whilst on the coast, a passing Dutch ship had warned them that Captain Drummond had turned pirate and the Delagoa had been made ready in case of attack.

January 1703: The Worcester was leaking badly and in need of a refit but the Governor of Cochin would not allow the ship to be refitted there.

31 January 1703: Callant wrote from Calicut: The troubles that I have mett with hath not a little hindered our designes, which hath prevented something of your designes; but I hope to be with you in August next with a full ship and I hope to your content and profit, having now about 100 Tunn pepper and twenty tunn of cassia ligna quill, besides asafoetida and other drugs.

13 February 1703: The East India Company, in a letter from the Calicut factory, reported: Captain Thomas Green and Mr Robert Callant are here in the Worcester. They hve bought nor sold ought here. Their whole business is at Calliquiloan, where they load their ship with pepper, Cassia Lignum, turmerick, ginger, &ca., and from thence goe homeward; a poor stock, the ship being 200 tunns.

February 1703: According to the memoir of Alexander Hamilton, Green and serveral of the crew of the Worcester boarded Hamilton’s ship at Calicut at sunset very much overtaken with drink and attempted to sell him guns, powder, shot and glassware at a very reasonable rate.

5 May 1703: The Worcester departed for Bengal for repair, many of the ship’s crew being sick with feavours and fluxes. A number of the crew had died.

11 June 1703: The Worcester arrived at Calcutta. Here they traded saltpetre and red wood in addition to having the ship repaired whilst laid on shore.

September 1703: At Surat, Bowen and Howard captured two larger and better armed ships. Having obtained more powerful vessels, the pirates no longer had use for either the Speedy Return or the Prosperous (a ship owned by Bowrey and taken by pirates) and they were burnt at Rajapore.

Image Worcester 02

The voyage of the Speedy Return

October 1703: The increasingly desperate?? Scots Company decided on an attempt to recover a cargo lost in the Malacca Strait on an earlier disastrous trading voyage by the Speedwell. Having lost all their vessels, they purchased a majority share of an armed London merchantman they renamed the Annandale.

17 November 1703: Sound, at least for now, the Worcester departed for England carrying a letter from the Calcutta factory to the East India Company in London.

1 February 1704: English customs officer accompanied by an armed naval party boarded the Annandale on the Thames on the pretence of searching for stolen money. When the Annandale‘s officers protested, they were told that their Letter of Marque issued by the Queen’s Commissioner for Scotland, which should have guaranteed them free passage, was not recognised. The Annandale was moved to Dover to await the result of legal proceedings.

21 February 1704: The Worcester arrived at the Cape of Good Hope. Here, Robert Callant died.

26 March 1704: The Worcester left the Cape with a Dutch convoy including two other English ships, the London and the Resolution.

May 1704: The ill-fated Worcester again sprung a leak and was no longer able to keep up with the convoy.

28 June 1704: The case of the Annandale was heard before the Bar of the Court of Exchequer. The verdict given six days later was in favour of the East India Company’s claim that the ship was not licenced for her intended voyage.

19 July 1704: The Worcester arrived safely at Fraserburgh having sailed, alone, west of Ireland and round the north of Scotland. Most of their gunpowder had been ruined by the leak.

28 July 1704: Despite the dangers, the Worcester, laden with pepper and other valuable cargo, safely arrived at the Firth of Forth and moored in the Leith Road.

Image Worcester 01

The Voyage of the Worcester

11 August 1704: The directors of the Scots Company presented a petition to the Queen’s High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament claiming about the blatant, state-approved, English aggression against the Annandale demanding retaliation in kind. On the same day, whilst Green, his senior officers and many of his crew were ashore in Leith and Edinburgh, the Worcester was seized on behalf of the Scots Company and an action started in the Scottish High Court of Admiralty to take the Worcester and her cargo in compensation for the seizure of the Annandale. As the Worcester was not an East India Company ship, the case was not sound and very quickly a charges were brought against Green and his crew instead.

5 March1705: The trial for piracy, robbery and murder against Green and his crew started. Although no ship was mentioned in the charge, it was widely believed that the Worcester had taken the Speedy Return and that the crew had murdered Captain Drummond.

14 March 1705: Green and the crew of the Worcester were found guilty. The court met again a week later to pass sentence. Green, and three other defendants would be hanged on 4 April and the remaining nine would be hanged over the following fortnight. As the result of an intervention by Queen Anne, the first hangings were postponed by a week.

11 April 1705: Capt. Tho. Greens, Commander, Capt. John Maither, Mate, James Simpson, Gunner, of the English East India Ship called the Worcester of London, being sentenced to death for Pyrracy & Robbery, were hanged (the First in the Thirtieth & third year of his Age, the second in the Fortieth and Fourth year of his Age, the Third in ye Thirtieth and nynth year of his Age) within the Seamark near to the Saw Miln, on the Eleventh day, and were buryed on the said day.


3 thoughts on “The Worcester Timeline

  1. Wonderful Timeline on this subject. I am interested to know what happened to the Annandale ship after it was seized. Did it get another name for use in the British Navy? Any other information concerning this ship would be helpful.


    1. I am sorry but I do not know the answer. The final comment by Temple in “The Tragedy of the Worcester” [page 1818] is “After this the special affairs of the “Annandale” disappear from the East India Company’s “Court Books”.” It would not seem, therefore, that the Company used the ship. A quick search of the Internet revealed nothing. I certainly have not come across it in any of my reading round the matter however, as the ship was seized on behalf of the EIC, I am not sure the Royal Navy would have had a claim on it. The Scottish Company was wound up a couple of years later and was probably not in a position to fund another voyage in the meantime. So yours is an interesting question. Please let me know if you solve it.


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