A Most Notorious, Naughty, False, Lying Fellow

A Global Black Sheep or Maligned Character?

Having finished preparing my talk about pirates, my next will be that based on the life of Captain Thomas Bowrey’s step-uncle, Henry Smith. The title of this blog is how he was described by his East India Company superiors. How can you not be intrigued by that description appearing in official Court minutes? Could he really have been that bad?

I have mentioned this ne’er-do-well previously in this blog. Smith worked for the Company towards the end if the seventeenth century and was sacked by them on a number of occasions attracting that description. Subsequently, he was incarcerated in Newgate gaol and tried on two counts of piracy and murder. He argued with his nephew about his Malay-English dictionary and was, later, employed by him to act undercover on his behalf in Scotland. This was a job no right-minded person would undertake at the time.

Despite being able to reconstruct so much of his life, Smith cannot be identified in any of the traditional genealogical records. He did exist but was he as bad as he was painted? He was certainly hot-headed – he drew his sword in a Court meeting – and held strong opinions but he worked hard in the accounts office of the Company and for his nephew in Edinburgh. Perhaps he was just misunderstood.

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