Ward, John? (fl.1603-1615) (DNB00)

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WARD, JOHN? (fl. 1603–1615), pirate, commonly known as Captain Ward, is said to have been originally a fisherman of Feversham, then to have been at Plymouth, a ragged, drunken fellow, hanging about the alehouses, and answering to the name of Jack Ward. It is not improbable that between Feversham and Plymouth came a period of semi-piratical adventure in the West Indies (Gardiner, History of England, iii. 66). Afterwards he served in some capacity—apparently a petty officer—on board the Lion's Whelp. This cannot have been earlier than 1601 (Oppenheim, History of the Administration of the Royal Navy, p. 121), but was more probably two or three years later. It would seem to have been in the summer of 1603 that, while in the Lion's Whelp at Portsmouth, he learned that a recusant from near Petersfield, intending to fly the country, had realised his property, and put the money, amounting to about 2,000l., together with jewels and plate, on board a small bark of twenty-five tons for a passage to Havre. Ward persuaded some of his shipmates to join him in seizing this bark. They got leave to go on shore as for a merry-making, and in the night took a boat and rowed on board her. There were only two men on board, who offered no resistance; they forthwith put to sea, and in the morning examined their prize, but only to learn that on the previous evening the owner of the property, having had his suspicions roused, had landed everything except the provisions that had been put on board for the voyage. So the pirates feasted heartily, while Ward explained to them that, booty or no booty, it was impossible for them to go back to Portsmouth. Accordingly they ran down Channel, till coming across an unsuspecting French ship, they slipped alongside, jumped on board, and made themselves masters of her. They then went to Plymouth, lay for a while in Cawsand Bay, got together several recruits from among Ward's old alehouse acquaintances, and sailed for the Mediterranean. Making a couple of prizes on their way, they came off Algiers, where Ward joined with a certain Captain Gifford in an attempt to burn the Turkish galleys. This utterly failed, with the loss of many of their men; and Ward, having sold his prizes and ransomed those of his men who were prisoners, made friends with the Turks, and for the following years cruised, especially against the Venetians and the Knights of St. John, under the Turkish or Tunisian flag, making Tunis his principal port, and building there a palace, ‘beautified with rich marble and alabaster,’ ‘more fit for a prince than a pirate,’ and second only to that of the bey in its magnificence. In 1615 William Lithgow [q. v.], being at Tunis, dined and supped with him several times, and speaks of him as having ‘turned Turk’ on account of being banished from England. It does not seem that he ever returned to England. Ward's name is probably best known as that of the hero of the ballad ‘Captain Ward and the Rainbow,’ which is historical only so far as the names are concerned. There was a Captain Ward, there was a king's ship Rainbow, but that the two ever fought is a balladmonger's fiction. So also is the statement put into Ward's mouth—‘I never wronged an English ship.’ Though his wealth was got together mostly at the expense of the Venetians, he seems to have plundered all that came in his way with exemplary impartiality.

[A true and certain report of the beginning, proceedings, overthrows, and now present estate of Captain Ward … published by Andrew Barker, master of a ship who was taken by the Confederates of Ward, and by them sometime detained prisoner, 1609, 4to; Newes from the Sea of two notorious pirates, Ward and Dansker, with a true relation of all or the most piracies by them committed, 1609, 4to. Both of these are little better than chap-books, and their vague history is eked out by imagination.]

J. K. L.