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William Fly

William Fly

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Captain William Fly was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 pirate who raided New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 shipping until he was captured by some of the crew of a seized ship. He was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts. Reportedly, Fly approached the hanging with complete disdain and even reproached the hangman for doing a poor job, remaking the noose and placing it about his neck with his own two hands. His body was hung in chains (gibbet
A gibbet is a gallows-type structure from which the dead bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals. In earlier times, up to the late 17th century, live gibbeting also took place, in which the criminal was placed alive in a metal cage...

ed) on Nixes Mate
Nixes Mate
Nixes Mate, also known as Nixes Island, Nix's Mate and Nick's Mate, is one of the smaller islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The island lies about 5 nm from downtown Boston and about 0.6 nm east of Long Island Head Light. The island covers and uncovers with the...

 Island in Boston Harbor, to serve as a warning to other sailors not to turn to piracy.

His last words were, roughly, a warning to captains to treat their sailors well and pay them on time. Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather, FRS was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer; he is often remembered for his role in the Salem witch trials...

 had tried, and failed, to get Fly to publicly repent.

William Fly's career as a pirate began in April 1726 when he signed on to sail with Captain John Green to West Africa on the Elizabeth. Green and Fly began to clash until one night William led a mutiny that resulted in Capt. Green being tossed overboard and left him in command of the Elizabeth. Having captured the ship, the mutineers sewed a Jolly Roger
Jolly Roger
The Jolly Roger is any of various flags flown to identify a ship's crew as pirates. The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today is the skull and crossbones, a flag consisting of a human skull above two long bones set in an x-mark arrangement on a black field. This design was used by...

 flag, renamed the ship "Fames' Revenge", elected William Fly as captain, and sailed to the coast of North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 and north toward New England. They captured five ships in about two months before being captured themselves. William Fly and his crew were hung in Boston Harbor on July 12th, 1726.

Further reading

  • Marcus Rediker
    Marcus Rediker
    Marcus Rediker is an American professor, historian, writer, and activist for a variety of peace and social justice causes. He graduated with a B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1976 and attended the University of Pennsylvania for graduate study, earning an M.A. and Ph.D. in history...

    , "Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age", Beacon Press, 2004
  • Lyons Press, "The History of the Lives and Bloody Exploits of the Most Noted Pirates: Their Trials and Executions", Lyons Press, 2004 ed.
  • Capt. Charles Johnson, "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates", 1724
  • See the chapter "The Vial Poured out Upon the Sea" from Daniel E. Williams Pillars of Salt. (Madison: Madison House Press, 1993; pgs 110 - 117) for an interesting description of William Fly's execution.

External links