How exciting, this evenings episode of Doctor Who featured one of my ancestors, the Pirate Captain Henry Avery, famed, in his day, for the plunder of the Mogul Emperor’s ship the Ganj-i-Sawai.
Henry. also known as Long Ben, was played by the wonderful Hugh Bonneville, who put in a stirling performance, portraying Avery as a seaman torn between his love of treasure and his duty towards his commision in the navy and his estranged wife and son. Unfortunately, for my family name, history suggests that the real Captain Bridgeman, another alias, was a lot rougher around the edges.
In taking the Ganj-i-Sawai and it’s escort the Fateh Muhammed, Avery perpetrated what is known as the most profitable pirate raid in history, netting an approximate £600,000 in gold and jewels, booty if you will, approximately £400 million in today’s money. However the pirate was not satisfied with just the plunder but commited further piranical acts upon the passengers. One of Avery’s captured crew later admitted that “the inhuman treatment and merciless tortures inflicted on the poor Indians and their women still affected his soul.”
The capture of such high profile prey had far reaching consequences, effectively ending trade between India and England. Understandably, a high price was put on Avery’s head and the first recorded world-wide manhunt went into action. Long Ben became the most notorious pirate of his day. I put his lack of enduring fame down to his less than terror-inducing nick-names.
I would like to believe in the gruff yet ultimately redeemable Henry Avery, that Hugh Bonneville so aptly portrayed, equally I would like to believe that my ancestor ‘took to the stars’ as Doctor Who’s pirate does, but I can not, history is far more convincing. So what does history tell us of Avery’s later life and the resting place of his riches, alas these facts go unrecorded, oh well, no pirate gold for me.