A Couple of Rogues

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  • Fingal People

Luke Ryan - Pirate and Privateer

Luke Ryan was born in Rush in 1750. As a young man he left Ireland and joined the French Army. After a number of years he returned to Ireland and began a career smuggling goods between Ireland and France.

In 1775, the American War of Independence began. America was under British rule but many Americans wanted the country to have its own government. During the war, Britain managed to capture a great number of American prisoners. The Americans knew that they needed to capture British prisoners so that they could trade them for American ones.

In order to capture more British prisoners, the Americans made a deal with some French privateers. The French privateers attacked British ships and captured their crews. The privateers kept whatever loot they found but handed the British crews over to the Americans.

The first ship commissioned by the Americans was called the Black Prince. At the time, Luke Ryan was its commander. The commander and crews of privateers were considered pirates by their enemies. The Black Prince was very successful in capturing British ships. For a number of years the ship and her crew terrorised British trade routes.

The Black Prince was wrecked on the French coast in 1780. Ryan continued his career as a privateer aboard other ships. He was captured by the British in 1782 and convicted in court of piracy, smuggling and treason. He was condemned to death but received a reprieve. Eventually, he was released.

During his time as a privateer, Luke Ryan made a fortune but lost it all. He died a pauper in 1789.