IN the small hours of 30th September, 1760, Penzance was woken by the firing of guns, and news spread that a large and unusual ship had run aground near Newlyn. A crowd gathered in the grey dawn, fearing to see a French fleet massing in the Channel.
What they saw on the beach was a band of fearsome-looking men in baggy trousers, each with a red fez on his head, a brace of pistols in his belt, and a cruelly-curved sword at his side. The townsfolk took one look and changed their cry: the Turks were come to make slaves of them, and take their daughters for a sultan’s harem.
The army was called out, and magistrates were woken up. Fortunately, the men proved to be the crew of only a single Algerian pirate-ship, which had missed its way when bound for Cadiz. Curious but still distrustful, the townsfolk were glad to see their exotic guests loaded aboard a man-of-war, and returned to Algiers.*
For more about the human-trafficking industry in the 16th-18th centuries, see The Bombardment of Algiers
England’s south coast was on high alert in 1760 against a French invasion and Algerian people-traffickers. So when news came of a shipwrecked vessel at Penzance, finding Algerian pirates was not much better than finding French soldiers. However, the ship was alone, and had simply run far off course, and the crew was packed off back to Algiers. (57 / 60 words)