The Sack of Baltimore took place on June 20, 1631, when the village of Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland, was attacked by the Ottoman Algeria and Republic of Salé slavers from the Barbary Coast of North Africa – Moroccans, Dutchmen, Algerians and Ottoman Turks. The attack was the largest by Barbary pirates on either Ireland or Great Britain.
The attack was led by a Dutch captain, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, also known as Murad Reis the Younger. Murad's force was led to the village by a man called Hackett, the captain of a fishing boat he had captured earlier, in exchange for his freedom. Hackett was subsequently hanged from the clifftop outside the village for conspiracy.
Murad's crew, made up of Dutchmen, Moroccans, Algerians and Ottoman Turks, launched their covert attack on the remote village on June 20, 1631. They captured 107 villagers, mostly English settlers along with some local Irish people (some reports put the number as high as 237). The attack was focused on the area of the village known to this day as the Cove. The villagers were put in irons and taken to a life of slavery in North Africa.
There are conspiracy theories relating to the raid. It has been suggested that Sir Walter Coppinger, a prominent Catholic lawyer and member of the leading Cork family, who had become the dominant power in the area after the death of Sir Thomas Crooke, 1st Baronet, the founder of the English colony, orchestrated the raid to gain control of the village from the local Gaelic chieftain, Sir Fineen O'Driscoll. It was O'Driscoll who had licensed the lucrative pilchard fishery in Baltimore to the English settlers. Suspicion also points to O'Driscoll's exiled relatives, who had fled to Spain after the Battle of Kinsale, and had no hope of inheriting Baltimore by legal means. On the other hand, Murad may have planned the raid without any help; it is known that the authorities had advance intelligence of a planned raid on the Cork coast, although Kinsale was thought to be a more likely target than Baltimore.
Some prisoners were destined to live out their days as galley slaves, rowing for decades without ever setting foot on shore while others would spend long years in harem or as labourers. At most three of them ever saw Ireland. One was ransomed almost at once and two others in 1646.
In the aftermath of the raid, the remaining villagers moved to Skibbereen, and Baltimore was virtually deserted for generations.
A detailed account of the sack of Baltimore can be found in the book The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates by Des Ekin.
In 1999, the raid on Baltimore was portrayed in a screenplay titled Roaring Water, The Sack of Baltimore, by Irish screenwriter Sean Boyle.
In 2015, the raid inspired the song "Roaring Waters" from the album Last of Our Kind by British hard rock band The Darkness. The band were inspired to write the song after hearing of the incident while on Valentia Island, approximately 50 miles from Baltimore.
In 2018, singer/songwriter Tim O'Riordan commemorated the raid in the song Sail Away To Barbary on the album Taibhse.
The truth soon emerged and he was hanged from the cliff top outside the village for his conspiracy