Muster Roll #14 – Bill Barrow

Ink portrait of handsome, beefy. bearded man
Bill Barrow c.1770
Not much is known about Bill Barrow’s origins. His first recorded appearance is from the 1750’s, in a report by an officer of the Chase Trading Company which lists him as the captain of a pirate vessel named the Fledgling Crow. (That ship was known to have passed through the hands of several different crews and captains. Usually, a new name is chosen when a ship changes hands, to do otherwise was considered bad luck. Why that particular name stuck is a mystery for another day.)

At the time the above illustration was made, Barrow was said to be in his mid-sixties. A very large man with silvery hair, he was heavily built, and tall to boot. It was a common tactic for pirate captains to cultivate a fearsome — and above all recognisable — appearance so as to strike dread into the hearts of their enemies on sight. Barrow eschewed this tradition by frequently altering his appearance — from his style of dress to his facial hair. This, combined with his high rank and sudden appearance, has led to speculation that the name “Bill Barrow” was an alias. Research suggests he may well have also used the name Eddie Sparks, and possibly even Robert West.

At sea, Barrow developed a reputation as a ferocious fighter and ruthless combatant, earning him the nickname “Sea Bear”. His crew designed a flag for him, depicting a bear’s head with a dagger clamped in its mouth. The bear wears an eyepatch because at the time, Barrow was sporting an injury sustained in a tavern fight with Captain Thomas Oughterlauney, his long-time companion or mortal enemy, depending on who you ask. By the late 1770’s, Barrow was said to reside in Driftwood – the legendary (and likely mythical) floating pirate fortress. 

In WE CRY THE SEA Bill Barrow’s past will finally catch up with him.

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