October 15th Thomas Pellow of Penryn (Slave)

Penryn – born Thomas Pellow (1704 – 1747), of a ship owning family, went to sea, aged eleven, on the Francis, which was bound for Genoa with a cargo of pilchards.  On its return voyage, the ship and crew were captured by Moorish pirates who sold all aboard as slaves in Morocco.  Pellow remained a slave in North Africa for twenty-three years during which time he kept a diary which was published, in three editions, on his escape and return to England.

Pellow was given as a slave to of the Sultan’s favourite sons, one Muley Spha, who made him run after him when riding.  Offered the chance of status and a horse if he converted to Islam, Pellow refused and was kept in chains for several months with the manacles being adjusted more and more tightly each day.  Having learnt Arabic, he was assigned to run the Sultan’s harem of thirty-eight concubines before being promoted to be the Sultan’s chief bodyguard and was given a Spanish wife by whom he had a daughter.

Pellow was made several attempts to escape but remained a captive until finally managing to get to Gibraltar where he was claimed as the property of the Sultan, a request that was denied by the Governor, General Field-Marshal Joseph Sabine.  He was given transport to Deptford and embarked in London for Falmouth arriving back in Penryn on his 34th birthday (this day in 1738) where he was hailed a hero and greeted by cheering crowds of thousands.  Having been away since a child, he did not recognise his own parents and they did not recognise their son whom they had not seen since he was eleven.


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