Age of Pirates

Pirate Encyclopedia: John Callice

John Callice sailed the seas from the rugged coastline of Wales to the Barbary Coast. One of the most flamboyant and successful pirates of his time, John Callice was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The exact date is unknown.

He came to London by 1571 where he worked in a shop before joining the Royal Navy. Young Callice took to a seaman's life with gusto and three years later commanded a Royal Navy ship.

Other than his rapid rise to command his naval record was unremarkable until he seized an Italian merchant vessel. He sold the cargo in Wales, then embarked on a new career as a pirate. Over the next four years he plundered countless merchant ships and sold the booty.

In 1577 Callice was charged with six counts of piracy and imprisoned in London. He was sentenced to hang but Scots monarch James VI asked Queen Elizabeth to pardon the unrepentant pirate and she did. After his release, he fled Britain to avoid further prosecution.

He signed on as a pilot for Sir Henry Knollys ship, part of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's expedition. Gilbert planned to ransack the Spanish Caribbean but Knolls and Callice had another objective. In flagrant violation of all agreements and Naval standards the men instead attacked ships in English waters.

He began to sail the northern seas and in 1580 he took two ships near the German port of Hamburg. Two years later he was commissioned by Captain William Fenner to assist in arresting pirates at sea. Using reformed pirates to catch others in piracy was a common ploy but Callice did not honor his agreement. Instead he pirated two Scottish merchant vessels and sold the cargo at Portsmouth. He kept one of the captured ships for his own and christened it "The Golden Chalice."

Hounded by the authorities he soon abandoned his ship, which was awarded to Sir Humphrey Gilbert who used it on his 1583 Newfoundland Expedition.

In 1584, Captain Fenner was granted license to take Spanish and Portuguese ships as prizes of war. He made John Callice his Lieutenant and the two were quite successful. By December, however, Callice once again betrayed Fenner's trust by taking control of a captured French warship. He sailed away and claimed that stormy weather had separated him from Fenner.

Callice was arrested in Ireland and either was released or escaped. Once back at sea he continued to capture French ships, returning to Wales to discharge the captured goods. In 1585 he departed Wales to escape arrest and prosecution for an outstanding judgment against him.

For the remainder of his life, Callice worked the notorious Barbary Coast in North Africa. He enjoyed great success as a pirate until the violence that had become his way of life brought his death. John Callice was killed in a sea battle in late 1586 or in 1587, dying as he lived by violence.

Copyright 2006 CleverMedia
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