Fall the Pirate


When a town has a seafaring history, it is only natural that incidences such as I am about to relate, create local interest. Tucked away in the old graveyard of the Gt. Yarmouth parish church of St Nicholas is a stone erected to the memory of David Bartleman, master of the brig Alexander & Margaret of North Shields, who on 31st January 1781, whilst sailing along the Norfolk coast with a crew of 10 men and boys with only light armament of 3 pounders, Bartleman courageously defended himself against a Cutter carrying 18, 4 pounders plus a crew of upwards of 100 men. The Cutter was commanded by the notorious English pirate John Fall It no doubt raised their moral, when they managed to beat off the assault.

This success however was short lived, when two hours later Falls Cutter again attacked the unlucky Brig. The skirmish continued until the Alexander& Margaret was totally disabled. With Daniel MacAulay the mate dying from the loss of blood and him seriously wounded, Captain Bartleman was obliged to strike and ransom. He then brought his proud but shattered vessel into Yarmouth and died there in consequences of his wounds on the 14th February 1781 aged 25 years.

To commemorate the gallantry of his sons death, plus the bravery of his faithful mate, and at the same time mark the infamy of Fall the pirate, his father Alexander Bartleman ordered a stone to be erected over his sons grave .The epitaph reads as follows.

Twas great. His foe though strong was infamous – the foe of human kind

A manly indignation fired his breast

Thank God my son has done his duty


(John Fall the buccaneer was one of Captain Sharp’s Crew. On the death of John Hilliard, the ships master, Fall was promoted to the larboard watch.)


Fall the Pirate

Generally referred to as Daniel Fall and first mentioned in November 1780 as

“The noted Daniel Fall, a smuggler and captain of a large privateer” when he cut out two colliers from Lowerstoft South Roads

The frigate Pegasus sailed from Yarmouth in pursuit but was unable to sight them. A report in the Ipswich Journal at the time stated that an American cutter privateer of 20 guns had captured two large merchantmen off Pakfield but she had been intercepted by the Fly man-o-war from Hollesley Bay which recaptured one of the prizes.

This privateer may have been fall’s vessel, as he apparently sailed under American colours. In February1781, one of the Harwich packets sighted Fall, who had taken so many colliers on this coast. He had letters of marque from Holland, France and America and hoisted the 13 stripes as the packet passed him. A short while later it was reported the rebel commodore Fall was off Orfordness with a squadron of privateers from Dunkirk.

At the beginning of June 1781 the Harwich packet, Prince of Wales was captured by two cutters- The Fearnought, commanded by Fall, and the Liberty, which he had recently cut out from a Scottish port. The packet was taken into Flushing, where the Liberty was wrecked as she approached the harbour and her company, including the British prisoners was rescued with difficulty by Fall. It is interesting to note that although England was at war Holland, the capture angered the Dutch, as they considered the packet-boats to be no more than neutral ships and the prisoners were soon repatriated. The episode recorded in the Ipswich Journal read as follows; Yarmouth February 3rd 1781. Yesterday the noted pirate Fall made his appearance to the North of this coast, and has taken a number of colliers and coasters; amongst which are the following.

Viz: The John Pearson of Shields, ransomed for 700 guineas.

Smelt Coxon of Shields, ransomed for 400 guineas

Fanny Porter of Yarmouth ransomed for 300 guineas

A snow fron shields, ransomed for 400 guineas.

(This last vessel engaged him for nearly three hours, until the mate was killed, and the captain and two crew members were wounded.)

In April 1782, it was reported that Fall was moving into the Irish Sea and the East Coast apparently heard of him no more.

(An interesting footnote.  A similar privateer was Cunningham, who also sailed 13 red and white stripes. In 1777 capturing a Harwich packet and generally causing Britain much trouble in the North Sea. Cunningham’s name has been perpetuated in the United States Navy by having a destroyer named after him.)

Arthur.E. Bensley



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