We stood up on the cliff looking down at the scene of destruction below. The gale force wind so strong that we could hardly stand. Waves crashed over the bow of the stricken vessel. We could not keep our torches alight unless we lay upon the ground sheltering them from the driving rain with our curled bodies. The cries from below sounded English but there were also high-pitched screams in a language I couldn’t identify. Daniel beside me had toshout to make himself hard, “I s’pect tis them Frenchies they’ve been tellin about, poor buggers.” I only nodded in agreement. There was nothing we could do till the sea and wind settled. Then we would go down to the beach to see if anyone had got off to the shore. All we could was sit and wait.
At first light the wind had lessened. There was no sound. Fearing the worst we climbed down the fisherman’s path to the shingle beach. The ship had completely broken up overnight. There were rough, broken planks of timber, chests and casks scattered among the rocks. Much more numerous were the bodies. Some lying face down, arms outstretched as if scrabbling at the sand. Some face up, their faces white, fixed in fear, eyes dull and lifeless. The worst sight were a group of both men and women lying like rag dolls close to a cave entrance.
Going over to examine them we were stopped in our tracks at the sight. All were wearing leg-irons and neck-braces chained one to each other. It was obvious, they were slaves being transported to the colonies. The sailors hadn’t even freed them at the time of the wreck in order that they might have a chance of escape.
I believe it was that one act that turned us against our sea-faring brothers. Without a word being spoken the vow never again to help them was taken. Not only that, our loathing at their cowardice was so high that we were encouraged to start the act of wrecking and thus gaining benefit from their distress. Much to my shame I can safely say that was how and why our terrible, callous and cowardly acts of piracy started.