Those following Halley on Twitter have seen how it became necessary for him to call in at Portsmouth for essential repairs to his ship, and on the 28th of November he writes to Josiah Burchett, Secretary to the Admiralty, to inform him that he has been promptly “dispatcht” and has now arrived at St Helens.
He then raises his concerns about encountering a “Sallyman”. The Sallymen, or Sallee Rovers, were Muslim corsairs operating from the riverine port of Salé on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. They attacked Christian ships for their cargo, and particularly their passengers and crew, who were either killed, ransomed, enslaved by the corsairs or sold at a slave market.
The Sallee Rovers, and neighbouring Barbary Corsairs, included renegade European seamen among their number and were highly successful from about the early sixteenth century until well into the nineteenth, launching devastating attacks from their sheltered harbours in heavily-manned, fast-sailing ships.
With a crew of just 20, and armed only with 6 guns and 2 “pattereroes” (a type of small gun in a swivel), Halley is right to be concerned – the Paramore will have no chance if she is attacked. Her only hope is to sail in the company of someone much bigger – and luckily, Admiral Benbow’s squadron is going the Paramore‘s way…
(Halley to Burchett, dated 28 November 1698 from Portsmouth, National Archives ADM 1/1871)
In persuance of their Lopps orders, the Commissioner here has caused me to be dispatcht with all the Expedition I could desire, and on the 22th instant I joyned Admirall Benbow at St Hellens, who lies there only expecting a fair wind. Our people were somewhat doubtfull of going alone, for fear of meeting with a Sallyman, but if we can keep the Admirall Company those apprehensions are over. He has promised to take care of us; but if their Lopps shall think fitt to recommend us to him, in their next letters, it will assure me of his protection; which the weakness of my own compliment in all respects, makes me very desirous of. This is the last favour I have to begg, and I humbly hope it will not be refused to
Your most obedient servant
P.S. Novemb 29
The wind is now come up at N.E. and I belive wee shall saile this day, but the Admirall calls in at Plymouth for the Dreadnought.