A Pirate Profile: The Most Vicious Ned Low

By | April 19, 2019

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Jolly Roger, the Pirate's Flag. Source: (gettyimages.com)

Nowadays, there is glamour associated with pirates from the 17th to 18th centuries – think Johnny Depp. But curiously there was nothing glamorous about them. The vast majority had lives that were nasty, brutish, and short. Such was the case of the cruelest pirate of them all – Edward “Ned” Low.

One chronicler of the Pirate Age summed up Low: “…if ever a man sailing the seas deserved to be hanged and gibbeted in chains, it was Low. If one-half of the tales that have been told about him are true he must at times have been little short of a maniac.”

How does a person become so notorious? In Low’s case, it was circumstance.

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An image of Edward Lowe. Picture is from the National Maritime Museum in London. Source: (wikipedia.org)

Early Life

Born in 1690 in Westminster Ned Low was raised in and influenced by the poverty of his age. He could neither read nor write and the desperate culture about him was awash in brutality and crime. His older brother was a thief and like him, Ned took to thievery. Proceeds were duly gambled away. From there, it was but a few steps to becoming the most notorious pirate of his age.

In about the year 1710 he went to sea with his brother. He ended up in Boston where he worked at a rigging house. While in Boston he met Eliza Marble who was from a respectable family. They married on August 12, 1714.

Low at this point may have had a chance for a fresh start in the New World, as many immigrants did. But that was not to be. Eliza conceived two children. A boy who died in infancy and then a daughter born in 1719. However, Eliza died from the trauma of childbirth leaving Low a widower and a single parent.

Low by all accounts loved his daughter and for a short while tried to work honestly as a rigger. But he also was short-tempered and arrogant. He argued with his employer and soon found himself out of work. With nothing else for it, he left his child and took to sea in 1721.