Black Jack Anderson

Australia’s most notorious pirate
Elaine Forrestal
Black Jack Anderson is described on the cover of this book as “Australia’s most notorious pirate”. Anderson was a free black from Massachusetts working on a whaler which pulled into the new settlement of Albany in 1827. Anderson killed a man in a bar fight, stole a whaleboat and gathered a small number of fellow runaways who became piratically inclined sealers living on the Recherché Archipelago south of Esperance. Over time the pirate crew changed with the addition of aboriginal women kidnapped from near Kangaroo Island, a shipwreck victim found on Kangaroo Island and the arrival of a group of shipwreck victims who had been sailing from Albany to Van Diemen’s Land.
Anderson was the leader of the group but some of the band came to resent his authority and took off with the second whaleboat. Following this setback he dumped the unwilling pirate, James Manning from Kangaroo Island and his accomplice, James Newell on the beach near where Esperance would be founded later on, almost 400k from the settlement at Albany. Eventually, near death, they were escorted to Albany by a party of aborigines, where they gave statements to the magistrate. These statements provide a primary source for this book.
Anderson then came to Albany to sell sealskins and was arrested for stealing money from Manning on Middle Island. He was found not guilty and returned to Middle Island where he was supposedly murdered by one of his band after his treasure at the age of 26. That such a small isolated band of sealers could become Australia’s most feared pirates tells us that piracy was not generally a significant threat in Australian waters.
Elaine Forrestal has written a number of children’s books and this fictionalised biography based on the testimonies of eyewitnesses and court records is a great ripping yarn about an obscure figure from the early frontier days of Western Australian history.


About Greg

Middle aged male, resident at the finest of all latitudes, 37. Reputedly an indoor cricketer.
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