Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Edward Jordan


Irish rebel, fisherman and pirate

Edward Jordan was an Irish rebel, fisherman and pirate in Nova Scotia. He was typical of the violent but short-lived pirates in the 19th Century following the end of "Golden Age of Piracy" in the 18th Century. Born in Carlow County, Ireland, he took part in the Irish rebellions of 1797-98 but was pardoned and attempted to start a new life as a fisherman in Nova Scotia. On Sept. 13, 1809, desperate to avoid debts, he slaughtered the crew of a merchant who came to seize the schooner he owned named Three Sisters. However the captain, John Stairs, managed to escape overboard to be rescued by a passing fishing schooner and survived to spread the alarm. A few weeks later the Royal Navy schooner HMS Cuttle captured Jordan.

Jordan was convicted of piracy and executed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His body was covered in tar and hanged from chains in an iron cage called a gibbet at Black Rock Beach in Point Pleasant as a warning to others. His gibbet joined those of four other across the harbour on McNabs Island who had been executed for mutiny aboard the Brig HMS Columbine in the same year. His skull was eventually deposited at the Nova Scotia Museum It was recently displayed in the exhibit "Pirates: Myth and Reality" at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, serving as a grim reminder of the reality of piracy.

Jordan Skull fragment:

1809 November 23

First Piracy Trial

On this day, Edward Jordan was hanged in Halifax, and his tarred and chained corpse hung on a gibbet at the entrance to Halifax Harbour. He had been convicted in Canada's first piracy trial, of seizing a ship that was previously his property.

— Windsor, Ontario Star, 30 November 1999

Edward Jordan wasn't a Haligonian, but he created a stir when he showed up in the fall of 1809. The black-bearded Irishman booked passage from Quebec to Halifax on the schooner Three Sisters. Off Cape Canso, Jordan decided he'd rather be captain than passenger. Aided by the ship's mate and his wife, Jordan killed two crewmen and took over the ship. The captain, John Stairs, escaped by grabbing a hatch cover and jumping overboard. Stairs survived many hours in the freezing water and was picked up by a passing American ship. A British warship found the Three Sisters in a Newfoundland cove and Jordan was brought to Halifax for trial. Convicted of murder and piracy, he was hanged on November 23 near the foot of present-day Inglis Street.

— Halifax Mail-Star, 21 June 1999


An interesting trial of Edward Jordan and Margaret his wife who were tried at Halifax, N.S. November 15th, 1809, for the horrid crime of piracy and murder, committed on board the schooner Three Sisters, Captain John Stairs, on their passage from Perce to Halifax with a particular account of the execution of said Jordan

Edward Jordan printed at 75 State Street, Boston, 1809

Source: & Terry Curran

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