Captain David Gwyn
Captain David Gwyn
Gwyn, David (fl. 1588–1602?), poet and pirate, was doubtless of Welsh extraction, though his origins remain obscure. According to his one work published in 1588, Gwyn was a Spanish prisoner and a galley slave for nearly twelve years; he appears in Richard Topcliffe's notes on 'such as traffic in Spain' (1584?), which mention the 'Ill treatment and probable death of David Gwyn' there (CSP dom., 1581–90, 220). Motley tells how Gwyn, a prisoner of war, was a slave on the Armada galley Bazana, which left Lisbon in 1588. The gallerians, headed by Gwyn, killed the soldiers with daggers, captured the Bazana, and took over the Capitana galley. However, Gwyn was not on board the Bazana, but the Diana; slaves could never have made daggers from broken sword-blades; and the story—though touched upon by Hakluyt—is otherwise unknown. Gwyn really did escape from the Diana at Bayonne, and from there he made his way to England.
Gwyn is known for Certaine English Verses Penned by David Gwyn, printed in London in 1588 by Richard Hudson, a work known in only two copies, in different editions. The three short poems concern, respectively, alleged Portuguese traitors; the Spanish Armada being prepared; and Sir Francis Drake. They have no great merit, though an occasional felicity, such as this from his eulogy on Drake:
O Noble knight, O worthie wight,
O prince of navigation:
In martiall affaires is thy delight,
for countrie[']s preservation.
(p. 8, lines 1–4)
On 23 September 1588 Gwyn was sent to Ireland as 'one that knoweth the men of quality in the Spanish fleet' (APC, 16.288), and he appeared in Drogheda, interrogating Armada survivors. Later, one Eustace Hart reported that Gwyn had accused Sir Francis Walsingham of promising to surrender the queen to Spain and that Gwyn had dishonestly handled money and gold chains while in Ireland. On 18 October he was due to be sent back to England for judgment. Gwyn was said to have been imprisoned in 'the Compter' (Morris, 37) as a Catholic recusant, dying there about 1590, but the local parish registers record no such burial.
Gwyn was probably the pirate of that name who, in 1590, captured the Thomas of Leith off Yarmouth, Norfolk, and other felonies followed. His ship was said to come from Ratcliff, Middlesex. In 1596 the master of Orkney was robbed by Gwyn, 'an English pirate and fugitive' (APC, 25.204). In 1602 an English agent in Scotland told Sir Robert Cecil that 'Quyn [sic] or Wyn' (CSP Scot., 13.2.1085) had called on him, hoping to obtain pardon. Thereafter, Gwyn's history is unknown.