Pirates, Rum and the Thomas Family

Although films such as Pirates of the Caribbean are set around exotic islands, the coast of Wales was as much a haunt for pirates and smugglers as the Caribbean ever was. The inlets and harbors of Pembrokeshire are littered with evidence of real life buccaneers.  From the 15th to 18th century, piracy continued to vex the Welsh coastline.

Since the early 18th century, the Thomas family has comprised sailmakers, ropemakers, shipwrights and mariners in the Pembroke and Milford Haven area.

18th Century Milford Haven (Pembrokeshire, Wales)

18th Century Milford Haven (Pembrokeshire, Wales)

The family continues to preserve its maritime heritage, including a fondness for rum!

James Thomas (1798-1869) ropemaker for the Royal Navy and merchant ships in the Pembroke Dock area

James Thomas (1798-1869) ropemaker for the Royal Navy and merchant ships in the Pembroke Dock area

Edward Thomas (1834-1872) Shipwright at Royal Navy Dockyard - Pembroke Dock and Sheerness

Edward Thomas (1834-1872) Shipwright at Royal Navy Dockyard - Pembroke Dock and Sheerness

Great Great Great Grandfather William Wright's (1800-1861) occupation is listed as a Mariner (Milford Haven-Pembrokeshire)

Great Great Great Grandfather William Wright's (1800-1861) occupation is listed as a Mariner (Milford Haven-Pembrokeshire)

Thomas Family and Wright Family sailmakers (Pembrokeshire, Wales - 1800's)

Thomas Family and Wright Family sailmakers (Pembrokeshire, Wales - 1800's)

Bartholomew Roberts (1682 – 1722) -'Black Bart‘ - the famous Welsh pirate of the early 18th century, was born in this same part of Wales as the Thomas family's ancestors (owners of Black Bart Navy Rum).  Roberts was forced into piracy after his merchant ship was captured off West Africa in 1719. The captain of that pirate ship was another Welshman- Howell Davies - (1690-1719) who was born in the same town as the Thomas forbearers - Milford Haven. 

 

An early print of Bartholomew Roberts

An early print of Bartholomew Roberts

Howell (Hywel) Davies (1690-1719)  Born in Milford Haven

Howell (Hywel) Davies (1690-1719)

Born in Milford Haven

Edward Thomas (1896 - 1984)

Edward Thomas (1896 - 1984)

Howard Thomas (1919-2007) sailed all his life. He owned numerous ships, including the square-rigged brigantine Rendezvous in San Diego. He bequeathed this love of the sea to his three sons, Baron, Drake and Lance.

Howard Thomas (1919 - 2007)

Howard Thomas (1919 - 2007)

The Thomas Family ship - Brigantine Rendezvous (San Diego, California)

The Thomas Family ship - Brigantine Rendezvous (San Diego, California)

Baron Thomas (1941 -) has spent a lifetime sailing on schooners, Baltimore clippers, brigantines, barkentines, ketches and sloops, and has also traversed the globe on research vessels with Scripps Oceanography. Baron has been a shipwright and ship's cannoneer to boot.

Baron Thomas (1941 -) has spent a lifetime sailing on schooners, Baltimore clippers, brigantines, barkentines, ketches and sloops, and has also traversed the globe on research vessels with Scripps Oceanography. Baron has been a shipwright and ship's cannoneer to boot.

Drake Thomas (1942 -) at the end of the yard on Endeavour II. Drake has sailed throughout the Pacific on barkentines and schooners, and also served on Coast Guard cutters. From Panama to Australia, from the Galapagos to the Bering Sea,  he has spent decades navigating the high seas. He served as Master of the Brigantine  Rendezvous , was responsible for the restoration of the Baltic schooner “ Carthaginian ” in Lahaina, Maui, and also built thesquare-rigged sailing packet  “Hawaiian Chieftain ” (launched in 1988).

Drake Thomas (1942 -) at the end of the yard on Endeavour II. Drake has sailed throughout the Pacific on barkentines and schooners, and also served on Coast Guard cutters. From Panama to Australia, from the Galapagos to the Bering Sea,  he has spent decades navigating the high seas. He served as Master of the Brigantine Rendezvous, was responsible for the restoration of the Baltic schooner “Carthaginian” in Lahaina, Maui, and also built thesquare-rigged sailing packet “Hawaiian Chieftain” (launched in 1988).

Hawaiian Chieftain  - Built by Drake Thomas

Hawaiian Chieftain - Built by Drake Thomas

Lance Thomas, founder of The Great British Trading Company, crewed on his father's ships in California, and also spent time sailing in the English Channel and the North Sea. In recognition of the fact that several notable pirates originated from the same small corner of the world as the Thomas family, it was decided to name the brand after the most successful Pembrokeshire buccaneer of them all -Bartholomew Roberts –  Black Bart .

Lance Thomas, founder of The Great British Trading Company, crewed on his father's ships in California, and also spent time sailing in the English Channel and the North Sea. In recognition of the fact that several notable pirates originated from the same small corner of the world as the Thomas family, it was decided to name the brand after the most successful Pembrokeshire buccaneer of them all -Bartholomew Roberts – Black Bart.

The Thomas Family crew

The Thomas Family crew

Baron Thomas aboard Endeavour

Baron Thomas aboard Endeavour

Drake Thomas taking sightings

Drake Thomas taking sightings

Baron & Lance Thomas supervising the cannons

Baron & Lance Thomas supervising the cannons

Howard Thomas at the helm

Howard Thomas at the helm

Lance Thomas

Lance Thomas

The Thomas crew on  Brigantine Rendezvous

The Thomas crew on Brigantine Rendezvous

Bartholomew Roberts in 1722 (off West Africa)

Bartholomew Roberts in 1722 (off West Africa)

For Howard Thomas's 80th birthday, his sons gave him the most appropriate of gifts. A 90 year old flagon of official Royal Navy rum!

For Howard Thomas's 80th birthday, his sons gave him the most appropriate of gifts. A 90 year old flagon of official Royal Navy rum!