William Benton

Now a condemned pirate in Newgate prison in London awaiting his appointment with gallows, William Benton was once the boatswain on the pirate vessel Dream Chaser. Originally from Plymouth in Devon, the 35-year-old loquacious seaman and anti-hero is renowned for his biting wit and sarcastic humour, which on times made him extremely unpopular with the crew. At times self-serving and self-important, it is not unknown for him to surprise his shipmates with unexpected acts of fairness and compassion. He also possesses a strong sense of justice and refuses to submit himself to any master, making him a suitable candidate for a pirate crew.

Although, on his own request, he was appointed boatswain, his duties really entailed those of a ship’s master. Sailing Masters were officers in charge of navigation and piloting. It was a hard job because charts in those days were usually inaccurate. He acquired his knowledge through experience and natural talent rather than education, and with this skill has made himself indispensable aboard the ship. He refused the title on account of his disdain for the word ‘master’, himself neither desiring to rule nor be ruled by others.

Initially, he served on merchant vessels, but was eventually press-ganged into Royal Navy, where he remained until he jumped ship in Jamaica, later making his way to Nassau where he joined the crew of Dream Chaser.

“I was press-ganged into the Royal Navy when on shore leave in Dartmouth. Me own fault I guess. Shouldn’t of got myself so fuddled with drink. Woke up with a head like a bag of chisels and found meself on board a fifth-rater on me way out to sea. I went to hell and back on that ship. The second lieutenant didn’t like the cut of me jib, you see. I’m sad to say the cat o’ nine was a dear old friend of mine. Couldn’t keep me mouth shut, you see. But after one dark day when the officer on deck flayed the skin off me neck,” William pulled down the collar of his filthy shirt, revealing the angry scars on his neck and upper back, “I decided it was time to jump ship in Jamaica, and I fled to the island’s interior, hanging out with a group of maroons until that infernal ship had left port. Then I managed to secure passage to Nassau where I joined Captain Ironside’s crew on Dream Chaser and, due to me experience, soon became his bosun.”

— William Benton

Tolerated by Captain Ironside, he has developed a volatile, almost brotherly love-hate relationship with the coxswain, John Brownrigg, and finds himself attracted to the impetuous Irish pirate, Niamh O’Malley, one of the few women on board the ship.

While imprisoned and awaiting execution he gives an incredible account of his exploits and the fate of Dream Chaser to the journalist Nathaniel Bagshaw, in the hope of making his last days on Earth more bearable.

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