THE life of a teetotal Welsh pirate believed to have been the most successful freebooter of all time is to be retold in a new book.
Bartholomew Roberts, better known as Barti Ddu, or Black Barti, may be less well known than his counterparts Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, but the Welshman is believed to have amassed more booty than either of them.
In his brief career, the pirate from Pembrokeshire, who preferred to drink tea than rum, captured over 400 ships and looted an estimated £50m while keeping the four most powerful nations on earth at bay.
Now a Welsh author has come to rescue Barti Ddu from the shadows of history and has written a book about the last great man of the Golden Age of Piracy.
Terry Breverton, who teaches at the University Wales Institute of Cardiff, first came across Barti Ddu on holiday when he saw a plaque in his memory at a Pembrokeshire tourist attraction.
The battered inscription piqued his curiosity and the deeper he delved, the more he realised that here was a hero whose story needed to be told.
"He was certainly the bravest pirate that ever lived," said Terry Breverton.
"To me he's a typical Welsh anti-hero. I don't see him as a villain. He got trapped in a situation in life and did his best.
"Like another Welsh hero, Owain Glyndwr, he deserves a major film. He was the same sort of man. A very charismatic character. Only in his case he had quite an austere charm. But he was quite remarkable for his time."
Barti Ddu, so named because of his colouring and dark hair, was born to the son of a poor farmer in the tiny village of Little Newcastle near Fishguard in 1682.
Like many of his countrymen living close to the coast, he went to sea at an early age.
It was a time when the British Empire was being born, when not only the Royal Navy but also pirates and buccaneers ruled the waves.
Wales, along with the West Country, provided a rich seam of seafarers and pirates.
After serving in the long war of Spanish Succession in 1718, Barti was third mate on the slave trader Princess and unlikely to progress any further due to his background when it was captured by another pirate from Pembrokeshire, Hywel Davies from Milford Haven.
Barti is said to have been reluctant at first to throw in his lot with the pirates, but his reputation as a navigator meant that they were keen for his services.
Six weeks after Barti joined the crew, the Milford Haven man was killed and the pirates elected Barti Ddu, then 38, as their leader.
"To be honest, life on a pirate ship was a lot more convivial and attractive than working on a slaver, where life expectancy for the crew was only two or three years," said Mr Breverton.
"Conditions were horrible for the crew as well as for the slaves. The punishment and conditions on Royal Navy ships was also terrible. That's why most crew members had to be press ganged. Life on a pirate ship was far preferable.
"There was a democracy. All ships' officers were elected and could be deselected. A captain only had authority in battle."
Over the course of the next few years Barti, who always wore a huge diamond cross belonging to the King of Portugal, and his multinational crew created mayhem for merchant fleets from America to Africa.
The Atlantic Ocean was at this time the focus of a triangular slave trade, with ships bearing valuable cargoes ripe for pirate pickings.
Soon Barti became known as "The Great Pyrate", bringing transatlantic shipping to a standstill.
By 1720, his reputation was such that the crews of over 20 ships abandoned them when he entered a harbour in Newfoundland.
"He was a tall man and he does not seem to have had any interest in either women or men," said Mr Breverton.
"He always dressed in red, which could have been to disguise the blood in battle and show that he just did not care. He wore scarlet breeches, a red waistcoat and sported a scarlet flamingo plume. As well as being a Christian teetotaller, he only drank tea and did not allow any gambling.
"One of the reasons his ship was so successful was that he was not on the razzle all the time like the rest of them.
"He got killed in the end because the rest of the crew were blind drunk and they sailed into an ambush."
Barti's body was thrown overboard and in the great pirate trial that followed, 54 of his crew were hanged, 37 imprisoned and 70 African slaves who Barti had liberated were sold back into slavery.
Barti, who is still remembered today in his home village by a stone memorial, is believed never to have returned to Wales after leaving for sea.
"He could not go back to Wales. Not when the four greatest nations in the world were hunting him at the time," said Mr Breverton.
"But I think in the end he welcomed death. He was getting more and more brave in his raiding attempts.
"He said 'A short life but a merry one shall be my motto' and his life certainly was that."
Black Bart Roberts, the Greatest Pirate of Them All, is published by Glyndwr Publishing £8.99