Colla the Pirate


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Colla the Pirate
Colla McDonnell the notorious pirate

Colla McDonnell (born in 1570) fought in several McDonnell clan wars in Ireland and Scotland. He was ambidextrous – dangerous with a sword in either hand. When he lost his home in one of these wars, he became a pirate. He raided ships between the coasts of Ireland and Scotland and sometimes coastal villages. In the off-season, he hid on one of the many Hebrides Islands and usually shacked up with one of the local widows. Scotland issued a “fire and sword” order, authorizing anyone to capture and “execute him unto death”. I suppose without this last prepositional phrase, Colla could only be executed to the extreme pain.

Colla retired from piracy and lived to age of 77. He did not die of natural causes though. Scottish officials hung the old pirate the mast of his own ship, moored in the Hebrides island of Islay.

The image is a 19th Century drawing of the famed pirate Captain Kidd, hung from a gibbet. A gibbet is an inverted L-shaped structure far less elaborate than gallows but equally effective for hanging.

Colla was a common Irish and Scottish first name, dating back nearly 2,000 years. It is pronounced “CAWL-la”, and not like the soft drink. Colla is probably the source of the more modern first name Colin.

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