Tales of the past: pirates in Groningen

July 29, 2022

As we're developing a brand new park in the province of Groningen, we scaver the area for stories that we can tell our guests. Stories that we can retell though our design, or stories that are just perfect for a good camping night around a camp fire. Here in the area of Groningen, some dark stories came to light, as it used to be a breeding ground of some very real and famous pirates.

That is not all that surprising, because the city of Groningen used to be a Hanseatic city and therefore the Ommelanden were also part of the Hanseatic route. That is why a lot of beautiful merchandise was shipped over the water, making Groningen a great place for malicious privateers on the coast.

Some villages in the area sometimes benefited from the presence of pirates. The pirates made good use of this by playing one city off against the other. This way they were always assured of a sales area for their stolen goods.

Pirates from Vierhuizen

According to folk tales, the village of Vierhuizen was a real pirate's nest.

Many ships passed here that sailed to Groningen and Dokkum. It is said that the inhabitants of Vierhuizen supported the pirates. After rough pursuits at sea, the pirates often landed at Vierhuizen or in nearby Zoutkamp, ​​where they disappeared without a trace. Perhaps that is why it was sometimes difficult for the local authorities to maintain order.

Mid 16th century, a very infamous corsair was active near the Wadden Sea; Captain Thomas Luchtemaker.

The Groninger merchants and skippers were more than fed up with his actions and sent a petition to the mayors of various municipalities to take strict action. In the period that followed, pirates were arrested regularly, but somehow got released again and again. And once freed, they could take their anger of being captivated out on other merchants and skippers.

Rock Braziliano

A very famous and gruesome pirate grew up in this area. Gerrit Gerritszoon was born in 1635 in the city of Groningen when the revolt against Spain was in full swing.

His parents emigrated to New Holland, a Dutch colony in Brazil. When this colony was recaptured by the Portuguese in 1654, Gerrit went to Jamaica to join a club of international pirates who mainly attacked Spanish ships. Gerrit was very popular with the crew and therefore soon became captain of his own ship.

The crew renamed his name to “Rock Braziliano”. Rock was feared and his most infamous conquest was in 1664 when he attacked the Spanish ship the “Sevillana”. There was a huge amount of silver on board that he took back to Jamaica. This success brought him much prestige and Rock became a true leader.

According to the stories, Rock Braziliano was a cunning type who regularly outsmarted the Spaniards. He is also known to be one of the most vicious pirates in the Caribbean. He lacked self-control and had a wicked drink. While intoxicated, he chopped off limbs from random passers-by while walking through the city. Spaniards were sometimes even roasted alive by Rock. He was also brutally strict with his own crew. There was therefore no mutiny on his ships and he was awed by his staff. Perhaps that's what he owed his successful conquests to.

After 1671 it becomes quieter around his person. Did he retire to Jamaica, was he given a seafarer's grave or was he captured by the Spaniards after all? In any case, the story in which Gerrit from Groningen grew into Rock Braziliano remains both fascinating and frightening.

Treasures of Groningen

There is a good chance that the youngest guests at the park in Groningen can't wait to put on a pirate suit and an eye patch.

That's why we like to help these little heroes a bit. So they can, like a tough but friendly pirate, go on the hunt for the hidden treasures that may have once been hidden here in Vierhuizen.

As we wrote earlier: there are plenty of treasures to discover in Groningen anyway.

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