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From Baltimore to Barbary - The Village That Disappeared

A radio documentary about the pirates who raided a quiet coastal village in West Cork and sold villagers into slavery in the Ottoman Empire in 1631.

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4.3/5 (105 ratings)

Documentary maker: Leeanne O'Donnell

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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From Baltimore to Barbary - The Village That Disappeared

Sometimes history throws up stories that are more dramatic than any fiction. This atmospheric radio documentary follows one such story taking us on a dramatic journey from the south west coast of Ireland to the souks and harems of North Africa's Barbary Coast.

On a summer's morning in 1631 a North African pirate ship sailed into Roaring Water Bay in West Cork and raided the quiet coastal village of Baltimore. A crew of ruthless slave traders roused the villagers from their beds, slaughtered anyone who resisted, and herded 107 people into the hold of their waiting ship. Men, women and children were taken, even down to babies in the cradle.

The destination of the ship was the notorious slave market of Algiers- the future ahead of the villagers was a life of slavery in the Ottoman Empire.

In this documentary we find out happened the night the pirates arrived, we hear about the ruthless pirate captain who led the troops and the mysterious Janissary warriors who accompanied them.

We follow the fates of these ordinary people who found themselves caught up in this grim trade in human flesh. When they arrived in Algiers the prisoners were auctioned off depending on their looks, skills and fitness. Some of them were heading for a living hell, others had the opportunity to build new lives in one of the busiest and most prosperous cities in the world.

Some of the men were destined for the dreaded galley ships and many of the women and girls would end up in the Harems of North Africa.

We hear about devastated family members left behind in Baltimore and a ransom attempt made a decade later by the King of England.


This documentary explores the fates of these ordinary people whose lives were turned upside down forever and captures the dramatic shift from life in a quiet fishing village to the exotic souks of North Africa.

This documentary was funded by the BAI through their Sound and Vision Scheme.

Produced by Leeanne O'Donnell.

Production Supervision by Liam O'Brien

First broadcast Saturday 23rd October 2010


Contributor Des Ekin has written a detailed account of the raid. His book "The Stolen Village" is published by O Brien Press.

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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