Early Life


A timeline of Anne Bonny's life from the table of contents of A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson

According to Captain Charles, Anne Bonny was born around 1697 in Cork, Ireland. Born out of wedlock to a lawyer, William McCormack, and the maid he was having an affair with, Anne’s birth was quite the scandal. The maid, Mary Brennan, actually did jail time for “bedding” with a married man, but was released when it was discovered she was pregnant with William’s child, Anne.

William tried to raise his daughter as a boy to avoid scandal, but he was quickly discovered in his scam. Wanting to hide the product of his scandalous affair, William dressed his daughter in breeches and claimed the toddler was “a relative's child he was to breed up to be his clerk” (Johnson, 131). Now, William's wife knew her husband didn’t have any relatives with young sons so, suspicious, she sent a friend to do some snooping and managed to confirm that the child was, in fact, biologically female and the daughter of her adulterous husband.

After his plot to hide his daughter’s identity was discovered, William decided to throw caution to the wind and live openly with his mistress, the maid, until his public shame eventually ruined his legal practice and he was forced to move to a completely new place: North America. In the early years of the 18th century-around the same time Mary Read was serving in the British military- William and Anne packed up and headed to a British colony called The Providence of Carolina (which would split into the two colonies of North and South Carolina in 1712) to start over.

In Carolina, William dropped the “Mc” from his name to fit in with the locals and took up a new profession: sales. More successful as a merchant than he ever was as a lawyer, William amassed a considerable fortune for himself which Anne would have been the heiress to had she not rashly married a penniless pirate-wannabe or, as Captain Charles puts it, “a young fellow who belonged to the sea, and was not worth a Groat” (Johnson, 132). This ill-considered marriage compelled Anne’s father to disown her and waive her claim to his fortune.

Given Anne's reputation, though, William may not have been too surprised when she decided to run off with a pirate scoundrel. Young Anne Bonny was said to be “of a fierce and courageous temper” and was by all accounts a rebellious child and even a bit of a delinquent (Johnson, 132). People told stories about her stabbing a servant with a kitchen knife “in her passion” and beating up a grown man so viciously that “he lay ill [for] a considerable time” (Johnson, 132). While, as historians, we should doubt the credibility of such rumors, it seems reasonable to assume that Anne Bonny had a reputation as a troublemaker.

Anne Bonny
Early Life