James Plaintain

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Ranter Bay (Antongil Bay)
Map showing the location of Ranter Bay (Antongil Bay)
Map showing the location of Ranter Bay (Antongil Bay)
Location of Ranter Bay
Location North-east Madagascar
Coordinates 15°45′00″S 49°50′25″E / 15.75000°S 49.84028°E / -15.75000; 49.84028Coordinates: 15°45′00″S 49°50′25″E / 15.75000°S 49.84028°E / -15.75000; 49.84028

James Plaintain (fl 1720-1728, John or James, last name also Plantain) was a pirate active in the Indian Ocean. He is best known for using his pirate wealth to found a short-lived kingdom on Madagascar.


Plantain was English, born in Jamaica, and served as a sailor aboard Edward England’s pirate flotilla (having once served on Christopher Condent's Dragon[1]) which captured the East India Company ship Cassandra from Captain James Macrae in 1720. After looting the ship the collected pirates sailed to Madagascar, divided their plunder, and sailed their separate ways.[2] Plantain and a number of others remained behind, some voluntarily and some not. With two others he moved to Ranter Bay (site of modern Rantabe), spending his plunder and befriending the Malagasay natives to build a settlement. He styled himself “King of Ranter Bay.”[3]

He organized the locals to make war against their neighbors, using firearms to swing the battles his way. He kept himself and his allies supplied by trading with passing ships, offering food, water, supplies, and slaves taken as captives in wars against his neighbors in exchange for guns, gunpowder and shot, clothes, and other goods.[2] The pirates, Plantain included, took multiple Malagasay wives and lavished them with treasures.[4] He demanded the granddaughter of a neighboring king as his wife; the king refused, setting off a series of wars and counter-raids, from which Plantain eventually emerged victorious.[2]

A Royal Navy squadron visited Madagascar in 1722 looking for Richard Taylor, Olivier Levasseur, and England. Plantain advised them that the pirates had long since departed and invited the officers to visit his settlement.[5] Reportedly England himself was present, haggard and near death; he had been deposed from command by Taylor on the grounds of being too kind to the Cassandra’s Captain.[6]

Having made too many enemies on Madagascar Plantain took his favored wife and moved to India in 1728[7], serving in the Maratha navy under Kanhoji Angre.[2] Plantain’s ultimate fate is not known. When he left to fight various battles he generally buried his wealth on the island and dug it up when he returned, but rumors of Plantain’s buried treasure persisted.[2]

See also[edit]

  • Adam Baldridge and Abraham Samuel, two other ex-pirates who established trading posts on or near Madagascar.
  • John Leadstone, an ex-pirate nicknamed "Old Captain Crackers" who established a trading post on the west coast of Africa.


  1. ^ Fox, E. T. (2014). Pirates in Their Own Words. Raleigh NC: Lulu.com. ISBN 9781291943993. Retrieved 21 December 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Little, Benerson (2016). The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truth Behind Pirate Myths. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781510713048. Retrieved 15 September 2017. 
  3. ^ Konstam, Angus (2011). Pirates: The Complete History from 1300 BC to the Present Day. Guilford CT: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780762768356. Retrieved 15 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Cordingly, David (2013). Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. New York: Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307763075. Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  5. ^ Sherry, Frank (2009). Raiders and Rebels: A History of the Golden Age of Piracy. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 9780061982651. Retrieved 15 September 2017. 
  6. ^ Grey, Charles (1933). Pirates of the eastern seas (1618-1723): a lurid page of history. London: S. Low, Marston & co., ltd. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  7. ^ "Southern Africa". 16 April 2007. Archived from the original on 16 April 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2017.