Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He rose to fame because of his first novel, Treasure Island. That book was inspired by a real treasure buried on November 13, 1750, at Norman Island in the BVI exactly one hundred years before the Scottish author was born, as S. Coward reports.
In his new book, Treasure Island: The Untold Story, American author and historian, John Amrhein, Jr., documents an amazing tale of revenge, greed, high seas adventure, and buried treasure. In Stevenson’s book, his treasure map says that the treasure was buried on August 1, 1750, by a Captain James Flint. In real-life, the treasure was buried by Owen Lloyd born in Flintshire, Wales. He and his peg-legged brother, John, engineered a plan to sail away with over a hundred chests of Spanish treasure from a disabled Spanish galleon at Ocracoke, North Carolina. Unfortunately John was captured but Owen made it safely to the Virgin Islands.
This daring theft challenged the peace that had just been established between England and Spain. The embassies of Denmark and The Netherlands were also involved as the errant governors of St. Thomas and St. Eustatius helped themselves to treasure that had been seized from Owen Lloyd and his associates. The aftermath of the theft sent ripples across the Atlantic for the next fifteen years.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Owen Lloyd left his mark on the Caribbean. He was captured at St. Eustatius and was sentenced to hang but later made his escape to St. Thomas and met a premature death in the Virgin Islands. He was married to the daughter of Charles Caines at St. Kitts a prominent plantation owner. The islands of St. Croix, St. John, Anguilla, Antigua, Tortola, and Montserrat each had a role in this historic event. In 1774, Alan Stevenson, the great grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson, was buried at St. George’s church in Basseterre. He was working for his uncle when he met his untimely end at twenty-four.
It took Amrhein ten years with the help of an international team of researchers to compile this real-life adventure story. “If it had not been for the acts of Owen Lloyd there would have been no Treasure Island” contends Amrhein. “And we owe Treasure Island for the genesis of Pirates of the Caribbean.” Disney, the producer of the of this multi-billion dollar franchise, produced the first color version of Treasure Island in 1950. It was Disney’s first venture into non-animated cinema. Perhaps someday this story will find itself on the big screen.
Today, Norman Island, BVI, is a haven for yachters with its sheltered bay called the Bight. There is a restaurant there called Pirates, reminiscent of Owen Lloyd’s visit.
Treasure Island: The Untold Story is published by New Maritima Press, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina