BOOKINGS: ☏ 044 860 44 70

The story of Harry Paye

Harry Paye was born around 1360. He died in 1419. In between, he was a pirate and an adventurer.

From his hometown of Poole, Old Harry sailed far and wide in search of treasure and glory. He intercepted hundreds of French and Spanish ships in the waters off the Dorset coast, and chased hundreds more across the seas in pursuit of their precious cargo. More often than not, Harry caught them. And when he did, he raided their stores for whatever they had – gold, fine wine, exotic food — and brought it back to the people of Poole, like the Robin Hood of the high seas.

His stories of adventure and plunder made him a hero in his hometown, but the French and Spanish he stole from saw things differently. To them, the man they knew as ‚Arripaye‘ was a criminal. He destroyed their ships, stole their riches and struck fear into the hearts of their sailors. Eventually, the two countries came together in their mutual hatred of Old Harry. They swore revenge. In 1405, with Harry elsewhere on another adventure in search of treasure, the French and the Spanish attacked Poole.

Their ships landed on the Dorset coast, and the French and Spanish tore through Harry’s hometown.

There was fighting on the streets and back alleys, and bloody brawling in the taverns. The brave men of Poole fought tooth and nail, but their invaders were too great in number. Hundreds of Dorset men were killed. One of them was Harry’s brother. His latest adventure over, Harry sailed home to find the destruction the French and Spanish had inflicted. He swore a little revenge – some Payeback – of his own. It wasn’t long in coming.

Certain that their bloody invasion would deter Harry from attacking their ships ever again, the French sailed a ship laiden with the finest wine along the English Channel. Their prediction was wrong. He was heartbroken at the loss of his brother, but Harry’s sense of adventure was undimmed. Harry launched his ship, sailed it out to cut off the French ship, and swung aboard with his crew. Together, they captured the crew, raided their stores, and loaded 12,000 gallons of the finest wine any man had ever seen onto their ship. They left the empty French ship floating along the coast, and sailed their own vessel back home to Poole.

When they reached familiar Dorset soil, Harry made a declaration to the people of his hometown. As a small compensation for the tragedy they had suffered, the whole of Poole was invited to drink the wine, stolen from the invaders who had slain so many of Poole’s men while Harry was adventuring on the open seas.

And drink it, they did. The whole town was drunk for a month straight, so it’s said, and Harry’s name became legend. That’s why to this day, the people of Poole celebrate Paye day every year, when they toast the memory of the pirate and adventurer who foiled the French, and shared his wine.

Drink up, for Harry Paye.