In The Case of the Modern Pirate, Macalister was the Scottish engineer of the ship Cygnet which sailed from England under Captain John Sebastian Blake. Off the coast of Africa, Captain Blake had called his crew together and told them that he intended to "go a-pirating" and promised them all treble pay if they would go along. Macalister and an English crewman Farrow refused to join in. When the Cygnet was finally wrecked on the coast of Papua New Guinea, Blake paid off his crew and dismissed them.
Macalister and managed to slip away, intending to make their way to Port Moresby on the southern side of the island. Macalister died of fever during the journey but Farrow survived.