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Piracy in Newfoundland.

The first record of piracy in and around Newfoundland was in 1582. In 1582, the Englishmen Henry Oughtred and Sir John Perrot launched a raid on Portuguese and Spanish fishermen around the Avalon peninsula. To protect their vessels from these  and other trepidations, Basque fish marchants began to apply for passports from the Lord Admiral of England.

In 1612, Peter Easton, The "Pirate Admiral" raided the coast of the Avalon. Easton was followed by the dashing and charismatic Henry Mainwaring. Mainwaring was an Oxford graduate a member of the bar and a master mariner.

Mainwaring was dispatched to Newfoundland to arrest Peter Easton. But Easton had left Newfoundland and Mainwaring apparently occupied Easton's abandoned settlement. Following in Easton's footsteps, Mainwaring turned to piracy.

After a successful career as a Newfoundland pirate, Mainwaring returned to England. On his return voyage he intercepted and protected an English convoy sailing to Cadez. Despite his piracy and (presumably) in gratitude for protecting the convoy Mainwaring was welcomed back to England.

Mainwaring went on to become the Chancellor of Ireland. In his old age he went into exile in France following the English Civil War.

Two contemporaries of Easton and Mainwaring were the Pirate Captain John Nutt (fl.1620-23), and the gentleman Buccaneer David Kirke (1597-1654).

David Kirke was an English buccaneer who, in 1628, attacked Quebec, but was repulsed byChamplain. In the same year, he  captured a French fleet of 18 French ships in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Kirke was also a prominant figure in the establishment of the Scottish colony of Nova Scotia.

For his services to the English Crown, Kirke was appointed Governor of Newfoundland  under a Royal Charter granted to the Company of
Adventurers. In 1639, Kirke took possession of the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland. 

English pirates were followed by French pirates, including the Marquis de la Rade (1628).

In later years Dutch Piracy plagued Newfoundland settlers. Most notably under Admiral De Ruyter and Captain Jacob Overson

In the summer of 1696 a French naval squadon under Chevalier Nesmond sailing from Plaisance unsuccessfully laid seige to St. John's.  While during the American Revolutionary War, American privateers raided and sacked Cartwright, Labrador and were a very real threat to Newfoundland.

A Map of Newfoundland from the era of The Pirate Admiral Peter Easton, John Nutt, Henry Mainwaring, Davis Kirke etc.:
"Insula olim vocata Nova: Terra." 
"The Island called of olde Newfovnd land. As described by Captain Iohn Mason an industrious Gent: who spent seven yeares in the Countrey."
The "skull-and-crossbones" flew, in various forms, from countless pirate ships that sailed Newfoundland waters. In this picture can be seen Captain Edward Teach's jolly Roger. Teach is more commonly known as "Bluebeard the Pirate".

Check out these links:

  • Peter Easton,The "Pirate Admiral"
  • John Nutt
  • Marquis de la Rade
  • Dutch Piracy

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