| Welcome aboard......
Come and enjoy a fabulous tour of scenic Carbonear and Harbour Grace
Islands and along the way discover the rich history of a Pirate & a
|The Pirate & the Princess
|During the reign of Elizabeth I, England was known for the skill and bravery of her
privateers who traveled the world looking for bounty. They acted under a "Letter of
Marquee" from the queen, but they commanded their own fleets. Men such as Drake,
Raleigh, and Hawkins are famous for their contribution to world history. Through their
skills they helped to defeat Spain and to make Great Britain the most powerful nation
on the sea.
One of these privateers was Captain Peter Easton, who had been commissioned by
the Queen in 1602, to take three British Warships to Newfoundland to enforce a
British peace among the lawless fishermen of many nations who were living along the
hundreds of miles of coastline. It was during this journey that he met and rescued
When James I came to the throne in 1603 and the Spanish Armada was defeated in
1604, the war with Spain ended suddenly. James I decreased the size and power of
the English navy, so Easton and the members of his crew were stranded in
Newfoundland without pay and they began to talk about organizing pirate crews. Most
of the English officers and men took an oath of blood brotherhood along with Captain
Easton. They took over the vessels which they had formerly sailed as British
warships and they set out for the Spanish Main to plunder shipping and communities
along the coast. Gilbert Pike refused to go. He opted to become a fisherman, taking
his bride to the settlement of Mosquito, (now called Bristol's Hope) where they built a
home and began to raise a family.
By 1610 the British referred to Easton as a "Notorious Pirate". He had become the
most powerful pirate in the Western Hemisphere. He was very wealthy and had
thousands of men in his crew. He had a fleet of forty ships which were stationed near
Bristol at the mouth of the river Avon. From this site he was able to hold up all the
traffic in the English Channel. His plundering drove the Bristol merchants to seek the
help of the Lord Admiral, Earl of Nottingham to get rid of him. As a result of this
action, John Guy records in his diary that Easton returned to Newfoundland in 1610
and 1612 with his fleet. Along the rugged coasts he swept everything before him like
a barbarian, capturing ships, a cannon, and $100,000 worth of bounty. He even
enlisted 500 more men for his crews, most of whom joined gladly, but some of whom
were tortured into submission.
With his captured cannon, Peter Easton fortified Harbour Grace Bay, and a little
island off the harbor still bears his name. He built a fort just east of Caplin Cove near
the spot where the museum stand today. He made his headquarters across the bay
from Harbour Grace on Kelly’s Island. People visit the island by boat today and some
still search for treasure. There is a local story that two American tourists actually did
find gold on the island, but it has never been confirmed.
While he was living on Kelly’s Island he captured the king’s representative in the
colony, Sir Richard Whitbourne . Sir Richard had been sent to Newfoundland to
attempt to bring order, and had set up the first English court of law in the New World.
According to Sir Richard’s book (which was not published until 1620), he was kept on
the ship for 11 weeks. During that time Easton lavished him with excellent treatment,
in order to persuade him to join as his first lieutenant. He wanted Whitbourne to rule
Newfoundland with him, using the colony as a base to conquer the New World.
Although Whitbourne refused to participate in Easton’s scheme, he did agree to go
to England and support a petition for pardon, which would enable Easton to return to
England and spend his days living in royal splendor on his loot.
Harbour Grace could be easily attacked by sea should the King decide to send a
fleet against him, so Easton moved to Ferryland and fortified the harbor. He now had
his armada of 40 ships, a fortress which was virtually unassailable, including Isle au
Bois, off Ferryland, which later defied the French navy. From this fortress he sent an
ultimatum to England. If he were pardoned, he would go home and settle quietly for
the rest of his life. If not, he would continue to rule the high seas according to his own
The Government of England capitulated and sent the pardon, but Easton never
received it. He lived for two years in Ferryland, waiting for it to arrive, and built a
splendid palace on Fox Hill, the site of which may still be seen. He conducted raids
against merchant ships out of Ferryland, and from nearby Aquaforte, where he
always kept part of his fleet. He grew impatient at the delay in the arrival of the
pardon, and sailed for the Azores to intercept the Spanish fleet that were making for
home. He was next sited on the Barbary Coast in 1614 with fourteen ships heavily
laden with plunder. He made an alliance with the King of Algiers. Together, they
fought a very profitable war against Spain. Then Easton disbanded his armada,
divided his vast treasure, and bought a palace in the pirate kingdom of Savoy - at
Ville Franche, near the present Principality of Monaco. There he lived to a ripe old
age in great splendor and extravagance on a bounty that is reported to be two million
pound in gold, perhaps the most successful pirate who ever lived. Captain John
Smith, of Pocahontas fame in Virginia, published in 1629, that Easton was so wealthy
that he had the title, Marquis of Savoy.
Peter Easton was just one of many pirates that operated out of Newfoundland, as a
result many legacies of piracy remain on the Island. There are many stories of pirate
treasure in addition to one about Kelly’s Island. A fortune in gold was discovered on
a ship wreck off Baccalieu Island (and which as now been declared a bird sanctuary
of international importance). Pirates have also given names to communities. Turk’s
Gut was a favorite shelter for pirate ships, and got its name because the settlers
called the pirates "Turks". The town of Heart’s Desire was named after a pirate ship
which ravaged both sides of the Atlantic for years until 1620. The ship was captured
by a Newfoundland skipper and brought back to Newfoundland as a prize. Lastly,
pirates have also left their descendants in the province. Easton is still a common
family names on the south side of Conception Bay.
|Rebel Island Theatre's
production of the " Pirate & the
|Sheilagh Ne Geira
Sheilagh Ne Geira was one of the first European women to settle North
Newfoundland folklore tells that Sheilagh Ne Geira is Gaelic for "Sheilagh
the beautiful" and that her real name was Sheilagh O'Connor.
Sheilagh Ne Geira and her husband Lieutenant Gilbert Pike were the
founders of the community of Carbonear.
Folklore tells that Sheilagh Ne Geira was the daughter of an Irish Chieftan.
At around the turn of the sixteenth century, Sheilagh was sailing from
France where she was schooled at a convent. However, her ship was
captured by Dutch Buccaneers. Holland was then a vassal of Spain.
In turn, the Dutch were intercepted and defeated by the Pirate Admiral Peter
Peter Easton and his fleet were in route to Newfoundland and the young
woman's life was fatefully changed.
Sheilagh arrived in Newfoundland circa 1602. Folklore tells that she was
the first married woman on the coast. Presumably she was married fat sea
by Peter Easton.
The couple settled at Bristol's Hope. However, circa 1612, they were
supposed to have moved to Carbonear to escape the oppression of their
former ally turned pirate Peter Easton.
Sheilagh Ne Geira is reputed to have had the first British child born in North
America (circa 1602). She is reputed to have been a midwife, lived to an old
age and on friendly terms with the Beothuk. Much of her life and the stories
surrounding it have been obscured by time and fading memories.
"Bristol's Hope" also known as "Mosquito". In the distance can be seen
Cape St. Francis, Newfoundland. "Bristol's Hope" was first settled in 1602. In
1618, the London and Bristol Company unsuccessfully attempted to open
as fishing plantation and settlement at the site.