David Kirke

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Sir David Kirke (c. 1597 – 1654) was an adventurer, colonizer and governor for the king of England. Kirke was the son of Gervase Kirke, a wealthy London-based Scottish merchant, who had married a Huguenot woman, Elizabeth Goudon,[1] and was raised in English occupied[citation needed] Dieppe, in Normandy.

In 1627 Kirke's father and several London merchants formed a company to encourage trade and settlement on the St. Lawrence River. France and England were at war and the Kirke family took it upon themselves to expel the French from North America.

Kirke and his brothers captured Tadoussac in 1628 and demanded that Samuel de Champlain surrender Quebec. When their demand was refused they left, but captured a French supply fleet near Gaspé, putting Quebec into precarious condition. Kirke returned in 1629 and received the French surrender of Quebec. In return for capturing Nova Scotia[citation needed] and Quebec[citation needed] for the English in 1628, Sir David Kirke was granted a Coat of Arms. His arms were lost, but were rediscovered by London archivists after World War I, and in 1928 became the official Coat of Arms of Newfoundland and Labrador.[2]

Kirke was ordered to return the colony to France in 1632 as King Charles I of England had agreed to return France's territories after Louis XIII paid his wife's dowry. As a consolation, Kirke was knighted in 1633 and in 1637 he and his partners were given a royal charter giving them possession of Newfoundland with Kirke as Proprietary Governor. This charter superseding an earlier charter that granted the Avalon Peninsula of the island to George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore as Baltimore was deemed to have abandoned his colony.

Kirke took possession of Ferryland ejecting William Hill, who had been proprietary governor on behalf of Cæcilius Calvert, who had succeeded as Baron Baltimore on the death of his father. In 1639, Kirke renamed the colony the Pool Plantation. [2] Kirke, as governor of Newfoundland, soon came into conflict with the fishing merchants of western England, who were intent on preserving their control of the Grand Banks fisheries by excluding settlement from the island. Using the labours of about 100 colonists, Kirke erected forts at Ferryland, St. John’s, and Bay de Verde, and collected tolls from all fishing vessels. Kirke was recalled to England in 1651 on charges of violating the charter and not handing over taxes he had collected on behalf of the government. He was found not guilty. Calvert, meanwhile, went to court to challenge Kirke's charter and his seizure of the Province of Avalon. Kirke was imprisoned and is thought to have died in jail.

His wife and three sons persevered and became Newfoundland's frostfish barons. During raids by Dutch ships from New Amsterdam, they lost property in 1665 and 1672.[2]

Preceded by:
William Hill
Governor of Newfoundland
Followed by:
John Treworgie


  1. ^ Marquis, Thomas Guthrie. “The Jesuit Missions: A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness” (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1964) 18.
  2. ^ a b c Charlotte Gray 'The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder' Random House, 2004

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