Masterless Men of Newfoundland

Masterless Men of Newfoundland was a legendary outlaw society (fl late 18th, early 19th centuries). According to tradition, for which there is little documentary evidence, they were men escaping press gangs, Royal Navy deserters and runaway indentured servants from Newfoundland fishing plantations who fled inland to escape their harsh life. Led by Peter Kerrivan, an Irish-born deserter circa 1750, the Masterless Men are said to have inhabited the wild Butter Pot barrens of the Avalon Peninsula. Regarded as criminals by the authorities, they lived by hunting, fishing, stealing and illegally trading in isolated villages.

They reputedly blazed Newfoundland's first roads, some for practical purposes, others as blind leads to confound pursuers. Two, possibly 4, of them were captured and hanged, but authorities never succeeded in breaking up the outlaw society, nor did they capture Kerrivan, who became a folk hero in Newfoundland lore. In the early 19th century, as social conditions improved, the Masterless Men allegedly moved to outports where they could work as independent fishermen.