Kirke, Sir David

Sir David Kirke, adventurer, governor of Newfoundland (b at Dieppe, France c 1597; d near London, Eng 1654). Kirke, with Sir William Alexander, formed the Company of Adventurers, which was granted patents by King Charles I giving them the right to trade and settle in Canada. Accompanied by his brothers Sir Lewis (b at Dieppe c 1599; d 1683), Thomas (b at Dieppe c1603; d after 1641), John and James, he captured TADOUSSAC in 1628. His demand that CHAMPLAIN surrender QUÉBEC was refused and he retired, capturing a French supply fleet off Gaspé.

He returned in 1629 and the destitute French surrendered Québec July 19. Thomas was left in charge of the post as governor. The brothers were ordered to restore Québec to the French in 1632, but David was made coproprietor and became first governor of Newfoundland in 1637. He took possession of FERRYLAND on the Avalon Peninsula, which had been founded in 1621 by George CALVERT, Lord Baltimore, as the province of Avalon. Under Sir David Kirke, Ferryland became known as the Pool Plantation.

Calvert's prior right in Ferryland had been set aside when he was accused of deserting the settlement. The patent issued to the Company of Adventurers forbade settlement within 6 miles of the shore as well as any interference with visiting fishermen, but allowed Kirke to collect a tax of 5 per cent of all fish and oil taken by foreign fishermen. Kirke developed the infrastructure of a significant fishery on the foundation established by Calvert but came into conflict with the fishing merchants.

Sir David Kirke and his company relied on royal favour to retain their rights and supported the king during the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell's government, fearing that Newfoundland under Kirke might be used as a royalist base for counter-revolutionary actions, raised sufficient objections to Kirke's control of Ferryland that he was recalled in 1651 to answer charges of withholding taxes. The charges could not be substantiated and his wife, Lady Sara KIRKE, was allowed to return to Newfoundland to superintend his business, but only after he had transferred five-sixths of his patent rights to Cromwell's son-in-law. Kirke was imprisoned on a suit resulting from his seizure of Ferryland and died in jail. Lady Kirke managed the plantation in his absence and inherited it, and its problems, upon his death.

A hero to some English writers and a pirate in the eyes of the French, Kirke remains controversial.