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Burin, Newfoundland

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Date: 1718 [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surname/tag: newfoundland
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Burin is a town on the Burin Peninsula in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The Burin Peninsula is often affectionately nicknamed "The Boot" due to its resemblance to the footwear when seen on a map, with the town of Burin located near the "heel". Burin is approximately 318 km from the capital of St. John's. Settlement in Burin dates to the early 18th century, although documentary evidence indicates that French fishermen had been fishing and exploring the area even earlier[1]. The town of Burin is not just one town but a combination of several individual settlements which developed in the area, some dating back to the early Eighteenth Century. These settlements were sometimes referred to by their actual name followed by Burin (eg Salt Pond, Burin; Ship Cove, Burin) but were usually grouped together under the name Burin or Burin Proper. In 1950 the town of Burin was incorporated and it included the communities of Burin North, Ship Cove Proper, Ship Cove-Path End, and Burin Bay. The town limits were expanded in the 1960s and 1970s to include Collins Cove, Kirby's Cove, Path End, Bull's Cove, Black Duck Cove, Long Cove, Little Salmonier, Burin Bay Arm and Salt Pond.


This sheltered area offered a great deal of protection to the fishing fleets which frequented the Burin area in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries and was one of the factors in its early settlement and subsequent development. The name Burin itself is of unknown origin. M.F. Howley (1901) offers two possible suggestions: (I) from a French word burine meaning engraving tool related to the formation of the harbour a French sailboat was entering, named it thus; (2) from a Gaelic word bureen meaning rocky place. The French origin is the more likely since the name Burin appears in French documents of the Seventeenth Century, considerably before Irish settlement in the area[2].

Burin has had a long and eventful history. It is reported in testimony given by Captain Martin De Sapiain in St. Sebastian (Spain) in 1697 that Basque fishermen had frequented Buria Chumea (Little Burin) and Buria Audia (Great Burin) as early as 1650 and possibly earlier (D.W. Prowse: 1895). Charles de la Morandiere (1962) reported that in 1662, after intense lobbying by fishermen from St. Malo, the parliament of Brittany allotted the numbers of men for each fishing harbour on the coast of Chapeau Rouge (Burin Peninsula) and Great Burin was allotted forty men. A letter, from Pastour de Costebelle, Govemor of Placentia, to the French Secretary of the Navy dated October 28, 1708 indicated that French fishermen from Placentia had frequented les Burins for many years.

The first indication of English settlement occurred in 1718. In that year Christopher Spurrier of Poole, England established Christopher Spurrier and Company, a shipbuilding enterprise at Ship Cove. By 1736 English fishermen were carrying on an extensive fishery in the area. The Scheme of the Fishery of Newfoundland for 1740 reported that there were four British fishing ships operating out of Burin and Mortier. There were also the beginnings of permanent settlement with twenty-eight of thirty-six masters and 130 of 160 men servants who prosecuted the summer fishery spending the winter along with thirty mistresses, six women servants and seventy-two children.

In 1749 a Doctor Walsh is believed to have deserted a British ship and settled at Doctor's Cove. He re portedly convinced others to settle in the area but by 1765 the number of permanent settlers had decreased with only four masters, twenty men servants, four mistresses, one woman servant and twelve children reported as spending the winter. H.A. Innis (1940) reported that after 1765 there were many fishermen from Jersey in the Burin area. Burin gradually began to replace Placentia as the major distribution centre for the area and by 1807 "this . . . port brought in half again as much salt meat, almost all the rum and molasses, and twice as much salt as did the old capital of the bay" (CG. Head: 1976, pp. 234-236). By 1813 the resident population had risen to 1,092 but in a census reported to have been taken of Newfoundland during 1827-28 the population of Burin is recorded as 928 (492 Protestants, 436 Roman Catholics).

The earliest record of a clergyman at Burin dates to 1789 when Rev. John Harries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) stationed at Placentia visited the area. The first regularly stationed Church of England clergyman was Rev. Thomas Gathercole who arrived in 1815. A small chapel had been built around 1793, and a church was built in the early 1800s. It was consecrated by Bishop Edward Feild on April 11, 1850. A Roman Catholic mission was begun in 1809 and a chapel was built in 1811. John Marshall constructed the first Roman Catholic Church between 1815 and 1820, and the first priest stationed at Burin was Rev. John Fitzsimmons. The first Methodist missionary. Rev. John Lewis, arrived in 1817 and a chapel had been built by 1819. A church was built shortly thereafter. Methodist churches were also built at Burin Bay Arm and at Great Burin. The Salvation Army moved into Burin in 1890 and set up a mission at Burin Bay.

The census returns taken in Newfoundland between 1836 and 1874 give aggregate population totals for Burin Proper, combining the individual community returns under that heading. These totals were 1836—1,158; 1845 — 1,653; 1857 — 2,020; 1869 — 2,077; 1874 — 2,210. In 1884 Burin Proper was indicated to be the collective name of the settlements in the Burin area but each community was given a separate listing. These communities and their populations were Lance a L'eau (35); Mud Cove (95); Pat's Cove (20); Burin Reach (18); Dodding Head (8); Spoon Cove (167); Burin Bay (295); Narrows (66); Whale Cove (48); Mosquito Cove (51); Kirby's Cove (78); Shalloway (73); ColHns Cove (92); Great Burin Island (234); Step-a-side (123); Pardy's Is¬ land (174); Shandy HaU (239); Ship Cove (48); Burin Bay Arm (360); Path End (122); BuU's Cove (142); total for Burin Proper: 1,572. After 1884 returns were given for each individual community and not for Burin Proper.

On November 18, 1929 an earthquake occurred off the southern coast of Newfoundland. A 15 m (50 ft) tidal wave, resulting from the earthquake, hit the Burin Peninsula about 7:30 that evening. Nine lives were lost in the Burin area, and immeasurable destmction and damage was caused to houses, stores, bams, wharves, boats and fishing equipment. Moreover, the damage the tidal wave caused to the sea bed brought about an immense decline in the numbers of fish in the area. It was ten years before the fish retumed in large numbers.

It is believed that the first courthouse was built in Burin between 1790 and 1800, but some sources make it as early as 1775. In 1813 the first magistrates, Henry Butler and a Mr. Bishop, were appointed to Burin. A second courthouse was built sometime between 1817 and 1834. With the establishment of Representative Government in Newfoundland in 1832 the only polling booth between Rock Harbour and Lawn was located there.

The first school was established in Burin by the S.P.G. in 1793 with Mr. Saunders as teacher. Rev. John Lewis reported in 1819 that there was a Methodist school room capable of accommodating two hundred children. The 1836 Census lists one school in Burin Proper at that time, but by 1845 there were six schools in the area.

Early Families

In 1830 two brothers from Jersey, Richard and Eli Falle, began the firm of Richard Falle and Com¬ pany near the present-day Jersey Room in Little Burin Harbour. They were ship owners and fish buyers and also had facilities for sail making, a cooperage, a tannery and a black-smithy


What links to this page.


  1. Wikipedia article for Burin, Newfoundland and Labrador. Accessed 2018.
  2. Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1994 volume 1 (Extract: letter B). Entry for Burin, p. 289. Memorial University of Newfoundland Website. Accessed 2018.

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