Newfoundland Connection

Newfoundland and Poole with its fishermen eager to cash in on the rich source of Cod was a major concern in its day and many dorset men and woman would eventually make it their home so much so that it was probably the only place where the Dorset dialect survived intact due its remoteness from outside influences, long after the dialect had been watered down in England ,the speech as spoken by the 18th century farm worker was still to be heard all the way across the seas in Newfoundland !. I have a friend who descends from a certain young man named Job Luther who left Kinson village for Newfoundland in the early 1800s when just a young lad of 15 or 16 and hundreds of years later myself and Liz meet by email through genealogy! and whilst chatting she told me that a certain word I had said was a word  she heard as a young girl from her granny,and that she now realised it was an old Dorset word , when  young she had thought it was a foreign language!.


In 1497 a discovery had been made across the Atlantic which unbeknown to the men of Poole would transform the fortunes of the people and the town for several hundred years to come.

It was the discovery of Newfoundland by one John Cabot. His original goal was to discover a western route to Asia. He had been granted letters patent by King Henry VII, "to search for unknown lands and bring back merchandise to Bristol."

What Cabot found in June 1497 was not only a "Newfoundland" but also one of the largest fishing grounds ever discovered by man. The seas were teeming with cod, so much so, that the passage of ships was impeded.

The news of the abundant fish stocks tempted some of the more adventurous mariners of Poole and by 1528 records show that large quantities of salt - an essential ingredient for the salt-fish trade was being landed at Poole.


Over the next fifty years the trade with Newfoundland steadily grew to meet the demand for fish from the catholic countries of Europe.

From the late 1600's until about 1815 Poole enjoyed a period of unprecedented prosperity. The recognition of Newfoundland as British territory made possible the development of the cod fisheries and the associated Newfoundland trade.

The evidence of this prosperity is in the magnificent Georgian houses and public buildings, which can still be seen to the present day. The merchants of Poole founded whole dynasties, which through inter marriage and alliance, formed an elite group, and became known as the "merchant princes" of Poole. By 1802 there were 350 ships in the Poole fleet.


The final defeat of Napoleon in 1814 was the major event that changed the fortunes of the Poole merchants. The trade with Newfoundland had flourished all through the Napoleonic wars because Portugal, Italy and Spain relied upon the supplies of dried fish provided by the Poole merchants. Peace meant that the French and Americans could now fish the waters and take over many of the services provided by Poole merchants. The result was rapid decline. Within a few years many of the merchants had ceased trading and faced ruin.


There is an extremely interesting chapter in the small booklet Old Poole Town by Olive Knott, pages 3-7, which describes the above situation: 'Recruits for the [Newfoundland] fishing trade were drawn from many villages and small towns in the area. Agricultural work was badly paid and scarce, so that there was no lack of volunteers for this arduous but more renumerative occupation. ...... They went usually for one winter and two summers to Newfoundland where they fished extensively for cod and other fish, salted and packed it. Some ventured further north to the coast of Labrador where seals were to be found in plenty. ...... At this time a number of people from Poole and the surrounding area settled permanently in Newfoundland, and in the same way many a fisherman who sailed from Poole brought back a wife from the island so that through the interchanged, even until the present time [1975], names on the electoral lists of Southern Newfoundland are identical with those in Poole and the surrounding district. ...... After the [1790s] war with France ended there was a gradual decline in the Newfoundland fishing trade. ...... Many of the settlers in the island found life too difficult and returned to their own country.' This and other very interesting Olive Knott booklets can often be found for sale on &; you are strongly advised to check both websites for the cheapest before buying, as prices can vary quite widely.


Having corresponding with a lovely lady in NewFoundland who descends from a Dorset man who left the then very small village of Kinson aged just 16 ,she told me that you can still hear the old style "Darzit" lngo as being iisolated the language and accent remained more  pure  for many years. ,they also have many of the oldbooks and referednce books relating t Dorset as most of the population having come form Dorset you can sometimes find a local old Dorset book easier in new Foundland than Dorset!!