Captain Bob Bartlett and Ireland

After two wonderful weeks in Ireland, I thought I’d check out Captain Bob Bartlett’s links to Emerald Isle. Bartlett was, of course, a native of Brigus, Newfoundland — and Newfoundland had and has many connections to Ireland. These begin with the Irish indentured servants or “youngsters” who came to fish off the island in summer as early as 1670. At first the fishery was seasonal and fishermen returned home. Eventually they settled in Newfoundland, especially on the Avalon Peninsula and environs. The vast majority of these Irish settlers came from the Waterford area of southern Ireland and lived within a day’s walk or river trip of the city of Waterford. (Waterford is a lovely city, by the way, and I’d highly recommend a visit there.) At least a third of Newfoundlanders are descended from these people. Note that these settlers were pre-famine Irish; by 1840, when the terrible potato famine struck, the settlement journeys to Newfoundland were almost over.


Captain Bob Bartlett seems to be descended from English stock and I discuss his ancestry further in Unchained Man. But there was at least one Irishman who played an important role in his life. This was Sir Alfred Harmsworth (below), who would become Lord Northcliffe, the hugely influential owner of the London Times, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Mirror. For many years, the boreal woods of central Newfoundland supplied much of the paper needed for production of these publications. Northcliffe was Anglo-Irish, born in Dublin, and, like many of his social class, educated in England, in his case alongside H.G. Wells who wrote The Time Machine.


Harmsworth was a fan and supporter of Arctic exploration. He gave American explorer Admiral Robert Peary a rather substantial gift: the Windward. This little ship must have been sturdier than she looked for she reached as far north as 83’50” N with Captain John Bartlett as skipper and his nephew Bob as first officer. Bob spent four years in that ship with Peary. Later they would make for the pole, carried north by the Roosevelt.

On a visit to Ireland, Barack Obama said there’s a little bit of green behind the red, white and blue. So, too, was there a little bit of green in Bartlett’s life.

PS: For many years, the Rothermere Fellowship has been funded by the Harmsworth family.  This fellowship allows one Newfoundland student a year to do graduate studies at a British university. (It’s the reason I was able to do my PhD at the London School of Economics in Marine Law, Economics and Policy.)
Maura Hanrahan 


5 thoughts on “Captain Bob Bartlett and Ireland

  1. Just wondering if you found a james Quirk who, I think, travelled to the Artic with Capt.Bartlett on two trips, one of them being on the Effie,if that is the correct name.James later married sarah Dobbin.a member of my family.
    Vivian Sullivan


    • Hi Vivian, I haven’t come across a James Quirk in my research. Bartlett almost always had a crew of men from the Conception Bay area, especially Brigus, so the most relevant question would be: is that where James was from? (Family research is interesting, isn’t it?)


    • Hi Cora, Thanks for pre-ordering. The book is at the printers now and I hope you will be one of the first people to receive a copy! Best, Maura


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