PRINCESS SHEILA NAGEIRA LEGEND
The legend of Sheila NaGeira may well be one of our provinces oldest and most interesting.
The legend is said to begin back in 1602 when Sheila NaGeira, a young Irish princess, is sent by boat from her homeland to France. Shortly after her trip begins, the boat becomes captured by Dutch pirates. At these times, waters were filled with both pirates and privateers. Soon after being captured, Sheila and all the other passengers were rescued by privateer Captain Peter Easton. Easton‘s ship, along with two others, was on its way to Newfoundland to enforce British law in the colonies so all the freed passengers were subsequently brought here.
While crossing the Atlantic with her rescuers, Sheila fell in love with and married Gilbert Pike, Easton‘s navigating officer. The three ships then landed safely in Harbour Grace with Sheila and Gilbert deciding to set up home in Newfoundland. The couple began living in nearby Mosquito Valley which is now known as Bristol‘s Hope. Gilbert became a successful fisherman and Sheila became a model pioneer woman who was known for her leadership in the community. Sheila would do such things as care for the sick and plant crops while the men were away at sea.
In 1603, James I took the British throne and peace was made with Spain, diminishing the role of Britain’s Navy. As a result, privateer and former friend of the Pikes, Captain Peter Easton chose a new occupation, pirating. And 1610 and 1612, Easton attacked the coast where the Pikes lived, forcing them to move to fortified Carbonear Island. The Pikes are then said to have lived their lives out in what is presently Carbonear and are credited with initiating one of the biggest bloodlines in our province.
Legend even has it that Sheila and Gilbert’s first child was the first European child born in Newfoundland. Although impossible to validate, it would be safe to assume that their child was among the first European children born in the western hemisphere after the Vikings settled.
A headstone discovered in Carbonear actually documents Sheila NaGeira's death as August 14, 1753, at the age of 105. This date would indicate, however, that Sheila arrived in Newfoundland much later than 1602. This raises some questions of the timeline of these legendary events but one fact remains – Sheila NaGeira, the Carbonear Princess, was indeed a pioneer woman who gave Newfoundland a great legend and a great legacy.