From a plaque located in Burin Heritage House,
in the village of Burin, Newfoundland, Canada
Evidence such as fragments of red tile found on the beach in Burin Bay, suggest that Vikings may have visited our shore over 1000 years ago.
Our history begins, however, with John Cabot's discovery of our island in 1497. On his return to England, his tales of the abundance of fish teeming in our water quickly brought men and vessels from Portugal, Spain, and France.
Documents from the late 1600's suggest that Burin was then controlled by the French. From Prows' "History of Newfoundland" we learn that in 1697, the French prohibited Spanish Biscayans from fishing in such areas as Mortirir (Mortier), Burin Chuma (Little Burin), and Buria Audia (Great Burin). Historian Francis Briffet, relates how a fleet of English war ships under the command of Sir John Norris took refuge in St. John's while the French were hiding in Burin.
England took possession of Newfoundland in 1583, by royal proclamation of Queen Elizabeth I. There followed, for nearly a century, battles and skirmishes before the French gave in to British rule. Fishermen from England and Scotland and Ireland came to prosecute the fishery but were forbidden to settle because of the merchants' desire to control the fishery.
Traditions tell us of a Doctor Welsh, Naval Officer, Surgeon, who with his wife deserted a British Man-o-War around 1745 and settled at "Doctors' Cove" near Big Samonier. He supposedly hid out in Burin for 4 years before moving to Great Burin. There he met the Holletts, natives of Dorset County, England who fished during the summer and returned to England each fall. He persuaded them to settle in Great Burin and others soon followed.
Island villages such as Step-A-Side, Titus, and Great Burin were probably settled first due to their proximity to the sea. The early settlers depended entirely on the fishery for a living as, to a great degree, we still do today.