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The Pirate Of Bonaventure Island

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

(Excerpt From - A Gaspesian Tale Of Pirates And Birds; The Story Of Captain Peter Du Val And Family of Bonaventure Island By Walter Willett)

On a windswept bluff stands a cedar-shingled house overlooking the great rock itself. Bonaventure Island lies nearly six kilometers from the beaches at Perce, featuring unique and stunning vantage points to view Perce Rock. It is here, on a sunny day, with views of Perce and the Rock, where the tale of Captain Peter Du Val is best told.

From across waves of time enters now into our tale upon this tiny island in Gaspe, Captain Peter John Du Val, swashbuckler of the high seas, Captain of “The Vulture”, the legendary terror of the French coasts during the times of Napolean, and the great wars of Europe to decide the fate of the world.

Born on the Isle of Jersey in 1769, In his teens, Peter John Du Val would develop his seamanship skills working for Jersey headquartered Janvrin company, whose fishing and shipping interests included the Gaspe cod fishery and broad international markets. Peter would marry Elizabeth Hubert in 1794 and had three sons, including Peter John, who along with his father, would be two of the Du Val family ancestors to die on Bonaventure Island many years later.

When Peter turned 34, the Napoleonic Wars between France and England (1803-1815) were underway. In this struggle, the British Channel Islands, lying in such proximity to the French coastline, would inevitably be drawn into the conflict on the seas, with its vessels flying the Jersey colours and whose unwavering loyalty lies with their Duke of Normandy (The King of England).

Captain Peter Du Val would distinguish himself in his youthful service to Jersey headquartered Janvrin Company, and recognizing his talent in seamanship, promoted him to the command of one of their vessels entering the vast conflict on the high seas.

On May 24, 1806, the British Admiralty would grant Du Val his “Letter of Marque”, authorizing him to “apprehend, seize and take ships, vessels, and goods belonging to the Batavian Republic (Napolean’s France)”. In other words… Peter Du Val was now a pirate, a “privateer” in service of the King, whose mission was to take the battle to French shipping along the shorelines from the Norman coast to the Bay of Biscay.

So successful was Captain Du Val in his craft, that the damages he would unleash on France’s coasts would be recognized by his Duke, and as family tradition holds, the British monarch King George the Third would present Du Val with a cutlass (sword) that would become a treasured heirloom for the family later on Bonaventure Island. In the lore of captain Du Val’s victories on the seas, the tale of a brig out of Bayonne, built and outfitted to destroy him, stands out….

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