Byron, John (1723-1786)
John Byron was born in England on November 8, 1723 and entered the Royal Navy in 1731. In
1740 he was a midshipman on the Wager which was shipwrecked off the coast of Chile. This and
other hardships earned him the nickname "Foul-Weather Jack". He returned to England in
February 1745, and was promoted post-captain in December.
Byron commanded a squadron in 1760 at Louisbourg, destroying the French fortifications there
and in the Bay of Chaleur. He also led the last naval engagement in North America of the Seven
Years War at the Battle of the Restigouche. In 1764, Byron made a voyage to the Pacific in the
frigate Dolphin, returning in 1766. He was appointed governor of Newfoundland in 1769 in
command of the Antelope.
Byron's term is not noted for any particular reforms. He heard complaints from the French and
the English about their interference with each other's fisheries, but was not as hard on French
vessels found outside treaty limits as his predecessor, Palliser. He was unable to visit the outports
because he was instructed to keep his seamen in St. John's to build fortifications. In 1771, he
prohibited fishing at the Magdalen Islands without a license because of previous difficulties from
New England crews. He left Newfoundland that year.
In 1775, Byron was promoted rear-admiral of the blue, and in 1778, vice-admiral of the blue. He
was promoted vice-admiral of the white in 1780, and he died in London on April 10, 1786. He
was the grandfather of poet Lord Byron.
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