Hayman, Robert

Governor of Bristol's Hope, 1618-1628

Robert Hayman was born in Devonshire in 1575 to Nicholas and Amis (nee Raleigh) Hayman. After spending his youth in Totnes, Devon, Hayman matriculated in 1590 from Exeter College, Oxford, where he knew William Vaughan, a young man who would go on to found colonies at Renews and Trepassey on the Avalon Peninsula. Hayman obtained his BA in 1596 and studied in France, at Poitiers, until July 1600. In 1604 he married Grace Spicer in Exeter.

Around 1618 several members of Bristol's Society of Merchant Venturers obtained a land grant for a settlement at Bristol's Hope. From 1617 to 1618, Hayman's brother-in-law, John Barker, was master of the society and probably it was because of this connection that Hayman was appointed governor of the colony in 1618. Despite reports that the colony was thriving, Hayman's residency in Newfoundland was sporadic. He stayed on for 15 months, returned to England, and then visited for several summers thereafter. His tenure probably ended in 1628. Although there may have been colonists at Bristol's Hope as late as 1631, he was apparently its only known governor.

Hayman is remembered not only as governor of Bristol's Hope, but as a poet who incorporated his Newfoundland experience into his work and spoke favourably of life in Newfoundland. He also spent some of his time in Newfoundland translating works by John Owen and the French writer Francis Rabelais. A collection of his poetry, verse and translation was published in 1628 under the title Quodlibets. Some of his poems extolled those who, like Lord Baltimore, had remained constant in their attempt to colonize Newfoundland, and reprimanded those who, like Lord Falkland, had become daunted by their efforts.

In 1628, Hayman, stressing the positive effect which the exploitation of Newfoundland's resources would have on England's economy, asked Charles I, through the intervention of the Duke of Buckingham, to fund another colony on the island. Hayman's ties with Newfoundland ended shortly thereafter. He left for the Amazon in the fall of 1628. A year later, in November 1629, he died of a fever in Guiana.

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