Often used by West Country fishermen, Torbay was also the base for a 17th-century pirate from Devonshire, John Nutt. As early as 1677 there were fishing stations at Torbay. In 1697 the French attacked and destroyed these stations. Permanent settlement probably dates from the early 18th century.
Most early settlers were fishermen from England, but in the later 18th century and early 19th century they were joined by an influx of Irish settlers, many of whom concentrated more on farming than fishing. There is arable land, particularly in the valleys stretching back from the coast, and residents of Torbay grew crops, primarily root vegetables, and kept some livestock. In 1820 a road was completed from Torbay to St John's which enabled area farmers to sell their produce in the city. A mixture of farming, fishing and sealing dominated the local economy until 1941 when the RCAF built an airbase just south of Torbay.
After the war the airbase became the civilian airport for St John's, and many Torbay residents continue to work there. Other residents commute into St John's to work and as a result today Torbay is one of the fastest growing communities in Newfoundland.
Author DEBORAH WELCH and MICHAEL PAYNE
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