MAY, HENRY, English mariner and early visitor to Cape Breton Island; fl. 1591–94.
May was purser of the Edward Bonaventure, commanded by Sir James Lancaster, on the first English voyage to the East Indies, under George Raymond, general of the expedition, in the Penelope, and in company with Samuel Foxcroft in the Merchant Royal. The ships left Plymouth 10 April 1591.
The voyage was fraught with illness, mutiny, and disaster, but the Edward Bonaventure, after rounding the Cape of Good Hope 31 March 1593, reached the small West Indian island of Mona in June, where Lancaster was aided by a French vessel. May, who spoke French, set out for Europe from Laguna in Hispaniola, 30 November, in a French ship, the captain of which was named La Barbotière, and which was wrecked, 17 December, on the Bermudas. May helped the crew to build an 18-ton bark in which they sailed from the Bermudas, 11 May 1594, reaching land near Cape Breton on 20 May. Here, in the mouth of a river, they took in wood, water, and ballast, and encountered Indians, “clothed all in furs, with the furred side unto their skins,” who “brought with them furres of sundry sorts to sell, besides great store of wild ducks.” The French traded small beads for ducks and May wrote, “This should seeme to be a very good countrey.”
On the Grand Banks they met various ships, not one of which would “take in a man of us,” until a Falmouth bark agreed to accept the whole crew on board. “With her,” says May, “we tooke a French ship wherein I left capitan de la Barbotier, my deere friend, and all his company.” May reached Falmouth in August 1594.