Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 16 > Page 6 - Father Jimmy Tompkins of Reserve Mines

Page 6 - Father Jimmy Tompkins of Reserve Mines

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1977/6/1 (2376 reads)
 

Father Jimmy Tompkins of Reserve Mines James Marsh, Reserve Mines: He certainly changed my life. I was a fly-by-night young fellow, you know. And when he came around here first, we didn't know anything about education. All we thought about when we were young was to get a job in the pit. There was no mention of any kind of reform. Things were pretty bleak. And he made us realize what was going on* He said we lieeded education and a system of self-help, cooperatives and credit unions. Of course, we had a credit union established before he came • but he was responsible for that too. He was the vice-president of St. F.X. • and he became so radical. He wanted to bring the university to the people. He said they didn't want to go to college; they just wanted to know how to get a better return for their work. He wanted all the univer? sities of Nova Scotia to unite, to save money and get a lot of brains together. That's all he talked about • brains and de? velop your talents. Well, I guess the bishop didn't see eye-to-eye with him • and they transferred him to Canso with the fishermen. That didn't stop him. He rea? lized the plight of the fishermen too • be? cause they sold their fish for little or nothing to the merchants. Said, "l-'y don't you organize? Get together and form a pro? ducers' and marketing organization. Don't give it to those fellows who aren't doing a damn thing to help you. Just taking the money right out of your pocket, and food from your families." They got organized. They organized a fishermen's co-op amd the Cape Breton's Magazine/6 merchants were terribly against it. But the fishermen listened to Dro Jimmy. They had short courses and study clubs. By God, they packed a crate of lobsters and sent them to Boston • they got 35 dollars for the same crate they only got 5 or 6 from the mer? chants • and that was the start of the co-op fishermen's organization in Nova Scotia. He was getting along all right in Canso but he kept on organizing • amd Father Joe Mac? Donald the priest here died in 1935. Trans? ferred Father Tompkins from Canso to Re? serve Mines--see if he could keep his mouth shut • but he started telling us, "You've got to do something about your system. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The first thing you people wamt to do is start reading books • books about everything • especially economics." He got books and he had them in the vesti? bule of the glebe house. Then he started buttonholing people to come in and read. He would announce from the pulpit that any? one interested in reading on economics, sociology and things like that • the books were in the glebe house, i' didn't under? stand those words at first, you know. But we started to read books on the co-opera? tive movement and about reformers like Ernest Bevin and Booker T. Washington • about self-made men. That's what.Father Jimmy wanted us all to be • masters of our own destinies--to do things for themselves that other people were doing for them. That was his adult education prograun. He was the father of the regional library in
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