Page 4 - With Alex John Boudreau, Cheticamp Island
ISSUE : Issue 32
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/8/1
set came here in 1875, and the Jerseymen had been here since 1785, Now, a lot of things happened almost simultaneously. In 1874, just before Fr. Fiset came here, the federal government--and that's not long af? ter Confederation--the federal government, after some pressure from the parish priest, Fr. Girroir, and a few people in Cheti? camp, opened the harbour here. Dredged. 0- pened the harbour. That is why a few years later, the church was built there, because then people started to move from Plateau down to the harbour. And as soon as the harbour was dredged, the Robins immediate? ly made plans to move their whole outfit down to the new harbour. Because it was a much better harbour than at The Point (of Cheticamp Island). At The Point it was pretty rough, you know, it's never been a good harbour because it's right open to the ocean. The Robins immediately pur? chased a huge piece of land and they built their wharf, and built their sheds and set up their business there, Fr. Fiset, who got here within a few years, he bought the whole of Cheticamp Island. He had his own store, he had his own fishing industry, he was buying cattle from the farmers and buy? ing fish and creating competition for the Robins for the first time. (Does Cheticamp represent then the only large-scale attempt for non-Jersey competi? tion with the Jersey firms in the fisher? ies? I'm trying to get the meaning of what Fr. Fiset did. Let me say more. I have heard some accusation that the priests did not combat the--we'11 call it--domination on the Gaspe coast or on the New Brunswick North Shore--that they didn't combat it. But here, apparently, the priest went into competitive business.) There is some truth to the idea that on the Gaspe coast partic? ularly, the priests did not, for a long period, even try to combat the monopoly of the Robins. Because they felt it was abso? lutely useless. The control was so com? plete that they would have hurt themselves and their religion and the church if they had started a fight with Robin Jones. When I say control, they had control over even the priests. And as a matter of fact, I have personal knowledge that on the Gasp' coast, the Robins were, in a lot of cases, generous to the church. And in some cases, if not in all the cases, the priests would have almost practically starved to death if they hadn't had the Robins. They sup? plied the parish priest with lots to eat, you know, and they paid for the church bell and they paid for the organ and they paid for this and they paid for that. They were quite generous. Because that was part of their business philosophy. If you want to control the fishermen, you've got to start controlling their priest, because all of the fishermen were profoundly Cath? olic. It is questionable whether, in a lot of those cases, whether the priests could have done otherwise. Here in Cheticamp we had a lot of parish priests before Fr. Fi? set, and they didn't do much either, be? cause they felt that they couldn't. Now, Fr. Fiset came here just at the right time. (Would you deny that Fr. Fiset was going for control?) He had no choice. He was fighting fire with fire. The only way to combat the Robins was to play their own game. (Fr. Fiset largely copied Robins in that he had actually encouraged paying off in goods rather than money?) Right. (And would he carry the fishermen over the win? ter?) Oh yes. (So they would build debt to him?) Yes, yes. Well, it was less of a philosophy with him than it was with the Robins. Although his business practices were comparable, he was a different type of man. As a matter of fact, when he died, he left all the money he had accumulated in his business, he left that to charity. And in the meantime, he had built that church. And when he died, there was--now I may not have the exact figures--but when he died, the debt on that church was ap? proximately $35,000, which he paid off. When Fr. Fiset died, that church was com? pletely paid for--nothing. Take Home A Bit Of Cape Breton Culture! The College of Cape Breton Press Cape Breton is renowned not only for its rugged beauty but also for its coal mines, steel mills, its fiddlers, good humour and high spirits. The college of Cape breton Press has captured much of the flavour of the island in its original recordings and books of Cape Breton. While touring the island this summer look for the following records and books. RECORDS: • Cape Breton's Greatest Hits • The Rise and Follies of Cape Breton Island [1977, 1980, 1981] • Glendale BOOKS: • The Cape Breton Fiddler • Songs & Stories from Deep Cove • Cape Breton Historical Essays • Still Standing • Patterson's History of Victoria County Also available are Historic Map Reproductions: Detail of Fortress Louisbourg (circa 1760) Matted & Framed. Thomas Kitchin's Map of Cape Breton (circa 1758) Matted & Framed. In book and record outlets and most island craft stores or send to: The College of Cape Breton Press P. O. Box 5300 Sydney, N.S. BIP 6L2 (4)
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