The Irish in Quebec

John Francis Maguire

The Irish in Quebec—Their Progress and Success—Education entirely Free—Montreal—Number and Position of the Irish—Their Difficulties and Progress—Beneficial Influence of good Priests—St. Patrick's Hall

ENTERING Canada at Quebec, the presence of a strong and even influential Irish element is at once observable. In the staple industry of this fine old city—the lumber trade —the Irish take a prominent part. About 700,000 tons of shipping are annually loaded at Quebec; and in this vast business the Irish perform the principal part. This trade is divided into several branches, some requiring different degrees of skill and judgment; others calling for physical strength, endurance, or dexterity; more necessitating the possession of capital. Thus, for instance, there is a valuable class of men employed in sorting and measuring timber, who are called 'cullers,' whose business requires special skill and aptitude; and these men are principally Irish. Cullers can make as much as 300l. a year; the very same class who in Ireland would think themselves fortunate if they could earn one-sixth of that income. Then there are 'cove-owners,' who purchase, store, and prepare timber for exportation—who, in fact, sell to the shippers. The cove-owners are principally Irish. The cove-owner does a large business, and enjoys a good credit, and he generally lives well, keeps his country house, and even drives his own carriage. Nor are there wanting Irishmen in the ranks of the shippers, men of large means and good standing in the commercial world. Then for that extensive department in which strength, dexterity, and endurance are all essential, the Irish command the best position, and, as a necessary consequence, they receive the highest rate of payment. On an average, the working men employed in the various branches of the lumber business of the port earn from 6s. and 8s., even to 10s. a day; but it must be remembered that there is a considerable portion of the year during which employment becomes scarce, and even ceases altogether; therefore the man whose sole capital is his labour must determine to save for the hard weather, which is sure to come, or he must be ready to go into the woods as a lumberman, or seek employment wherever it can be procured.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America