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A recorded interview with Minnie Mombourquette conducted by Vic Dawson around 1981 in D'Escousse, on Isle Madame, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Her maiden name was Marie Angeline Kavanagh (Cavanaugh) and she was born in Cap La Ronde on Isle Madame in 1884. She was married at age 17 and raised most of her 12 children in Cape Breton. Although she and most of her children emigrated to the U. S. later in life, she maintained a summer home in D'Escousse that was next to Vic and Olive Dawson. In the interview she describes life in the area of Isle Madame in the late 1800s and at various times since then, with many stories about people and places and what life was like in this fishing and farming area of Nova Scotia. Present during this interview and sometimes contributing to the discussion were Minnie's son, Wilfred and daughter Rita. Minnie would have been about 96 years old at the time of the interview. She died in 1985, having reached her one-hundredth birthday. Full Transcription of the text is below recordings.

Full Recordings of Minnie Mombourquette Interview

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Transcription of Minnie Mombourquette Interview

Transcriber's Note: Minnie was my great aunt. I only met her once when I was very young and she was living in Fisherville, MA. Hearing her voice on this tape brought back memories of her half-sister, my grandmother Emma (Cavanaugh) Jeffrey, and conversations she had with my mother while I was growing up. It is an example of the importance of capturing oral history while our relatives are still with us. Through the internet, I met Vic and Olive Dawson who provided this tape to me. My sincere thanks to them for this window into the past.

David Pivin - 1997
Key to speakers:
   M: Minnie Mombourquette
   V: Vic Dawson (Interviewer)
   W: Wilfred Mombourquette (Minnie's Son)
   R: Rita Mombourquette (Minnie's Daughter)
 
Words which were not understood are replaced with xxx.

The tape starts in the middle of a discussion about Bell Island, Newfoundland and the iron mines there.

M: ....gone sometimes, you know, on the boat to the end...telling me about how, you know, t'was rocky, and how, ah...
V: It is. Yes, yes, quite a climb to get up to the island.
M: Ya, I guess so.
V: It goes straight up. The shores were very steep except for Lance Cove...
M: Ya , that's what I said.
V: ...Lance Cove has got a beach there. At the other end of the island. The mines were on the other side.
M: They were bringing iron ore, getting it from Wabana [Newfoundland].
V: They say the women did all the work those days and it was very hard. The men would be away and the women would have to do...
M: Ya, that was here in D'Escousse, the men always went to the States to earn their living. Some of them, they'd be for two or three years before they'd come home. You know, some would come home every fall. Others, they stay over one winter and then the wife would say they're short of money and can't come home so they have to keep on working.
V: To get some money.
M: Ya. My father used to come every year, early, as early as he could, but his captain would always call him back, you know, whenever he could go up.
V: But you would have to get set for the winter, then, wouldn't ya?
M: Oh yes.
V: I mean, coming fall, you would have to have everything in...
M: Everything prepared for the winter. Have everything, coal, wood or whatever you could. You would have both coal and wood.
V: The wood would be last year's wood, wouldn't it? It would be last years wood that you would have to cut, this year.
M: Ya.
V: You wouldn't burn fresh wood?
M: No. There was plenty of wood. Wood was cheap, two dollars a cord for those that had to buy it ...and two dollars a day for those that would chop! That was a big price, two dollars a day, but, it would be somebody that was able to cut so much wood, you know, in a day.
V: So many cords.
M: Ya.
V: What would the main staples be? Did you cook bonnach or things like that?
M: Bonnach?
V: What would the main staples be, like molasses and butter? What could you keep over winter? Turnips, potatoes?
M: Oh yes, oh yes, plenty, you got to have plenty of that. If you were ambitious enough, but most everybody had what they needed, you know, potatoes and turnips and carrots and stuff like that. Everybody had a garden, it's not like nowadays.
V: Did you have a root cellar?
M: And every field was well...excuse me...and every field was well cut, you didn't see the hay...was well cut, you didn't see the hay lost.
V: Did you find it hard raising the children without your husband around all the time?
M: Wasn't easy. Not easy. Wasn't easy at all.
V: Who did most of the work? Did you have the children doing the work? Were your children old when you left here, when you were still running the farm?
M: They had to work plenty! I had one of them telling me today, he was telling Mary Mombourquette. How I wanted to play, I wanted to go down to the shore, with the others, you know, with the kids, this particular day. And, ah, I told him, I says you'll go down the shore when you're done white washing the fence. I had a yard, the yard was sort of, you know, fenced up with laths that got to be white washed, I didn't have no paint. So I says to him, when you're done white washing the yard, I says, the fence, you can go down the shore. He was disappointed. He got angry. He had been given the little plum tree by a neighbor, Mr. Curry, the man who had the store...he had given him the little plum tree, so he planted the plum tree in the yard, he was proud of it. He got angry and pulled out the plum tree.
V: He lost his plums!
M: He was telling Mary, he says, I just turned on the poor little plum tree, I was so angry, my mother didn't give us, he says, much chance to go and play, he says, or to go and learn how to swim. There was so much to do, you know, when you have cattles and everything, I had two cows and we used to...we had a pig and hens and stuff like that. It took the kids...they had to work, they had to work when they could.
V: Would you butcher your own pig, or would you have it butchered?
M: We would bake ourselves, do our own baking.
R: No, butchering, a butcher man.
V: The butcher man.
M: There was always a man that would come and butcher our meat. They'd come and butcher our meat.
V: Where would you keep it? How would you keep the meat?
M: Oh, it would freeze in winter. You kill the cow late enough, either cow or calf or whatever meat we had...late enough in the fall and then the pork, well that was salted.
V: In a barrel?
M: Oh ya, the meat too, half of it would be salted. Keep a quarter fresh and that would be late in the fall, you know, late enough that you would be sure it would freeze when you hang it up in the shed, you know.
V: When you wanted to get some meat or something, you have to go and cut it off yourself, would ya? The man of the house would be home then though.
M: We didn't depend on the men too much!
V: Wilfred was telling me that a lot of the men were very good at getting the wives to do the work...getting the women to do the work!
M: No, not too much, not the Mombourquettes, they were very helpful, you know, what they could do when they were home. Of course when they were away, somebody had to do the work, you know, you couldn't expect them to be away and then be home at the same time. And they have here, the young women nowadays, have it so easy that I often wonder what they can complain on.
V: You did all your own washing by hand? Boil your own water.
M: Had to be. Had to sew. Sew your own clothes. In those days, you know, you couldn't buy too much ready made clothing. You would buy material by the yard, you know, you have to learn to sew. Indeed I could sew even when I was only twelve years of age. Kids were taught to sew and to knit and do all those things. You have to do those things. Now they don't do nothing. Everything is ready made. They don't even have to wash, just shake it out a little, no ironing, no nothing, no starch. Those days you had to wash and starch the clothes if you wanted something to look nice. Man's shirts and children's clothes...little girl's...so much work.
V: You would be working all day?
M: All day and all night. All night up to eleven and twelve o'clock because it was only after the kids were in bed, that the woman could...the housewife could sit down and sew or knit or something, you know. Children had to be in bed so that after they've learned their lessons...to bed! Only time to sew or rest...during the day you didn't have much time with outside work, you know. Other time you're with cattles, there was plenty of outside work to do when the men wasn't home. In winter, of course, it was a little better.
V: Christmas was a good time, was it? Did you celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas then?
M: Yes.
V: Did you do much visiting?
M: There was visiting, not too much...you know, yes we did, sometimes...depending on if you had the time to do it.
V: Did you have a Christmas trees?
M: No, no Christmas tree, not me. I had enough tree Christmas tree in the kitchen. My Christmas trees were running around! That was enough!
V: What would you do to celebrate Christmas then? Was there Midnight Mass then?
M: Oh, ya. And a big feed.
V: A big meal?
M: Oh, ya.
V: Did you even go around mummering?
M: Oh yes, the neighbors, you know, the young people enjoyed life. They enjoyed themselves like they do now, maybe a whole lot better because there was no drugs or anything like that going.
V: Was there much music?
M: Oh, ya. Yes, I liked it and I guess everybody liked music at that time.
V: What would it be? Fiddles or...
M: Oh, fiddle and maybe accordions...mouth organs and everything else.
V: Combs and bones?
M: Ya.
V: Did you ever have mi-careme [the masquerade], mi-careme?
M: Ya, they had mi-careme.
V: What was mi-careme?
M: That was done in the middle of Lent. About the third week of Lent, it was allowed then, for one week. Sometimes it would last two weeks. Once it started, the young fellas wouldn't stop!
V: What would happen, then? You'd dress up?
M: Oh ya, they'd dress up, you know, it was to let the men, you know, they wanted to let the men...
W: Mi-careme, years ago, they were on the street every day of the week. You know the way they were dressed, they looked like a bunch of mi-careme!
V: It sort of died out.
M: At that time some of them that was dressed, you know, masquerade. Some of them were...
V: They'd come to visit your house and have a drink and...
M: Yes, and dance and they'd bring a fiddle or they'd bring an accordion if you'd let them...and have a look at you, dance a little while and then they'd be off to the next house.
V: Mi-careme. Did you ever do it yourself?
M: No. No, I never did.
V: Was it all the men that went, or just men and women?
M: Young fellas.
V: Were there many dances or socials?
M: Oh, yes.
V: Church, or church socials?
M: It was all kitchen rackets, they call them, at the time, but there were some really social, you know, there was a real parties sometime for the school...for the benefit of the school or the benefit of the church or something, that big house...you know, what would they call it...regular party like they would have in L'Ardoise, more like the old age citizens, you know, senior citizens parties, or something like that. They would have a dance.
V: ...A bit of singing?
M: That was a pleasure, you know...young people...keep the young people happy...
V: When you were growing up, did you go to any dances or just special events?
M: I got married so young, I didn't go to very many, I went to about ten or fifteen, that's all.
V: How old were you when you were married?
M: I was seventeen years and four months.
V: Seventeen years?
M: My oldest daughter that's here now, when she was born, I was eighteen years and six months.
V: Were all your children born at home?
M: Yes. All, every one. Of course there was one of them born here in the States...here, I always say here...I think I'm still at...the last one was born in the States, but lived...she only lived three days. She was baptized and died the following day. The priest came to the house, my pastor...the doctor had said she wouldn't live, what are you going to do, my husband went to see the priest that lived near. He came over to the house and the baby was alive the following morning to take her to church. So the baby was alive and we took her to church, then she died that night of the third day. I had enough of other ones, thank God, but we miss her too much, a little girl. I had six girls and six boys.
V: Were there many doctors around on the island then?
M: Oh, ya, and the doctors were better than they are now, because you could get them at the house at any time night or day. Try to get them now!
V: They would come?
M: Oh, yes, God bless them! They would.
V: Where would the doctor from around here live?
M: Here? In Arichat, they had two there in Arichat. But in L'Ardoise, there we had three or four in St. Peter's, when I was living in L'Ardoise, all my children were born, all the rest of my children were born in L'Ardoise.
V: Oh, you moved to L'Ardoise and you lived there.
M: When I got married, oh yes, my husband had his home built...had his own house built. In those days, you know, when a young man would get married, he had to have a house first. He would build the house and then get him a wife!
V: She would see what she was getting, then!
M: But it was more because the homes were small, you know. So, you know very well, that the young fella that was going to get married knew that there was no room at home so the first thing he had to do was to look for a house for himself if he intended to marry.
V: That's why the land is so small. That's why the land is cut up, isn't it?
M: I suppose so.
V: Because the father would give the son a piece of land.
M: Oh, ya.
V: And be all sliced. And pretty soon you would have half a chain.
M: Ya.
V: L'Ardoise didn't prosper as well as this side of the island.
M: No, not as much, at that time it was alright, because the fishermans were doing very well, they had vessels and they were doing alright. Where here, on this side, the men used to go to the States and they didn't have nothing, just come home in the fall, t'was over and over again all they could do...'cause the women here, only had a garden. Very few of them could keep a cow, over in D'Escousse, you know, in Poulamon. There was quite a few that was living alright, now the Langlois and there was a couple of the Boudreaus that would make a good living...Captain Johnny Boudreau, you know, a couple of those. Like a few of them was making a good living, but the others, there's a lot of them that used to...where the men would go to the States to earn a living, it cost so much, you know, they couldn't have cows. They could have a garden, but that was about all they could have. They didn't do much farming.
V: What would you do with the sheep? Would you use the wool?
M: Sure, we would use the wool and then the meat and we would sell...sell so many in the fall, you know. That was the only way you'd get cash, by selling something. There was no other cash, except what you could sell.
V: Would you weave your wool or you sell your wool?
M: You would use it. You would use your own wool.
V: You would spin and card your own wool?
M: Well no, there was a carding mill in Pondville.
V: There was, was there?
M: Oh yeah, there was a carding mill there, a small carding mill, run by a fella by the name Rory Dunphy.
V: And you would bring your wool to him?
M: Yeah, that was my mother's, you know, my mother's days, not in mine. Because when I moved to L'Ardoise, there was another place down, you know, down the middle section, they call it L'Ardoise and there was another carding mill there. At least they carded wool there. That's my...after I was married, a few people from L'Ardoise.
V: The would take the wool and card it, wouldn't spin it then?
M: We'd have to spin it ourselves.
V: You'd spin it.
M: Right. And knit or if you had some homespun made...well there was some that would have looms and make homespun like quilts, blankets, you know, they made blankets. Now River Bourgeois was a great place for having blankets made, it was there...
V: They would make blankets, would they?
M: There was none in L'Ardoise around me. Around the time, you know, when I wanted some blankets made I would go to River Bourgeois, to this woman, she was making blankets, good woolen blankets.
V: You would bring your own wool, your balls of wool?
M: Ya, ya we'd bring our own yarn, you know, the yarn ready spun on purpose, it wasn't twisted, for ready to knit. It wasn't the same, you know, it was...
V: You wouldn't remember homespun clothes, would ya?
M: Oh yes, I remember seeing some, sure. There were some old men from Poirierville who used to be dressed in the homespun. Only men work in them.
V: Is that right?
M: Oh ya.
V: Wouldn't that be kind of rough, wouldn't it...be kind of heavy, homespun?
M: Ya, I guess so, I guess it didn't feel to good next to the skin though.
V: Didn't they have different stuff for fine weaving?
M: No, unless they get some...some used to buy warp and they'd have...they would weave all warp, you know, t'would be all warp. Instead of the warp and the wool like they do for homespun, they'd have...they'd weave the warp again, you know, so it would make a cotton, it would be just like cotton, you know.
V: That would be nice and fine.
M: Yeah, and that would last a lot, because I remember seeing some sheets. I never had them, because that was past, I remember from time gone by. I remember seeing some, it was pretty good, hard to wear, made quite a sheet, you know, the sheets they'd use it for sheets, pillow slips or something like that.
V: But you didn't buy from a catalog or...when you bought now, did you have a local store, was there...local merchants, what were they carrying?
M: We'd send to Eatons, Eatons in Simpson. We used to get good results from them.
V: When you were young, too, were they still in business?
M: They had Eatons, you know, oh yes. I remember. I heard my mother talk about how they, you know, were different.
V: Some of the things in your house down there have come from Eatons and they came to the wharf, the wharf at um...
M: L'Ardoise or Gruchey?
V: The old government wharf there...at ah...Poulamon. You know, the government wharf at Poulamon.
M: The wharf at Poulamon was called Langlois wharf.
V: Langlois wharf, was it?
M: Ya...no! T'was called Pertus wharf.
V: Pertus. Oh yeah.
M: Pertus wharf.
V: Pertus had a store here.
M: But it was old man Langlois that used to meet the boat, you know, he was the man that used to go and meet the boat and the boat would come with passengers, you know, if there was any.
V: Which boat was this now? Do you remember the boats?
M: There was the Margaret, there was the ah...
W: The Richmond.
M: There was the Margaret, the Richmond, there was the Viga. Different boats, ya. I came aboard the Margaret when I come from L'Ardoise, to come to visit my mother in my home, I came aboard the Margaret.
V: Now the Margaret would go around the bay, wouldn't it?
M: It would go down as far as Sydney.
V: It wouldn't go through the lakes, though, would it?
M: Ya, it would go through Bras D'Or lake.
V: It would go through the canal?
M: Through the canal, yes, yes sure. That's how it would come. From Sydney it would come through Bras D'Or lake, through the canal at St. Peters and it would stop here and it would go down to Port Hawksbury...or Mulgrave.
V: Go to L'Ardoise too, then?
M: And then it would come back and 'twould ply daily, it was daily at first, I remember when I went down.
W: The Richmond used to go into L'Ardoise.
M: Ya, the Richmond, well that was one...sometimes it was the same boat, it got painted over again, could get repaired and have a new name. Because the Viga, was the Margaret, it was the same boat and the Richmond was another one, I think. It was the same line, it plied from Sydney...
V: And the other wharfs were here at D'Escousse and Poirierville?
M: Ya...no, it didn't stop at Poirierville. There was no wharf there that was any good. There was no wharf at all in Poirierville in my days.
V: Well, where did these Levescontes work from, what did they have?
M: They had a store, they had vessels.
V: Did they have a wharf?
M: They had a vessel.
W: Did they have a wharf?
M: They must have.
V: Robin and Jones were down there too...
M: There were no boats stopping there, but they had some kind of a wharf, I guess for the vessels.
V: Do you remember Robin and Jones? Ah...Robin or Jones store?
M: In ah...
V: Dealers, around here? Where were the Levescontes, around that time.
M: Ya.
V: You don't remember the Levescontes, do you?
M: Oh, yes, I remember the Levescontes sons, I remember them all. I went down to the store at the Levescontes, I remember, when I was a little kid, because my mother would send us, you know, for things that we needed in D'Escousse. If they had it at Levescontes we wouldn't go down D'Escousse, we would stop at Levescontes, it was nearer.
V: Where was that store?
M: Down the shore, way down, down the hill, on the point.
V: Nothing left now there at all.
M: No, there's very little there. There is nothing there. And the sons are all...they're dead, I guess, there was Billy and Peter and Lennox. Now Billy had a store in River Bourgeois, he was married, I never met them, 'cause he was much older. But I remember Peter and I remember Lennox.
V: They moved away, did they, their children moved away?
M: Peter never married and Lennox he told me, married...was married, but I was in L'Ardoise when he married and didn't know what went on.
V: Did you ever do any of this weaving...hooking when you were young?
M: Yes, we made mats.
V: Or these little figures, birds and stuff, petit point or they use to do a lot of that on the island?
M: I don't get what you're saying there.
V: No, this fancy wall hangings that they used to do. Did you ever see anyone doing that around here?
M: Not that I know of.
V: The rugs and that you would work on, would it be?
M: I don't know about the rugs.
V: We have one of...ah...it's all sort of ah...you know, like petit point or...
M: Hooked.
V: Hooked or needlework, a great big picture.
M: Ya, oh yes, there's some that's doing it now. Mary Mombourquette there, has a lovely picture that has been made by a fella from L'Ardoise, something new. It's well made. Something that's been worked, you know. I think it's something like that that you mean.
V: Ya, you were too busy.
M: Huh?
V: You were too busy...with the family, to get involved.
M: Ya.
W: You were too busy with the family, he says.
M: Oh. I hooked mats. We had to make our own mats, you know. We'd have a frame, you know. But that was at your leisure time. That was when your...
V: That was relaxation.
M: Ya, that...yes, that's right.
V: You were allowed to work at that.
M: Ya.
V: Did you ever have any bees, or building, or getting together to put up barns?
M: What?
V: The people, did they ever get together to put up a barn or...
M: Oh yes, oh yes, we'd help one another, there was a lot of help...help one another. Oh yes. It's like hauling wood, now those that had no...now, down in L'Ardoise, more so than in Poirierville, 'cause in my days, in Poirierville, you'd see that everyone had the...had either a horse or an ox. But in L'Ardoise now, they had a lot of hard wood, good hard wood, but it had...it was, um...they um...the Mombourquettes had quite a lot of land, you know, woodland, but there was a lake in between, t'was called the Mombourquette Lake, because there was a lake in the middle and of course when that would freeze, they would get together to try and get up the hardwood and those that didn't have the chance, they'd get together with those who prepared with a good horse or a good ox...four or five of them, maybe ten and go up and get a sleigh load of hardwood for those people. Great big cord...good loads of wood, I was surprised how good they were, you know, I went there when I moved to L'Ardoise to see how they went about it. They explained it to me, they said that the swamp was hard to get at, there was a swamp before you get to the place...
V: You had to wait till it freezes.
M: But whenever there was a frost, a good heavy frost, they could help one another go to get hardwood
V: Would they burn the hardwood? Or...
M: Oh, they burn the hardwood, sure.
V: That's why...
M: It was cut down with the ax! Oh my husband, I used to remember him hauling...going in the woods in the morning, for hardwood, you know, he'd come down with great big loads of hardwood. What a job! I was telling Charlie the other day when I was...I saw him saw, he had one of those hand saws, I says, if you father only had one of those when he used to go for hardwood, that he had to chop so much. He says, yes. He remembers, you know, because Charlie as well as Freddie used to go with them sometimes, you know, go up in the woods. They'd make snares, they'd make rabbit snares on the way going up, there was places, you know, with them coming back so the kids would follow, you know, if they had a chance, they'd go. I was telling him the other day, but ah...there's no such thing as a good saw or anything like that in his day. He worked hard, he was a hard working man.
V: You left for the States though?
M: Oh, ya. We left for the States after he had sold the vessel, he started working here and there and that didn't suit him at all. You know, because he had to be away from home and there was too much farming for me and the children were grown up and they didn't like the sea, they didn't want to go fishing or anything like that, so, in order to get some help, you know, we had to move out where they could all work... all find work. He had, ah...he had no...when he first...sta...ah, sold the vessel we went one time porgy fishing, went to the States with a cousin from D'Escousse, xxx Cointe, that was used to...used to going porgy fishing on Long Island, New York and the Captains liked him so well, because, you know, being a fisherman...[first side of tape ends abruptly]

Second side of tape starts in the middle of a question:
V: ...Lawrence Kavanagh, was he?
M: No, no, my father was Daniel Kavanagh, son of Edward Kavanagh, you know, but we are off the Lawrence Kavanagh descent. Now Lawrence Kavanagh was the first Kavanagh that came from Ireland and landed in this country. You should know more about it, they have the Knights of Columbus Museum... [The first Kavanagh in the region was Maurice Kavanagh, his son, Lawrence is the first Lawrence in Cape Breton. He had a son Lawrence who would become a Member of the Legislative Assembly as referred to next. His brother, Edward, had a son, Edward who is Minnie's grandfather.]
V: He was the first member, the first Catholic member...
M: Ya, in Halifax.
V: And he had to give up his seat, for a while...
M: Ya.
V: ...and then he came back in, right?
M: Ya, because Protestants were not allowed in those days...
R: No, Catholics!
M: He was called, I heard that he was called, to England and Queen Victoria gave him the permission...or whatever the queen was there at that time, gave him the permission...I don't know how true that is. But I know that he was the first Kavanagh to...the first Catholic to occupy a seat in Halifax, a seat in the Legislature.
V: Now, do you remember him yourself?
M: Oh, no.
V: Now, your father was related to him...you know?
M: Well it was a direct descendance. Because I have a cousin in Boston that was anxious to know why...I have a cousin in the States...I have got only two cousins left of the Kavanaghs...on the Kavanagh side and ah, one of them is a nun and the other one is an old maid, she was the one that took care of the family after her mother died and they're educated and they wanted to know history, you know, the history of the Kavanaghs. So when she saw that book that had been published in Connecticut about the Lawrence Kavanagh, you know, they had the Knights of Columbus by that name, you know...
V: Kavanagh Council.
M: Ya, so she wrote to Ottawa and she got the whole history and it gave the name of all from Lawrence Kavanagh sons, grandsons and great grandsons down to my grandfather Edward Kavanagh and his wife Euphemie Bona [Bonin].
V: Euphemie Bona.
M: Euphemie Bona and that was...and my grandmother is buried in Boston, you know, that was her name.
V: Well your maiden name was ah...Kavanagh?
M: Kavanagh, Marie Kavanagh. They used to call me Minnie at home. But of course when I got...when I became a citizen in the States, you know, you've got to give your right baptismal name...it was Marie Angeline, so then they start calling me Marie. But I was always known here in Poirierville and D'Escousse as Minnie, Minnie Kavanagh.
V: Do you know where the Kavanaghs came from in Ireland? What spot, what part of Ireland, do you know?
M: I know there's two places in Ireland, two counties where the Kavanaghs came from, there was the "C"...some were called...you can spell them either with a "C" or you can spell it with a "K" but I can't tell exactly from what county. There's two counties there.
V: Was it Killain or Cullen?
M: Cullins or something like that. [Probably County Carlow, ancestral home of the Kavanagh Clan.] I saw it but I forgot it. Because I had a map. One time I found a map in the Boston Post, they had maps of Ireland, you know and each county and what...
V: The families that were in the counties.
M: Yes, you know, I should have kept it, I don't know what happened to it, I was too busy with other things and I didn't care where they came from.
V: And the Bonas, were the Bonas from around here?
M: Ya, I suppose.
V: That would be your mother's people.
M: That was the grandmother, my grandmother.
V: One of your grandmothers was a Bona.
M: Ya.
V: And on your parents side, now, your parents, your father was a Kavanagh, and your mother was...
M: My mother was a Poirier.
V: Poirier.
M: Poirier from Poirierville.
V: Oh, yeah. The Irish got mixed in...
M: Her mother...no...her mother was a Cointe. They're French, from France. Pacifique Cointe was her uncle, he lived near Levescontes, you know. You've heard of the Levescontes Point there?
V: Yes, they were the fish men down here. The Levescontes and the ah...they...down there...used to run the fish plants, didn't they, pack all the fish for the fish merchants. Yes.
M: And there was a store, I used to know them, but ah, that's where her uncle lived, you know, near there. But he was the only uncle she had, my mother told me, she had an uncle and an aunt, but the aunt never married.
V: Do you know what her mother's name was?
M: Who? My mother?
V: Your mother's mother.
M: My grandmother, I used to.
V: She'd probably be French, wouldn't she?
M: It'll come to me...her father was a Poirier...was Edward...Edward Poirier.
V: You don't....don't worry about that...that's just...I was just wondering how far back you could go on that side, you know. But, you came from Rocky Bay, your self? Did you grow up in Rocky Bay?
M: Not Rocky Bay, no, no, Poirierville.
V: You were born in Poirierville?
M: Oh ya, I was born in Cap La Ronde.
V: Cap La Ronde.
M: It was called Cap La Ronde, you know, because it was...
V: It was round, was it?
M: Ya, we had the school house there, it was called Cap La Ronde Schoolhouse, you know. Where the Maughers [pronounced MAjor] are, you know. Our house was one of the last French...you know, my...have you been up that way where my son has built a house there?
V: Yes, I saw it.
M: Well, that was the property, that was my father's property.
V: That's where you grew up.
M: Oh, yes. It's not the same house 'cause the house burnt down.
V: Didn't some of the Poiriers keep the light, too...on Cap La Ronde?
M: They what...had what?
V: The lighthouse on Cap La Ronde, didn't some of the Poiriers stay there?
M: Not that I know of, it was the Latimores that used to...
V: The Latimores.
M: The Latimores, they're the ones that used to give...
V: This would be a few years back, the fella that...Elise Poirier was born on Cap La Ronde Lighthouse, I think.
M: Poiriers? I don't know of any Poiriers that lived in there...could have been some after I got married.
V: After you left, I think it would have been.
M: Could be...ya.
V: The Bonas and the Maugher...is Maugher Irish? Is Maugher an Irish name or French?
W: Maugher, is Maugher an Irish name?
M: No, they were people from the Isle of Jersey.
V: They're the Huguenots. Huguenot French.
M: They were people from the Isle of Jersey, you know, out in England way. You know, Jersey, Guernsey, well they were from the Isle of Jersey. Them and old Gruchey from D'Escousse, there was ah...the Maughers...then there was...well, Latimore, I don't know where he came from, I think Latimore was more of a Jew than anything. But ah...anyway they were...they...although they looked more like English, they were more of the English type...well the Maughers, you could tell there was German in them, you know, and they had a kind of a...they spoke a kind of a French, an odd French, but then they all speak English too, you know, now they're all English. They don't speak French at all, very few of them would understand, but the old people, they used it among themselves, they used an odd kind of French. The other Acadians, used to find it strange, you know. But it's more English as they got married, you know, to other English girls and naturally they speak all English. They belong to the Church of England.
V: Did you speak French?
M: Oh, yes, I was brought up speaking French, because my father used to speak French because his mother spoke French. But he had kind of a broad...you know, kind of a brogue as you'd call it. But my mother was French, you know, Poiriers in Poirierville, they were all French. None of them that speak English there.
V: And you had twelve children, was it?
M: Yes. There's eight of them living, four dead. Among that dies, that they're in Heaven I hope, those, but the ones that are living I don't know what will happen.
V: Could you recall the names of the children, right now?
M: My children? The ones that are living?
V: Yes.
M: Frederick and Margaret, she's Mrs. Flynn. Margaret and...
V: Are they all in the States now?
M: Yes, she's down here. She's the one that xxx the other day. And then there's Frederick, Frederick Alphonso, we used to call him Alphonso but when he signed his name in the States before they...wrote his first name, was Fred, you know, Frederick, so he's got married and his wife used to call him that, Freddie, so now we all call him Freddie. Then there was Charlie, there was Howard...Charlie's here, Howard is up in Connecticut, never became an American citizen. Then there's Wilfred...this guy here, then four girls...
W: Joann.
M: Joann, she's a widow out in Wisconsin, she'll be visiting me, if I live, in September. I had a letter from her this week. Her husband died two years ago. And there's Theresa, poor Theresa, she's...she'll be entering the hospital tomorrow for an operation, I just hope for her that she'll be able to last. She stays with Freddie out in ah...
W: In Florida.
M: In Florida, you know, since she's a widow for years, her husband died and left her with three small children, of course she had to bring them up. And now the oldest one is married and the youngest girl is in college and the second oldest has been in service and working, so, they're all on the road. She says she has been...she came home from Florida this spring and had to enter the hospital and she went under a very big operation and she has to go in again tomorrow, she told me she has a one o'clock appointment. She's having a hard time but she's hoping to get well so she can go back to Florida. Since Charlie...since ah, Freddie, we call him, has a place in Florida, he's a widower, his wife died, he was married twenty-seven years, I guess. They had no family, so when he...when she passed away, he came to live...he went to live with Margaret, because they were both living in Hyde Park. He had his home in Hyde Park and Margaret had hers, you know, Mrs. Flynn. So now, Mrs. Flynn is also a widow, her husband died last year. It was here he used to come, you know Ralph? That was his son.
V: The son with the camper.
M: Yes, one of his sons. So, he died instantly, after he came home from Canada, Last year...two years ago. Going on two years, now.
W: It will be two years this month.
M: But three husbands died suddenly, isn't that strange?
V: It's a good way to go.
M: Well yes, but still, it's so ah...the first one that died, he had three small children. The next one was four years ago, they had...they were happy and he was making a good living, he was...he had a good job in the insurance business, did very well for himself, had a good home, his children were brought up there, he had two girls and a boy, the oldest girl was married, they had a baby, they had been down to my house and as proud as peacocks, they lived up in Wisconsin. And ah...Christmas...New Years day she wrote me what a nice New Years they had passed and she wrote a lot of all what had happened and on the third day he died, third of January, he died, suddenly, he went to the club with his son-in-law after supper, after coming home from the office, and they were playing handball and...the son-in-law was telling me about it last year again...he says he went in there, he says he got tired first, he sat down, after a little while he started again, he started to play again, another game and he says, the first thing he dropped everything, he says, that was strange, he dropped everything and went to the men's room. And he says I was kind of uneasy and I waited and he wasn't coming out so he says I went in and he was slumped over...
V: Dead.
M: Dead. They called the doctors, there was three doctors that were playing, you know, it was a club and they worked over him...
V: Life is funny.
M: Yes and then the other one coming home from Nova Scotia, I had even gave him a loaf of bread, I had brought some homemade bread from here. He used to love some homemade bread. He stopped before going away I gave him half a loaf, made him so happy. He died that evening.
V: You were married to Mr. Mombourquette. Where did you meet him? Down here or...
M: He met me! Well I'll tell you, they were known, that family was know by my father and mother, you know. They knew the family, because my father was married twice. His first wife was a Poirier from Poirierville, she died and left two children, so he remarried another Poirier. But, during...before that, he had been going out with one of the Mombourquette girls, before he had first got married, so he knew them, but then when he married his first wife she was related to the Mombourquettes from L'Ardoise, so they used to visit there. So they were well known, you know. So when any of the Mombourquettes would come down to visit...because, all the Poiriers are related to that family of Mombourquettes. My mother-in-law [Adele Poirier] is a sister...was a sister of old Justin [Augustin] Poirier that they called, that lived at the bridge and there was Elie Poirier that lived on top of the hill, there near the church and there was Elie, there was ah...Joseph Poirier, father of ...grandfather of Danny poirier that you know. You know Danny Poirier that your wife knows...is related to them. Well, that was my mother-in-law's brother, old Joseph Poirier, father of Dan, grandfather of Danny. And there was...she had nine brothers, one of them that...I forgot the name, I think it was Maurice or something, but anyway, there was one that died in the ah...was killed by thunder in the ah...in North Bay. Then there was...after Joseph in Poirierville, there was ah...oh, Desire that lived on top of the hill. Years ago there used to be a cross there...
V: Yes, it was there a few years...it was there just a few years back.
M: Yes, well that was another of her brother...and there was Noel Poirier and there was Philip Poirier. You know Wilfred Poirier that's still living, that comes down every once in a while, he's in...he's in Arichat now. You know a man come here with the car? Tall old fella. That was...that's his son. That's the only one cousin living of my husband. Of all those Poiriers, those Poiriers, the only one, of all those brothers, there was Simon Poirier, further down, see, she had a lot of brothers, nine brothers. So, he had...my husband had a lot of relatives here.
V: But he came in from...he was in Poirierville too?
M: Who?
V: Your husband?
W: He's from L'Ardoise.
M: They're from L'Ardoise, oh yes.
V: How'd they get over here?
M: How did HE get over here? ...well, how did YOU get over here? Ha, ha, ha, ha!
V: He came over on a boat, did he?
M: Huh?
V: He came over, past the harbor to...now how did he come to visit you? I was just wondering.
M: There was not much visiting.
V: Not unless they had some good weather.
M: They used to come...in those days they used to travel over the ice in winter. The bay used to freeze here you know. Hasn't frozen for years, I guess.
V: To L'Ardoise?
M: Lennox Passage, here.
V: The passage would freeze?
M: Yes.
V: Alright, yes.
M: Oh yes. People from Louisdale would come across. I walked it across one time myself. When my oldest sister got married, she married a man from Louisdale. My um...she was half-sister, daughter of the first wife. She married a Jeffrey from Louisdale. And one Sunday they were down to our house and we left the house and went and walked to Louisdale. We walked there. Better walk than a ride.
V: This was in the winter, too, was it?
M: Ah, yes. So I got married in the winter, the twentieth of February and there was no winter that time. There was no frost. There had been a snowstorm...a couple of snowstorms that were gone...that melted away and when they came, the twentieth of January, I was married the twentieth of January, they had to come with horse and wagon and they had to cross the ferry on the scow at Grandique, there was a scow there at Grandique, a place where to cross.
V: And how did they...was the ferry on a cable or was it...
M: No...
V: It had a motor, then...
M: I guess so. I didn't go on the scow, we crossed in a little boat, the bride and all!
V: She went on the scow. They had a carriage did they? Horse and carriage then, was it?
M: On the wagon, they went by the wagon, wagon, there was no snow.
V: What was the work here, mostly farming in those days?
M: Ya, in those days, farming and fishing. Farming...my father was...my father didn't do any fishing at all, he used to go on ships, he was a cook. He earned his living in the States, but my...he was home early enough to start some plowing and doing most of the...doing what had to be done and what he couldn't do, he would give orders on what had to be done, so my mother used to run the farm.
V: You'd keep um...
M: Besides, she used to keep borders, a schoolteacher and then if there were any travelers, any agents, you know, they'd stop at our house because we had a good big barn, you know, and that's what they looked, because in those days everybody traveled with horse...
V: They had to put the horse up.
M: So, we had a place for horses.
V: Did you keep chickens and ah...?
M: Beg your pardon?
V: Did you keep other animals on the farm?
M: Oh yes, we always had three or four cows, one horse when my father wasn't home, but when he stopped going to the States, he kept two horses. Oh yes, there was even ah...there was ah...the mare, we remember sometimes, I tell the children, you know, about colts, because we had a mare and she had three colts.
V: Did most of the men go away every summer...to fish?
M: Those that were fishermen were going in fishing vessels, it was in ocean...not much shore fishing like they do now, or like the Rocky Bay men do now. There was more vessels that go in the North Bay.
V: Into Boston then?
M: The men from Poirierivlle.
V: Was it Boston boats they would be on or local boats?
M: That my father was on?
V: Ya.
M: Oh no, they were freighters, you know, that go to sea. I remember, they used to...from Savannah to Boston they were bringing lumber and all kinds of freight, you know. Sometimes he was on big ships, he was a cook. But he was also...anxious for the farm, he had quite a good piece of land, he had forty acres, it wasn't much, but it was as much as he could take care of.
V: There are quite a few boats around Isle Madame in your time, wasn't there a lot of little sailing boats?
M: Quite a few vessels you mean, yes, oh yes.
V: Were they out locally, or were they...?
M: They were from Poirierville and D'Escousse. Captain Leoni from D'Escousse here and Freddie Poirier, you know, they had their vessels, quite a few of them.
V: Did they fish or trade?
M: They were fisherman, because they used to go in the North Bay then.
V: Did they fish North Bay?
M: Yes, they were fishing in North Bay...off the Madeleine Islands, you know.
V: And then where would they land their fish?
M: They would land their fish at home, have it dried. They had flakes everywhere, wherever there was a vessel, they had...they were prepared with flakes. You don't see too many of them now.
V: Mainly cod, was it?
M: Pardon?
V: It was mainly cod that they brought in, codfish?
M: Ya. Oh yes, it was all cod, all cod.
V: Did they salt themselves or would they turn it over to...
M: It would be salted aboard, you know, and then they'd bring it out, take it out of the ship and wash it ashore and it would be put in piles and dried afterwards.
V: Did they make them into quintals...would they rack them into quintals or bundles or barrels? How did they rack them and prepare them?
M: Oh 'twas all dried in bulks, in bulks, you know, when they'd wash the fish then they'd make great big bulks.
V: I remember them wrapped in rope...ah...square bundles like quintal?
M: Ya, ya.
V: A quintal of fish they'd call it.
M: Ya, great big...
V: But where would they sell them? Do you know where they sold the fish, or...?
M: Where would they sell them? In Halifax. They sold them in Halifax. It was the fall of the year.
V: Would the fish dealers here...did they deal with the fish dealers here then, were they still working down here then.
M: They couldn't sell them down here, they would have to go to Halifax. With the Lunenberg crowd, the Lunenberg fishermens are still at it I understand. I understand they're still...Now my husband was one of those in L'Ardoise, they had their vessel. They had a vessel, with three other brothers, there were six brothers but one of them wasn't fishing, he was a carpenter. Mary's brother, the girl that stays with...that comes to visit us, the schoolteacher, retired schoolteacher, well her father was a carpenter and then there was another brother who had a little store, but the other four brothers had the vessel.
V: They would be long-lining, they'd catch with long lines?
M: Oh yes, hand line. But they had a gear...they had a shore gear besides, because they had hired men aboard the vessel...two or three...two of them would go onboard the vessel, the rest were hired men and then two others would run the shore gears...together, you know, they...
V: They'd run the traps.
M: Beg your pardon?
V: The traps on the shore, is it?
M: Ya, they had the...no lobster, they didn't fish lobster at all, they fished for mackerel, mackerel fishing and haddock. And they stopped fishing when the price went so down so low that they didn't pay anymore, they had to sell the vessel. They had one vessel when I was...got married and they had another one on the stocks, because the first vessel was too small, they said it was too small they wanted a larger vessel and they were building it right there, on the shore.
V: This was in...where were they living then?
M: In L'Ardoise.
V: L'Ardoise.
M: Ya, they were ah...built it right there and they sold the first one to some fella from ah...Cape Auguet..
V: Uh huh.
M: ...and they kept the second one, it was called "Florence M".
V: The "Florence M".
M: The first one was the "Thistle".
V: Did you ever go out on the boats yourself?
M: No.
V: Fishing boats or...?
M: I don't...
V: You weren't too fussy about the water.
M: Huh?
V: You weren't too fussy about the water.
M: Well, I ah...
V: Too busy.
M: The only boat I went in was when he had the dory, at home. We had the dory and we would go on the island and back again.
V: Which island was that? The ah...the lighthouse island or...?
M: No ah...what do you mean, the ah...?
V: You said you would go to the island with the boat...
W: The Long Island.
M: Ya, you know, the island right across where Wilfred...
V: The sandy beach, the Long Island, yes.
M: We used to get squids there when we were kids, we used to play 'cause there was plenty of squids there and it was great fun for us because we used to keep our sheep there on Long Island. We'd call Long Beach. We used to keep our sheep there and quite a few families...the Maughers used to keep their sheep. And of course when we kids would go...you know how children are, we'd spend more time chasing the squids. You'd throw stones, you know, after and then the whole school of them, you know, and you throw stones at them and instead of going forward they'd go backward.
V: Into the shore.
M: You know, they'd go ashore and they wouldn't be able to move.
V: You'd be all squid juice, would you?
M: Huh?
V: You'd be all squid juice? Did you get squirted at all?
M: Ha, ha...oh boy! Did I bring home someone...
V: The squid, the squid.
M: I had nothing to bring them in, but in my little skirt!
V: Uh huh.
M: Ha...I was a picture, my mother almost killed me!
V: I can imagine! We use to play with them in Newfoundland too, but they got scarce for a while...there were no squid for a while.
M: Is that right? I don't doubt it.
V: There were a few of them last year, in this harbor here, down front here.
M: They used to...it used to be good bait for cod, they say.
V: I have seen them used for fertilizer, too...on the garden.
M: I suppose. They didn't bother, the men didn't bother with those crops, they were more for just bait.
V: Yeah, they made good bait. The Japanese eat them.
M: They're selling them in Boston now, they're sel...now they show you on TV what...how nice they can be cooked...
V: I would like to try one just for fun.
M: I'd like to try one too...the way they cook...
W: It's all muscles.
V: It's not jelly, like...it's really soft.
W: My brother was telling me...changing the subject here, right now...he was telling Mary Mombourquette today. Jeez, he says, in Newfoundland, I like their drinking water, he says, son of a gun is it cold! What have they, they got a reservoir or do they have wells?
V: Ah, St. Johns has got a big rock lined lake, you know, it's in the rocks, eh, and it's a spring, it would be very cold.
M: After my husband sold the vessel, after he sold his share of the vessel first, you know then the others have to sell, he ah....it was for ah...
[The recording ends abruptly here.]