Pictured is the wharf in Poirierville, on Isle Madame’s north coast.

The book Acadian Lives consists of interviews with Cape Breton Acadians and was collected and edited by Ronald Kaplan with Rosie Aucoin Grace. The book was published in 2004.

“Wilfred M. Poirier was born in 1885 in Poirierville. In those days education was scanty to put it mildly. The teacher was an ‘old Scotchman’ who ‘loved his drink.’

“Mr. Poirier was thirteen when he took his first job. For 6 dollars a month he worked as a fisherman and on a farm in Pondville. He was up at 4:30 every morning and out to the fishing grounds. On his return he had to clean the barn and work until 5:00. After two years young Wilfred had managed to save $9.25.

“With these savings he bought a fare to Boston. He had an old suitcase, two eggs, and a couple of molasses cookies.

“On board he met a fellow passenger from Cheticamp. Conversing in French, the two young fellows caught the attention of the ship’s steward. When he discovered Wilfred was from Poirierville, he revealed that he had an aunt there and lo and behold the two young men turned out to be first cousins. Learning that his cousin had nothing to eat, the steward saw to his food needs for the rest of the voyage to Boston.

“Within two weeks in Boston Wilfred secured a job on a hospital ship that sailed sick persons down Boston Harbour. Here he earned $25 a month plus meals and a bunk. After three months young Poirier went to work in a fish plant for $13 monthly ten hours per day. Compared to the $6 a month he earned at Pondville this was quite a promotion. This employment lasted until November and Poirier returned to work at Marble Mountain until late December.

“In the late nineteenth century the eastern United States was known as the ‘Promised Land.’ So, in the spring of 1901, at the ripe old age of sixteen, Poirer left home once more this time to Long Island, New York. His brother had secured him a job fishing at the rate of $40 a month. The young man thought he had struck a gold mine! The fleet fished the coast from Delaware to Boston as well as off shore. The catch was menhaden, otherwise known as pogies which was processed as oil and fertilizer.

“Later, Poirier fished on George’s Bank in winter, but the fishery then was a world of corruption. Carrying 75, 80, even 100,000 pounds of haddock, men earned nothing but food and a place to sleep and were told there was no sale for the cargo. “Captains and fish dealers colluded to sell the fish on their own cutting out the fishermen who had brought in the load. For uneducated men there were few options. Poirier fished for four years.

“Wilfred Poirier met a young lady, also from Poirierville, who worked in a curtain factory as a stitcher. They were married in Boston.

“Poirier estimated that over the years he worked at fifteen different jobs. One was as a miner in Glace Bay. It was not employment the he would have hoped for, but he was broke and needed to earn enough to return to the States.”