The following are fascinating sources of Irish heritage in Quebec. The first one deals with the Grosse Isle Tragedy.
This site gives you to access to a great number of documents, particularly old books. Use their search engine typing in Irish, Quebec City or other topic of interest.
This site gives you access to old books, genealogies and documents dealing with the Irish diaspora in North Ameirca.
The following will give you access to an article on the History of the Irish of Quebec City by Brother Memorian Sheehy written in 1944.
Below is an extract, pages 91-96 that deals with Quebec City.
Maguire presents an overly rosy picture of the Irish community in Quebec that masks a great deal of poverty and the struggle between capital and labor.
The Irish in Quebec
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 300£ 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 make up 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. to 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 ho must be ready to go into the woods as a lumberman, or seek employment wherever it can be procured.
It is pleasant to know that not only are the Irish in Quebec, and indeed along the St. Lawrence, among the most industrious and energetic portion of the population, but that they are thrifty and saving, and have acquired considerable property. Thus along the harbour, from the Champlain Market westward to the limits of the city, an extent of two miles, the property, including wharves, warehouses, and dwelling-houses, belong principally to the Irish, who form the bulk of the population in that quarter. And by Irish I here mean Catholic Irish. There are many Irishmen of other persuasions, eminent in trade and commerce, men of the highest standing and repute; but not only are there many Catholic Irishmen, who came out to Canada with little more than their skill as mechanics, or their capability as labourers, now in positive affluence, but the larger proportion of those who live by their daily toil have acquired and possess property of more or less value. This property usually consists of the plot of land on which they have erected a house for their own occupation, and another to let to tenants. As the fortunes of the family increased, so did the house, until at length a decent dwelling, of at least two storeys, was secured; then the house for the tenant was constructed. It is ascertained that the Catholic Irish the Irish of the working classes have 80,000£ or $400,000, lodged in the Savings’ Bank of Quebec ; and that in all kinds of bank and other stock, they own something like 250,000£ or $1,225,000. Thus in the Union Bank, of 400 stockholders in Quebec, 200 are Irish. And this is but one of three local banks in that city. Besides possessing extensive house property, and having accumulated money, they are generally engaged in business, of which they enjoy a fair share. Whatever the Irish possess, they have made by their own unaided industry; for, as a respectable Irishman, who had himself worked his way to independence, said to me: ‘You could scarcely trace one that brought a sovereign with him.’ He added that he had brought out four himself, but that he might as well not have done so, for he lent them to a person who never took the trouble of paying them back. ‘And perhaps, after all, it was so much the better for me that I lost the money, for I had to work the harder.’ Among those who came out ‘poor,’ as working mechanics, is an Irishman who is now in the enjoyment of an income of 10,000£ a year, made by successful contracts, natural ability, and good conduct. This case may be regarded as a somewhat remarkable one in Canada, if the magnitude of the result be regarded; but there are many instances in which sums of 20,000£, 30,000£, and 50,000£ have been realised by the industry and perseverance of Irishmen who came to the British Provinces ‘without a shilling. The secret of the success or failure of Irishmen may be summed up in a sentence, spoken by a countryman of theirs in Quebec; words which I have heard expressed hundreds of times in all parts of America, and which could not be too often repeated: Where the Irish are steady and sober, they are sure to get on; where they are drunken, reckless, or improvident, why of course they fail.
In Quebec, as in too many places in America, there are; instances of drunken, reckless, and improvident Irishmen; but, happily, these cases are exceptional, for, as a rule, the Irish of that city are sober, prudent, and thrifty. Another fact, the exact parallel to which may be told of the Irish in Montreal, is in the highest degree creditable to the moral tone which they maintain, that there is not in the Irish portion of the town a single house of bad repute, although as many as 10,000 sailors are frequently at one time in the port, and although the Irish keep lodging houses, and places of entertainment, which are frequented by a class whose influence is not always the most favourable to public or private morals.
The Irish Catholics in Quebec, who number about 12,000, possess Church property of their own creation, to the amount of $40,000; and the manner in which they respond to appeals made to their charitable feelings, was strongly impressed on my mind from hearing the Pastor of St. Patrick’s announce from the pulpit that the bazaar just held in aid of an hospital for old and infirm people had realised the net sum of 800£. To this handsome amount the wealthier classes had contributed a fair proportion; but the larger amount came from the pockets of the working people. Indeed, to employ the language of a gentleman long connected with Quebec, ‘they form an exhaustless resource in every charitable or religious undertaking.
I was afforded a favourable opportunity of seeing at one time a large body of the working class of Irish, that is Irish-born, or born of Irish parents. The occasion was a funeral of a young man who had fallen victim to a daring feat, which resulted in his death. The nature of the death created a lively sympathy among his class, who might be described as ‘ship-labourers,’ engaged in various departments of the great lumber industry of the port. The procession occupied a considerable tune in passing the place at which I stood, and the papers of the following morning estimated the number who ‘walked’ at 1200.There was not of that large body of working men a single one badly or shabbily dressed; all were well and comfortably clad, while many were attired with a neatness and even elegance that could not be seen in the same class at home. They seemed to me to bear themselves with an air of manly independence, as free citizens of a free country, in which the laws make no distinction between man and man. And taking into consideration the dangers and hardships to which most of those engaged in the principal work of the river and harbour are necessarily exposed, and the temptations to which the very nature of their employment gives rise, these men are, as a body, temperate and well-conducted; the country being the exception.
The Irish Catholic who must depend upon himself for ‘getting along’ has more difficulties to contend with than the Irish Protestant, or the Englishman or Scotchman. The majority of the population are French ; and not only does the Irishman speak a different language to that of the majority of the population, but he absorbs a large and valuable portion of the employment, and pushes his way into active rivalry with the more wealthy class in various branches of business. Then he has a certain amount of national jealousy or sectarian feeling to encounter amongst the English-speaking section of the community So that when he does rise above the mass, and acquire wealth and position, it is at least certain that his struggle has been hard, and that his success has been well-earned. But whenever an Irish Catholic in Quebecor Montreal told me of his hard up-hill fight, he was sure to add ‘ The laws are good and just, and we enjoy everything we have a right to hope for. We have nothing to complain of here; and all we wish is that you were as well-off at home.’ To which sentiment, I need hardly say, invariably responded with a cordial Amen.
Education in Lower Canada is entirely free. Each denomination enjoys the most complete liberty, there being no compulsion or restriction of any kind whatever. And the magnificent Laval University, so called after a French bishop, enjoys and exercises every right and privilege possessed by the great universities of England. This University, which is eminently Catholic, obtained a charter conferring upon it all the powers that were requisite for its fullest educational development.
The rights of the Protestant minority are protected in the amplest manner, as well by law as by the natural tendency and feeling of the majority ; for there are no people more liberal and tolerant, or more averse to any kind of aggression the faith or opinions of others, than the French-Canadians ; and the Irish Catholics too well remember the bitterness caused by religious strife in the old country, to desire its introduction, in any shape or form, or under any guise or pretence, into their adopted home. There are abundant means of education within every man’s reach; and it is his own fault if his children do not receive its full advantage. But the Irishman, whatever may be his own deficiencies as to early training, rarely neglects that of his children ; and in Canada, as in the States, the fault attributed to him is not that he neglects to educate them at all, but that he is tempted to educate them rather too highly, or too ambitiously, than otherwise.