The Story of Wild Goose Jack: The Life and Work of Jack Miner

Description

208 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
$29.95
ISBN 0-88794-129-X

Publisher

Year

1984

Contributor

Reviewed by Donavon L. Porter

Donavon L. Porter is a public-school teacher in Haileybury, Ontario.

Review

Gaspé remains a poor region of Canada with a weak economic base. Why that area did not develop differently is one of a number of important concerns discussed by Parks Canada historian David Lee in this study of the Robins’ fishing company at Chaleur Bay. In a book which is an original and significant contribution to both regional and business history, Lee traces the origins of the family’s interest in the Gaspé fishery in the decade following the British conquest, the pioneering of the famous, lightly salted “Gaspé cure” for cod , the development of diversified markets for its products, the attainment of a monopoly within the Chaleur district by the 1790s, corporate vertical integration, and complete company dominance in politics and economics by the 1820s. A last chapter briefly chronicles the company’s fortunes until bank failure forced an end to Robin family involvement in 1886. Today the company is owned and managed by descendants of the Channel Islanders (Jerseymen) brought over by the Robins to fish and work in their shipyards.

Lee is as concerned with individuals and the mass as he is with the larger questions of staples production, the role of the entrepreneur, and economic backwardness. In the end he concludes that the company’s ultimate impact on the region was negative because it was unwilling either to diversify or to develop indigenous skills on capital. Some of the Robin family were simply “a parcel of Rogues,” as an Anglican priest who was quickly removed from his parish claimed in the 1820s. The “truck system” of credit did keep fishermen impoverished in a manner akin to Newfoundland natives or people in the Hudson’s Bay region, but unlike the tobacco south where there was greater competition.

While Lee tackles important questions in a forthright manner, he has greaten difficulty in enlivening his account; it remains as dry as the Gaspé cure itself. This is not principally his own fault but is due to the nature of the available historical sources. No one could make a curmudgeon like Charles Robin interesting.

Citation

Linton, James M., and Calvin W. Moore, “The Story of Wild Goose Jack: The Life and Work of Jack Miner,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36834.