During the nineteenth century, French fishing fleets crossed the Atlantic Ocean to fish the waters off Newfoundland. The Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the south coast of Newfoundland, were then, as they are today, part of France. These islands served as a base for the fishing operations on this side of the Atlantic, while select harbours on the “French Shore”, like Codroy Island and Red Island were assigned to St. Pierre merchants as local fishing stations.
Red Island lies a little more than a nautical mile off the Port au Port peninsula near Cape St. George. The island is small and not terribly hospitable, yet it served as a major fishing station for the French until 1904. The French fishing fleet was primarily made of fisherman/sailors and shore workers. These shore workers usually lacked fishing experience and were hired in the port of St. Malo to carry out no-fishing duties, such as processing the fish that were brought ashore by the fisherman. The shore workers would live and work on Red Island during the fishing season. Living conditions were very cramped and for the most part unbearable, not to mention the constant stench of rotting fish guts. The hours were long and arduous.
(From The Illustrated London News, Vol. 114 (14 Jan 1899), 40-41.)
Red Island Today. Photo – Wayne Young
Red Island as seen from Cape St. George. Photo – Wayne Young
Oral tradition suggests that Guillaume Robin, a Breton-speaker from La Roche-Derrien in Brittany was the first of the “French Deserters” to settle at Cape St. George. According to the Immaculate Conception Church records, a William Robin of Brittany married Sophia Lucas on May 31, 1871. Guillaume Robin was very likely a shore worker and he would have been able to see Cape St. George, while toiling on Red Island. Some researchers have suggested that Guillaume arrived at “The Cape” around 1837.
According to the Newfoundland Vital Statistics, a William Robin, age 45, a widower and farmer of Cape St George and Eloise Louval, age 53, a widow of Cape St. George are married at Port Au Port, on July 8, 1891. If the entry is correct, William’s birth year would be 1846, which would imply that his arrival at “The Cape” would have much later that 1837. Assuming this entry to be correct, William would have married Sophia at the age of 25, which means that it is unlikely that he arrived at Cape St. George before 1862. In 1862, this William Robin would have been sixteen years old.
Assuming that William arrived at Cape St. George in 1837 and assuming that he was at least 16 years old at the time, then by 1871, he would have been 50 years old (at least). and in 1890, he would have been 70 years old (at least).
According to oral tradition, Jean Baptiste Tallec was a Breton deserter who married Marie Yvonne Robin, the daughter of William Robin and Sophia Marie Lucas. Thomas (129) states; “Oral tradition, offering the pronunciation TULLIC, TULLIQUE, attests that one person of this name was the first husband of Martvonne ROBIN, a daughter of Guillaume ROBIN, one of the earliest settlers of Cape St. George. This TULLIC had drowned at sea.”
According to the Newfoundland Vital Statistics, Jean Baptiste Tallec drowned at Cape St. George on March 6, 1894. Jean was listed as being 28 years years old and listed as being born in France.
Being that Jean Baptiste Tallec was born in France, it is most likely that he was born in Bretagne. Bretagne is an administrative and cultural region in the Northwest of France. Historically, the region was occupied by Celtic tribes who had migrated from Britain. According to Gary German of the Universite de Bretagne Occidental, Brest, Celtic family names quite often made reference to one’s physical characteristics. The family name, Tallec/Talec/Le Tallec/Le Talec is a reference to a “big brow”, while the name Lagadec is a reference to “big eyes” and Lagadu, a reference to “dark eyes”. Interestingly, the practice of referencing one’s physical characteristics remains part of the Bay St. George culture.
“Jean Baptiste Tallec was blown out to sea in a small boat while “birding” (Bird Hunting) off Cape St. George”. (Information passed on orally by family – March 2005)
At the time of the tragedy, Jean Baptiste and Marie Yvonne had two children, William and Marie Francis. William was three years old, while Marie Francis was born only six weeks earlier on January 20th, 1894.
From Don Bennett, The Trail of French Ancestors, page 156; 14 April 1895, at Sandy Point, Bay St. George, Newfoundland;
“Yves Lagatchu (Lagadu), son of Philip Ligadu and Cathrine Gastrie of L’An de Berin., France married Marie Robin widow of Jean Baptiste Tallack.
Marie Frances Tallec grew up at Cape St. George. On the 10th of August, 1911, Marie Francis was a witness at the marriage of her brother William Tallec and Margaret Young. At the time, Marie Frances was sixteen years old. By the time of the 1911 census, Marie Francis had relocated to Stephenville Crossing, some forty miles into the bottom of Bay St. George and was in the employ of the John Benoit family. With the arrival of the Newfoundland Railway, Stephenville Crossing had become a hub of activity in the bay. In the 1911 census, Marie Francis is listed as a servant and is seventeen years old.
In the 1911 census, George Young was living with his sister Marie Josephine (Josie) at Matt’s Point just across the water from Stephenville Crossing. Interestingly, George is a direct descendant of Pierre LeJeune dit Briard, who arrived in Acadie from France some three hundred years earlier. George is the son of William Young and Alice Corneau of Bank Head, which is located on the south side of Bay St. George, near Sandy Point.
On December 29th, 1913, George Young, age 31 of Stephenville Crossing and Mary Taliek (Tallec), age 21 of Stephenville Crossing were married at St. Georges by Rev. M. G. Sears.
George and Marie Francis raised their family at Stephenville Crossing.
George Young died at Stephenville Crossing on December 31st, 1969. Three years later, on January 30th, 1972, Marie Francis passed.
BENNETT, Don. The Trail of French Ancestors. Privately Printed.
THOMAS, Gerald. French Family Names of Newfoundland and Labrador. Harry Cuff Publications Limited St. John’s, 1999.
GERMAN, Gary. Anthroponyms as markers of “Celticity in Brittany, Cornwall and Wales, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest.