The month of February was a very active month, talking about Poor Houses of Nova Scotia all over the south west end of Nova Scotia in several of the libraries. I was in Lockeport at the Lillian Beham Library last week (the orginal date in February was re-scheduled because of the weather) and had the most DE-licious date squares! (Thank you Danielle!). We had a lively discussion about whether things had changed for the poor or whether they have remained the same.
The Senator Ambroise H. Comeau Library in Meteghan was great fun and so interesting talking about not only the local St. Mary’s Poor House but also Cy a Mateur. Here is a piece about him on https://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/jerome/contextes/normalite/indexen.html
“Cy à Mateur (Celestin, son of Amateur Trahan) was a contemporary of Jerome. In fact, they died the same year, in 1912. Cy was a highly skilled cobbler, but also very poor. According to the inhabitants of St. Mary’s Bay, including his neighbours in Meteghan, Cy was not normal. He was an angry, violent person. He drank a lot, played cards and gambled. He didn’t go to Mass on Sundays, and didn’t take communion. He was reputed to have sold his soul to the devil and to be a witch. People said he could change into a bear or fly to Boston by surfing through the air on a wooden plank. Cy really and truly existed. Today, he would have received government assistance in the form of Social Welfare payments and his doctors would have insisted that he take therapy and be treated for alcohol addiction. But in Jerome’s day, Cy was shut up in the Meteghan “Poor House” and rejected by all.”
Clearly Cy a Mateur had unresolved mental health issues and the community did not understand it. How could they? We did not know what mental health issues were in those days.
Author Lise A. Robichaud gifted me a copy of her book Le diable et le cordonnier: Vie et legende de Cy a Mateur. Thank you again Lise! I’ve got my French-English dictionary out and my French classes are coming back to me.
In the Isaiah W. Wilson Library in Digby, it was standing room only! We talked about not only the Marshall Town Almshouse, but the other poor houses in the area (Clementsport and Bridgetown) and discussed the possibility of Guaranteed Annual Incomes in Canada.
Clarke’s Harbour Library discussion and presentation was at the beginning of February and, although the group was small (7 people), we swapped stories and facts about the Barrington and Shelburne Poor Houses.
The staff at all of the libraries were WONDERFUL and so welcoming! Thank you to Joanne Head for inviting me and thank you to my husband, Kent Folks, for driving me all over this part of the province and listening to my presentations. I’m sure he could do them himself now.
Next presentation coming up is April 3. I shall keep you posted.