GIRROIR, HUBERT, Roman Catholic priest and teacher; b. 18 July 1825 at Tracadie, N.S., son of Captain Joseph Girroir and Angélique Le Blanc; d. 25 Jan. 1884 at Havre Boucher, N. S.
Hubert Girroir received his early education in Tracadie, but left there in 1841 to attend the newly founded St Mary’s College in Halifax. The following year he returned home and during 1842–43 received private academic instruction from the parish priest, Louis-Modeste Anssart. His education was then interrupted until 1850, but during the interval he became skilled at boatbuilding and blacksmithing. In September 1850, with funds supplied by Bishop William Fraser* of Arichat, he entered the Grand Séminaire de Québec and was ordained priest on 19 Feb. 1853. At Quebec Girroir demonstrated his talent for speed-skating by defeating an American champion in a race. His superiors, at first reluctant to allow such a contest, relented when Girroir promised to donate his winnings to the seminary.
Following ordination Girroir served for about six months as an assistant in the parish of Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire (at Lévis, Que.). In August 1853 he returned to Nova Scotia and was appointed an assistant at the cathedral in Arichat. Girroir also began to teach Christian doctrine and French at St Francis Xavier College in Arichat, recently established by Bishop Colin Francis MacKinnon*. In 1855 the seminarians and senior students of the college were transferred to a new location at Antigonish which was to become St Francis Xavier University in 1866. Father Girroir remained in Arichat as rector of the cathedral and principal of the renamed Arichat Academy which taught younger students in preparation for their entry into college. The only Acadian priest in the diocese until 1860, he worked zealously to promote education and the French language and culture among the many Acadians of the area. He was largely responsible for bringing the French-speaking Christian Brothers to Arichat in 1860 and he supported the teaching efforts of the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame from Montreal.
In 1863 Girroir was appointed pastor at Little Arichat (West Arichat) where he continued to serve the interests of his Acadian parishioners and students. However, the regulations included in the Free School Act of 1864 required that teachers take qualifying exams in English if a school was to receive public funding. The language provision made it virtually impossible for the French-speaking brothers to continue teaching in the area, and they left the district in 1866. Girroir felt that Bishop MacKinnon and some of his own parishioners had not whole-heartedly supported his efforts in French language education. His unhappiness over the language stipulations prompted him to complain bitterly to Premier Charles Tupper* in March 1866 that “whenever an Acadian community is on the point of taking a position among others, there must be something to thwart the efforts of many years.” In June 1867 MacKinnon attempted to resolve the continuing split in the Little Arichat parish by transferring Girroir, who resisted by appealing to Archbishop Thomas Louis Connolly* of Halifax and to Rome.
It was not until June 1868 that Girroir took up his next post at Chéticamp, a French-speaking community on the northern shore of Cape Breton Island. There he established a number of schools and supported the temperance movement. He was also largely responsible for having the harbour dredged, a project which was of great economic benefit to the fishing community. In June 1875 he was appointed to Havre Boucher, on the mainland of eastern Nova Scotia, another community with a large Acadian population. He remained there until shortly before his death in January 1884. Despite his successes in the cause of Acadian cultural survival and French language education in Nova Scotia, Girroir also met many setbacks and in 1866 gloomily speculated that there was “a fatality attached to the Acadian race.”
Casket (Antigonish, N.S.), 29 Aug. 1858, 15 March 1861, 18 Feb. 1892, 4 Jan. 1934. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Anselme Chiasson, Chéticamp, history and Acadian traditions (Moncton, N.B., 1961). A. A. Johnston, A history of the Catholic Church in eastern Nova Scotia (2v., Antigonish, 1960–71), II: 253–54, 301, 423–31, 458, 526. A. A. MacDonald, Centenary, Saint Paul’s parish (Havre Boucher, N.S., 1961). Éphrem Boudreau, “L’abbé Hubert Girroir, 1825–1884,” Soc. hist. acadienne, Cahiers (Moncton, N.-B.), 6 (1975): 69–81.