With the new Breton Books edition of The Company Store, John Mellor’s extraordinary telling of the history of J.B. McLachlan and the Cape Breton Coal Miners is finally back in print.
A classic from the moment it was published in 1983, The Company Store tells the story of Labour’s Wars—the battles from 1900 to 1925 for union recognition and better wages that were fought by Cape Breton’s coal miners and steelworkers. Their leader was J.B. McLachlan, who remains a hero even to those who do not know the whole story.
And to tell that whole story, accurately and respectfully, was John Mellor’s goal in writing The Company Store.
Publisher Ronald Caplan says, “This book has been too long out of print. It became an expensive hot item on the rare book market. With the powerful encouragement of the Board of Directors of the Miners’ Museum, we happily took on the job.”
And now the book that respected historian Irving Abella called “fascinating” and the Kingston Whig Standard found “engrossing” is once again available, with larger type and additional information that makes a very good book even better.
The company-owned stores stand as a powerful symbol for the coal company’s control of every aspect of the miner’s life. The coal company owned everything: the stores known as “the Pluck Me,” the terrible housing, the mines and the politicians and even ministers and priests—and the company used these tools to keep the miners in line as they lowered wages and paid off their shareholders. When the miners tried to organize and fight back, the coal company cut off credit at the stores, evicted families, and blacklisted workers. And when all these tactics failed—the government sent in troops against the miners.
From 1900 to 1925 Cape Breton labour faced starvation, beatings and even murder. Workers fought back, sustained by coal mine culture, organized resistance, and a stubborn belief that their families deserved better.
There were never-to-be-forgotten clashes with mounted police on Victoria Road in 1923 and at Waterford Lake in 1925, where miner William Davis was shot and killed. J.B. McLachlan himself endured blacklisting, injustice, prison, and arson.
And John Mellor tells it all in The Company Store. His book is vivid, well informed and passionate—essential Cape Breton reading. He did the research, and he also talked with miners and their families, people who were actually there. Were the story told in The Company Store not a true story, it would be unbelievable.
The new edition of The Company Store contains photographs, Mellor’s original bibliography, a detailed index—plus an added list of current writing and DVDs based on the latest research about Cape Breton Labour.
Writer John Mellor has always been on the side of Canadians who suffered the most. His first award-winning book was Forgotten Heroes: The Canadians at Dieppe. And now this new edition of The Company Store will satisfy the continued longing for this book. Written in a popular, accessible style, The Company Store gives another new generation the opportunity to know this important Cape Breton story.
The book launch and concert begin at 7pm, September 11, at the Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay. There will be refreshments and everyone is welcome. Admission is $15.00 and The Company Store will be on sale.