Ploeuc-sur-Lie is a small town in the Cotes d'Armor (formerly Cotes du Nord) department of northern Brittany, close to St Brieuc. More immigrant farm workers came to Jersey from Ploeuc than any other town in Brittany.
The figures are startling. Out of an estimated 2,000 French workers who settled in Jersey and registered with the Alien's Department, just over half came from Cote du Nord; the Normandy department of Manche was the next highest contributor.
And 218 of the Cote du Nord total came from Ploeuc, four times greater than the next highest commune, Plaintel, which is also close to St Brieuc.
Even today France this Way, an online guide to places to visit in France, fails to find anything about Ploeuc-sur-Lie worth a mention, uses a picture of a nearby town, and draws attention to other places nearby which are worth a visit.
In the mid-19th century, Ploeuc and other towns near St Brieuc were particularly poor. Agriculture was not thriving. Pay rates in the Côtes du Nord on average were half those in France generally. By working for just a few months in Jersey, French workers could earn far more than they would in a year in Brittany.
Men began to leave Ploeuc for Jersey in the 1860s. Among the first to make the journey, looking for work, were one or more members of the Herve family. They were followed by others in the list below during the 1870s and '80s, and others were still making the move at the turn of the century.
Undoubtedly word spread from one family to another that there was an opportunity for a better life in Jersey, where the economy was booming, with oyster fishing, shipbuilding and potato growing in the ascendancy, and the latter particularly suited the men from north Brittany, where, away from the coast, which provided work in the fishing industry and early tourism, there were few opportunities.
These immigrant workers undoubtedly wrote home with tales of the grass being much greener on the other side of the Baie de St Brieuc. Many would return home after a season in Jersey, spreading the word of the opportunities available in the Channel Islands, and eventually settle and raise the families whose descendants still live in Jersey today.
Today agriculture is much stronger in Cotes d'Amor. Ploeuc retains its rural character but its 3,000 inhabitants do not have to leave to find work. Ironically, the farmers' main crop is potatoes, providing work for young local men who previously had to travel much further afield.
Among the Jersey families whose originaires came from Ploeuc-sur-Lie in the 19th century, and are still present in the island today, were the following. Some families in Jersey with these surnames also originated elsewhere in France as well:
- Boucault, from Lantic, which is part of the canton of Ploeuc
- Hamon a family unrelated to that already in Jersey for several centuries
- Le Fondre
- Le Main
- Le Mercier
- Le Pavoux
- Le Vannais