Sunday, November 08, 2015

Champlain Society and William Ord Mackenzie

Dropped by the Champlain Society AGM yesterday at the Toronto Archives. Heartening to know that the membership rolls of the Society have been rising nicely in the past year.  Probably not just because this blog has been telling you you ought to be a member  (You ought to be a member.) but good to see anyway.

This year the Society published Another World, Sandra Alston's edition of the mid-19th century Canadian diary of the Scottish military doctor William Ord Mackenzie. All members receive a copy.

Mackenzie turns out to have had an eye (and more) for the ladies of Toronto and to be hotly anti-Reform (Robert Baldwin he considered a dangerous radical).  He also described a long drunken evening at Fort York with "the Macnab" and how they struggled to get him home:
Lt  Gordon & I, with Ens. D.  Seton (from Aberdeen) went out with him. The air was keen & frosty, & soon had such an effect on Macnab, so that it was quite evident he never could walk home alone 1¼ mile, so we accompanied him without appearing to do so for the real reason. – It was with great difficulty, that Gordon & I could manage on each side to steady such an immense, & for the time unsteady body. – When we had got about half way, he stopped short, & insisted that we should turn back. “Ye’re fine braw chiels, & I’m a puir auld man (I should think his age is about 60), & ye think I canna gae hame without ye”.
So saying, we wished him good night, & pretended to leave him: fortunately I recommended that we should follow at a distance, for I knew that close to his path, was a tolerably deep ditch at that time being made. We watched him from a corner, when after staggering a few paces, he disappeared, & sure enough, we soon found him with his face downwards in the ditch, from which he never could have raised himself; with great difficulty we got him up, & unheeding his further remonstrances, took him to the Hotel, where he allowed no one but myself & “boots” to put him to bed.
This work, one of considerable difficulty being satisfactorily accomplished, I offered my hand & said goodnight – With a good humoured but Drunken smile he raised his huge hand, & gave me a smart slap on the cheek, “Guid nicht, ye rascal!”. –
On Going home, we all agreed, to say nothing of his Drunkenness to our Brother–officers, for the Credit of the Highlands, nor was the Circumstance ever mentioned up to the period of my leaving the 93rd.

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