“Farewell to Mackenzie”


"Now Willie's awa frae the field o' contention, Frae the land o' misrule and the friends o' dissension: He's gane owre the wave as an agent befittin' Our claims to support in the councils o' Britain." The people send their leader off with good hopes


Fowke and Mills say that "No tune was suggested for the verses at the time [of writing], but the lines follow the pattern of "The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee." All I can say is, if this wasn't based on "Saint Helena (Boney on the Isle of St. Helena)," it wasn't based on anything.

Following the expulsion of the American invaders in the War of 1812, the government of Canada fell increasingly into the hands of oligarchs. Mackenzie founded a paper in Upper Canada, the _Colonial Advocate_, dedicated to reforming the system. Thugs destroyed his press, but in 1828 Mackenzie was elected to parliament -- only to be expelled for allegedly libelling the government.

The Canadians responded by re-electing him in 1832 (only to have him expelled again) and gathering 25,000 signatures on a petition to King William IV (reigned 1830-1837; the "King Willie" of the song) for redress of grievances. This was the situation at the time the poem was written, if its inscription ("Markham, April 10, 1832") is to be believed.

Kenneth McNaught, in _The Pelican History of Canada_ (enlarged edition, Pelican, 1982), pp. 85-86, write that "There is no doubt that [Mackenzie] was driven to this extreme, with its inevitable connotation of independence, by the intransigent defence of privilege in Toronto and London."

Sadly, the attempts at reform failed, leading the radicals to rebel in 1837. A thousand pound bounty was placed on Mackenzie's head -- but no one was willing to claim it. Still, Mackenzie and thousands of others were forced to flee to America when the rebellion failed.

For the sequel, see "The Battle of the Windmill." - RBW

Historical references

  • 1828 - William Lyon Mackenzie first elected to represent Canada in the British parliament

Cross references


  1. Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 72-74, "Farewell to Mackenzie" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, FMB072


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1862 (Lindsey, "Life and Times of Wm. Lyon Mackenzie")