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A Sketch of the Life of the Hon. and Right Reverend Alexander MacDonell
Illness and Death of Bishop MacDonell


The following account is given by the Reverend AEneas Macdonell Dawson, of Ottawa, then an inmate of the Mission House at Dumfries, Scotland of the Bishop's last illness and death :-

"According to my recollection, the Bishop came to Dumfries, convalescent, from Lord Gosford's, in Ireland, where he had been most kindly treated, I may say, nursed by the family of the good ex-Governor of Canada. What made the journey difficult and hurtful was the circumstance that he was obliged to come all the way from Port Patrick to Dumfries outside the stage, the inner places having been previously engaged. It was a Saturday afternoon when he reached Dumfries, a cold Scotch rain having fallen upon him all the time of his slow journey of from seventy to eighty miles. This did not improve his health. He complained of fatigue and would not leave the hotel where he was set down till next morning, when he came to the Mission House and was able to celebrate Mass, assisted by the Venerable Mr. Reid. Unwilling to leave him alone at the hotel, we, that is Mr. Reid and I, resolved ourselves into a committee of the whole and decided that I should go to spend the evening with him at the hotel. He was cheerful and conversed a great deal, not forgetting to hold out every inducement for me to go with him to Canada. I could not then consent, but if he had lived a few weeks longer, it is possible that my destinies might have been changed. Next day, Colonel Sir William Gordon, a devoted friend of the Bishop, invited me to walk with him. The conversation turned chiefly on Canada, and he urged on me the propriety of complying with the Bishop's request, that I should devote myself to that interesting country. It was not, however, till after long service in my native land that I decided on coming to this New World. The Bishop continued apparently well, although we knew that he was not, as he could not go out without using a respirator. On the Monday evening, Mr. Reid remained in his room, conversing with him until about eleven o'clock. About four o'clock next morning he called his man, but, he not hearing, the housekeeper approached his room, and dreading all was not right, entered. He asked for an additional blanket, and that the fire should be stirred up. The blanket was speedily supplied, and the housekeeper hastened to inform Mr. Reid of the state of matters. He lost no time in coming to the Bishop, and fortunately he was in time to administer the last Sacrament. I was next alarmed, and I found Mr. Reid sitting in his canonicals by the Bishop's bedside. The latter was passing away so quietly, in perfect peace, that we could not tell whether the vital spark had flown; nor was it known until Dr. Blacklock arrived, and after due examination, pronounced. I then hastened to the hotel where his friend, Sir William Gordon, was staying. The latter came promptly, and arriving in the Bishop's room, threw himself into a chair and wept. There was no funeral at Dumfries the remains were conveyed at once to Edinburgh. Bishop Gillies, with the full consent of the Senior Bishop, had everything arranged in the grandest style. Since the days of Scotland's Royalty. so magnificent a funeral had not been seen in Edinburgh. All that was mortal of the renowned Bishop was deposited in the crypt of St. Margaret's Convent Chapel. I may mention that on the Tuesday forenoon, Captain Lyon, of Kirkmichael, the husband of Miss Dickson, who was a ward of the Bishop, called at the Mission House in order to see that all were ready to attend the dinner he was to give next day at his beautiful seat in honour of the Bishop. We were all to rejoice, along with the neighboring country gentlemen, on the occasion of Bishop Macdonell's return to Scotland, but he was bidden to another banquet."

On the arrival at Kingston of the melancholy intelligence of the Bishop's death, a Solemn Requiem Mass was sung by Bishop Gaulin, who took format possession of the See on Passion Sunday, I40. The funeral oration on the deceased Prelate was pronounced from the text, Beati Mortui, &c., by the Bishop's old friend and Vicar- General, Mr. W. P. Macdonald. The Requiem was attended by all the Clergy of the Diocese, which comprised the entire Province of Canada West. Several Priests from abroad also assisted. The successors of Bishop Macdonell in the See of Kingston always cherished the intention of bringing his remains to Canada for interment with suitable honour in the Cathedral Church of his Diocese, where, by right, the remains of a Bishop should always be deposited. It was not, however, until 1861, during the Episcopate of Bishop Horan, that the removal took place. Bishop Horan went to Edinburgh and was cordially received by the Vicar-Apostolic of the Eastern District of Scotland, the Right Reverend James Gillies, who gave him every facility for the accomplishment of his Mission. Of Scottish extraction, Bishop Gillies was a native of Montreal, and was at one time spoken of as the coadjutor to Bishop Macdonell. The funeral cortege arrived in Kingston on the 25th September. On the following day a Solemn Requiem Mass having been celebrated by Bishop Horan, and a panegyric pronounced by the Reverend Mr. Bentley, of Montreal, the earthly remains of the much loved and venerated prelate were consigned to their last resting-place, in the land of his adoption, among the people whom he so loved and cared for, and amongst whom he had spent the greater part of his active, laborious and self-sacrificing life.


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