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A Sketch of the Life of the Hon. and Right Reverend Alexander MacDonell
Obituary Notices


I shall conclude this imperfect sketch of the Bishop's life by quoting from one of the secular papers of the time (the Kingston "British Whig"), and the conclusion of Mr. Morgan's reference to him in his "Biographies of Celebrated Canadians." The "Whig's article" was as follows:-

"Of the individuals who have passed away from us during the last twenty-five years, and who have taken an interest in the advancement and prosperity of Canada West, no one probably has won for himself in so great a degree the esteem of all classes of his fellow-citizens as has Bishop Macdonell.

"Arriving in Canada at an early, period of the present century, at a time when toil, privations and difficulties inseparable from life in a new country, awaited the zealous Missionary as well as the hardy immigrant, he devoted himself in a noble spirit of self- sacrifice, and with untiring energy. to the duties of his sacred calling and the amelioration of the condition of those entrusted to his spiritual care. In him they found a friend and counsellor; to them he endeared himself through his unbounded benevolence and greatness of soul. Moving among all classes and creeds, with a mind unbiassed by religious prejudices, taking an interest in all that tended to develop the resources, or aided the general prosperity of the country, he acquired a popularity still memorable, and obtained over the mind of his fellow-citizens an influence only equalled by their esteem and respect for him. The ripe scholar, the polished gentleman, the learned divine, his many estimable qualities recommended him to the notice of the Court of Rome; and he was elevated to the dignity of a Bishop of the Catholic Church. The position made no change in the man; he remained still the zealous Missionary, the indefatigable Pastor. His loyalty to the British Crown was never surpassed; when the interests of the Empire were either assailed or jeopardized on this continent, he stood forth their bold advocate by word and deed he proved how sincere was his attachment to British Institutions; and infused into the hearts of his fellow-countrymen and others an equal enthusiasm for their preservation and maintenance. Indeed, his noble conduct on several occasions tended so much to the preservation of loyalty that it drew from the highest authority repeated expressions of thanks and gratitude. As a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada (to which he was called by Sir John Colborne on October 12th, 1831), his active mind, strengthened by experience acquired by constant associations with all classes, enabled him to suggest many things most beneficial to the best interests of the country, and the peace and harmony of its inhabitants."

Mr. Morgan thus concludes his article:-

"In every relation of life, as subject, Prelate, relative and friend, he was a model of everything valuable. To his Sovereign he brought the warm and hearty homage of a sincere, enthusiastic, unconditional allegiance, and the most invincible, uncompromising loyalty; as Prelate, he was kind, attentive and devoted to the interests, welfare and happiness of his Clergy; as a relative, his attachment was unbounded and his death created an aching void to hundreds of sorrowing relatives whom he counselled by his advice, assisted with his means and protected by his influence; as a friend, he was sincere, enthusiastic and unchangeable in his attachments. Such, indeed, was the liberality of his views and the inexpressible benignity of his disposition, that all creeds and classes united in admiration of his character, respect for him, and congregated together to bid him farewell as he left the shores of the St. Lawrence on that voyage, which proved but the prelude to that long and last one, from which there is no return."

The following beautiful verses, composed by Robert Gilfillan, a Scottish poet of some celebrity, appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle at the time of the Bishop's funeral services there :-

DIRGE OF THE LATE BISHOP MACDONELL.
BY ROBERT GILFILLAN.

The temple was wrapt in deepest gloom,
As they laid out the dead for the silent tomb,
And the tapers were lighted dim—
A soft and solemn shadowy light—
And the Book was opened for Holy Rite,
When they woke this funeral hymn
He's gone he's gone the spirit is fled,
And now we mourn the honoured dead.

The coffin before the Altar stood,
With purple pall and silken shroud,
And tassels sable hung,
And as they bore it slow along,
They chanted forth the burial song,
By hundred voices sung—
He's gone! he's gone! the spirit is fled,
And now we mourn the honoured dead.

And many a Priest with mitred brow,
Before the Holy Cross did bow,
And joined the mournful strain.
The living once!—the lifeless now
All, all, to Death's fell grasp must bow,
Nor come they back again !"
The tide gives back its ebbing wave,
But there's no return from the darksome grave!

Frail mortals of a passing day,
Is this your home? Is this your stay?
Attend the lesson given;
'Tis dust to dust and clay to clay,
The friends we mourn from earth away,
They welcome now in Heaven
"'Twas thus they bore him slow along,
With Holy chant and mournful song.

They spoke of his deeds well done on e'rth.
His Holy life, and active worth,
Relieving others' woe
The poor in him they found a friend.
Whose like again they will not find,
In this cold world below
Did good where good was to be done.
But his race is o'er, and the prize is won.

They chanted the Requiem in cadence deep—
The good may grieve, but the dead shall sleep,
When life's dull round is o'er—
Rest, Pilgrim, from a distant land,
A peaceful home is now at hand,
Where troubles come no more
Like a shock of corn he ripely fell,
His days were long, but he used them well.

CHORUS.

Raise the crosier o'er the dead,
Chants are sung, and Mass is said
Bear him to the dwelling low
Where all sons of Adam go.
Sisters, brothers, onward come,
Earth is but a living tomb.
Full of sorrow, full of sadness.
Little joy. and little gladness
Listen what the Scripture saith,
In midst of life we walk in death!"


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