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The Honourable James MacKay

Manitoba Pageant, Spring 1974, Volume 19, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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Manitoba historian Nan Shipley comments on The Stable Lantern by Helen Waugh which appeared in the Winter 1974 issue of Manitoba Pageant:

“... Since I have spent many years researching the life of the Honourable James MacKay I have not uncovered a single piece of evidence to substantiate the charges levelled in this story. In fact the reverse has been mentioned many times - that he was a total abstainer of both alcohol and tobacco.

Such men as Governor George Simpson, such explorers as Hind, Palliser, Lord Grosvenor, members of the North West Mounted Police and Lieutenant-Governor Archibald Adams, and those government officials entrusted with negotiating the first Indian Treaties had nothing but the highest respect for James MacKay.

Nor have I encountered any reference to his “law practice” in an office at the corner of Portage and Main. James MacKay transacted his freighting business from his office in his home Deer Lodge. Even local mail destined for the west was brought to Deer Lodge, for delivery at prairie points and settlements.

After his wife died in February 1879 James MacKay’s own health began to fail and he was seldom absent from Deer Lodge until he became bedridden there in mid-November. The Manitoba Free Press carried a daily account of his decline until he died December 2, 1879.

Following Mrs. Waugh’s story there is a totally erroneous account of the Honourable James MacKay’s death ...”

We are most grateful to Mrs. Shipley for her information. Mrs. Waugh’s material was submitted in good faith, based on her recollections of an entertaining tale told by her grandfather. A limitation of stories passed by word of mouth from generation to generation is that often they do not stand up to historical scrutiny. The editor apologizes to the reader and to Mr. MacKay’s descendants for the inaccurate impression of Mr. MacKay presented in the above-mentioned article.

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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