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Archibald McKillop (1824-1905), the Blind Bard of Megantic

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blind.bard_.jpgArchibald McKillop, better known as "Blind Bard of Megantic," was born in Loch Ranza, on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, on July 4, 1824. His father, Archibald McKillop collected taxes for the Duke of Hamilton. In April 1829, when a group of Scots from Ranza Log took to crossing of the Atlantic towards Canada on the Caledonia under the leadership of Mr. McKillop, his son Archibald was only five years old. The group finally settled in Inverness in the Eastern Townships in the autumn of 1829. During the Rebellion of 1837, Archibald McKillop went to Quebec City as a volunteer and became captain of a company that he built himself. At the end of the Rebellion, he was named a colonel.

The young Archibald McKillop grew up on his father's farm. In his youth, he began showing obvious signs of great literary talent. His father, having studied at the University of Edinburgh, regarded education as a supreme value. Archibald Jr. studied in Lachine, Quebec, then at the University of Toronto. During a Christmas visit on the family farm, he wounded an eye, which would completely blind him within a few years.

For several years, Archibald McKillop was recognized as an eloquent and powerful orator on the subject of temperance, making speeches throughout Canada. He was an extremely rigorous polemist in the political and religious fields. He also loved children very much. He was a straight and honest man who liked above all wide-open spaces and nature. This love is clearly read in his poems, as much as his great loyalty towards his Scottish ancestors. He was regularly the guest of honour at the Scottish Society of Canada who recognized him as their Celtic poet (Bard).

The Blind Bard of Megantic died in 1905 in Kingston, Ontario. He is buried close to his father in the Congregationalist Cemetery of Inverness, in what was called the Arran Scots Settlement Camp. He left behind his poems, written throughout his life on subjects that he venerated, such as temperance, Scotland, nature and its landscapes; religion, royalty, Canada and of course, his adopted home, Megantic.

THOUGHTS ON MEGANTIC, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE**

Where mountains are green and rise in grandeur
'Mid bowers of azure and blue,
I roamed with delight, I loved to wander,
The charms of nature to view.
By river and lakes enclosed in wildwood,
Like mirrors that shone in the day,
The evening hours, how oft in childhood
We spent in innocent play.

As years went by the people were scattered
Away from that beautiful shore;
And youthful joys and hopes were shattered
By troubles and trials they bore.
How many are gone! How few are living!
May solemnly, truly, be said.
But there is a precious hope worth having
When youthful pleasures are fled.

Tho' few there are now who meet or gather
To talk of their happiest days,
'Tis blessed to know that our heavenly Father
Is lovingly guiding our ways.
In sunshine and shade, on hills, in valleys,
Memorial tokens are seen;
Where monuments rise and mansions tell us
How great the changes have been.

The county still claims her sylvan beauties,
The lakes are as bright in the sun
As they were in the days when their settling duties
By the old pioneers were done.
Megantic survives the vilest slanders
That ever appeared in the Mail;
Tho' thousands believe and share that blunder,
Their falsehood and folly must fail.

In loyalty true and peace-promoting,
The Liberals ever contend
For freedom of thought, the right of voting,
And victory comes in the end.
"Three cheers" did we sing for Old Megantic,
Again "Three Cheers" do we say;
Tho' some may be sad and others are frantic,
Great Laurier triumphs to-day.

His promise so true, so freely given,
Is plebiscite voting by all,
When union is strength, approved by Heaven,
The castle of Bacchus must fall.
Take courage, then, all ye temperance people,
The dawn may be near at hand,
Let gladness resound from steeple to steeple
When Laurier takes the command.

(**This poem was read during the Temperance Society picnic at Inverness,
Megantic County, on July 1st 1896.)