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Remembering Sir John A. Macdonald

Sir John A. Macdonald has been described as a pragmatic statesman, earning the title of Old Chieftain, and a procrastinating drunk with the nickname of Old Tomorrow. But there's no denying the legacy of Canada's first prime minister. He united the country with his national vision and the construction of the world's longest railway. Macdonald would overcome personal hurdles, albeit with the help of the bottle, to lay the foundation for modern Canada.

Sir John A. Macdonald's gravesite at Cataraqui Cemetery near Kingston, Ont., is one of simple dignity, describes CBC's John Bermingham in this radio clip. There are no elaborate tributes or statues at the burial site of Canada's first prime minister. Only a simple granite cross marks the resting place of one of Canada's founding fathers. After a life devoted to changing the political landscape of this country, Sir John A. Macdonald died from a severe stroke on June 6, 1891, at Earnscliffe, his family home in Ottawa. He was 76.
. According to his wish, Sir John A. Macdonald was buried next to his parents, his siblings, his first wife and his oldest son, John, in a family plot near Kingston.
. Macdonald was prime minister of Canada from July 1, 1867, to Nov. 5 1873, and from Oct. 17, 1878, until his death in office in 1891.
. Earnscliffe, Macdonald's grey stone Victorian home, was declared a national historic site in 1961.

. At the news of Macdonald's death, newspapers printed special editions reporting the prime minister's last hours. Flags flew at half-mast across the country.
. At Macdonald's death, future prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier mourned that: "the place of Sir John A. Macdonald in this country was so large and so absorbing that it is almost impossible to conceive that the political life of this country will continue without him."

. In Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders, Sir John A. Macdonald placed second; after Mackenzie King and ahead of Wilfrid Laurier. He was recognized for his strong national vision and his ability to balance differences of region, religion, class and profession.
Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Aug. 15, 1957
Reporter: John Bermingham
Duration: 3:46

Last updated: March 13, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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