The Funeral of the Megantic Outlaw, Quebec, 1894

The Eastern Townships of Quebec were home to thriving immigrant Gaelic communities in the second half of the nineteenth century, as thoroughly explored by Margaret Bennett in her book Oatmeal and the Catechism (1998, 2003). One of the most symbolically-charged episodes relating to their history was the story of the “Megantic Outlaw” – known in English as “Donald Morrison” and probably as “Dòmhnall MacMhuirich” in Gaelic –, a man who was cheated out of the money he was earning out west to pay off his family’s farm debt. He became a kind of Rob Roy figure to his community. He died in 1894. As Bennett summarizes, “some people even claimed that his death marked the beginning of the end of the Gaelic community which never recovered from the bitter blows of injustice.” (p.206)

Some years ago, I found a fascinating account of the funeral of the Megantic Outlaw which stresses the size and strength of the Gaelic community then and the significance of his death. Although I edited and translated several texts from the Gaelic communities of Quebec in my recent book Seanchaidh na Coille / The Memory-Keeper of the Forest: Anthology of Scottish-Gaelic Literature of Canada, I didn’t have a place for this funeral account and had forgotten about it until mention of the Megantic Outlaw on Twitter this morning. I am not aware of it being used in any modern scholarship.

Here then is this vivid description from The Scottish-American Journal 1894 June 27.

 

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