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(17 August 1846 - 10 May 1898 / Tomantoul, Scotland)

Biography of Alexander MacGregor Rose

Alexander Macgregor Rose was born August 17, 1846, in Tomantoul, Banffshire. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1867 and became, in 1870, Master of the Free Church School in Gairloch, Rossshire. After returning to Aberdeen to study Divinity from 1871, he was ordained on Sept. 9, 1875, and became minister at the Free Church of Evie and Rendall, Orkney. Bankrupt, and in disgrace, Rose left Scotland, his wife, and his family on June 10, 1879, for New York. In America he became a journalist, notably at the San Diego Daily Bee and then on the San Franciso Examiner, the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle, and the Daily Call. By 1891 he had left California and was wandering northwards, at first to Toronto by 1895, and at last to Montreal by 1896, where he worked for the Gazette and the Montreal Herald. He died on May 10, 1898, at Notre Dame Hospital, evidently of a paralytic stroke, and was buried in the lot of the St. Andrews Society in Mount Royal Cemetery.

Although Rose had written poems for some years, he only achieved fame for occasional comic verse written in the last two years of his life and published in Montreal newspapers. "Hoch der Kaiser" became so popular in decades before World War I that his very authorship of the poem was forgotten. In Canada, his two squibs on Liberal and Conservative politics under Sir Wilfrid Laurier won Rose an honour granted, as far as is known, to no other poet. Rose wrote P. J. Anderson on Nov. 27, 1897:

I may tell you that after the publication of the latest ballad in the Witness, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who is a very good fellow all round, wrote me a very pleasant letter, full of the most complementary expressions, and asked me to run up to Ottawa to see him. I did so, had an interview with him in his private room in the Government House, and dined with him and Lady Laurier. Afterwards he told me that when the Witness containing my verses reached Ottawa, Solicitor-General Fitzpatrick brought a copy to the meeting of the Privy Council that morning, and asked for a suspension of the rules while he read the verses aloud. `The first time,' said Sir Wilfrid, `so far as I know, that poetry was ever mixed up with affairs of State in the proceedings of Her Majesty's Canadian Privy Council.' (Poems, 29)

Rose's imitation of the French-Canadian colloquial English, what we might call "franglais," was no doubt inspired by the success of William Henry Drummond "habitant" poems.

Alexander MacGregor Rose's Works:

Rose, Alexander MacGregor. Hoch der Kaiser: Myself und Gott (1900)
Poems of A. MacGregor Rose (Gordon)
Sir Wilfrid's progress through England and France in the Jubilee year (1897)

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L'Envoy

I t'ink for dis Canadian lan'
For mak' it t'rive an' grow,
De bes' ees Wilfrid Laurier's smile,
De wors' de Tupper blow.

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