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“Help me, Archie”

1 minute read

Walking up the east stairs of Osgoode Hall from the main floor to the appellate level, on the landing one comes upon the imposing portrait of Chief Justice Archibald McLean (1791-1865).

In the War of 1812, while a law student, McLean was a subaltern in the York Militia. In the battle of Queenston Heights, beside him on horseback was his commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell, who was also Upper Canada’s Attorney General. Macdonell was hit with a musket ball, and falling from his horse, called out “help me, Archie.” McLean, himself seriously wounded, could do little else but guide him to safety. Macdonell died the next day, suffering excruciatingly.

McLean went on to a distinguished career as a lawyer, a Colonel in the militia (seriously wounded again in the 1837 rebellion), politician and jurist, eventually becoming Chief Justice.

Like John Honsberger, who relates this story in his wonderful “Illustrated History of Osgoode Hall”, I always use the east stairs before arguing an appeal, and ask Archie for help on the way up. And similar to John’s experience, Archie often gives me more help than he was able to give the unfortunate Macdonell!

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Earl A. Cherniak, LLD, Q.C., FCI.Arb

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