“Weird Willie”

Derogatory name sometimes used to describe Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King.

The often-boring and tedious grandson of fiery Upper Canada rebel William Lyon Mackenzie, King led Canada for more than 21 years, in a few different phases, from 1921 to 1948. During the Second World War, King’s “Mandarins” and “Dollar-a-Year” men helped Canada fight a rapidly expanding war effort.

King read (one could say obsessed about) the political winds well. Ever-cautious of threats to Canadian unity – and, by extension, the iron grip he and his Liberal party had over federal politics for years – King tried to soothe frictions across Canada as the war went on. He is perhaps best known for his “Conscription if necessary … but not necessarily conscription” equivocation when it came to sending Canadians abroad.

The effective politician, however, was also idiosyncratic to say the least. Seances, dogs and prostitutes all appear in secret diaries King kept for years. Who knew? Maybe he wasn’t so boring after all.

Professor Christopher Dummitt, author of Unbuttoned: A History of Mackenzie King’s Secret Life, said Canadians first got a glimpse into King’s strange personal life when his diaries, which ran to almost 50,000 pages, began to be published in the 1970s. Reading very frank, first-person accounts about King’s chats with dead people, among the oddities, led to the “Weird Willie” nickname. A spin through his online and searchable diaries reveals ample evidence of the man’s strange behaviours.

 Note to self … instruct your executors to burn your diaries.

Image source: CBC

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