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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

Politics, Themes, and Events from King's Life

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William Lyon Mackenzie King at the Montreal Forum, October 19, 1925

The earliest sound recording known to exist of Mackenzie King is a speech he gave at an election campaign rally in the Montreal Forum on October 19, 1925. In his diary, he records his surprise at discovering that his audience numbered 17,000 (15,000 according to the Montreal Gazette and 20,000 according to the Toronto Star), the largest crowd he had addressed to that time. The newspapers called it the biggest political rally in Canadian history and noted that Minister of Justice Ernest Lapointe and other speakers were also rattled by the size of the crowd. Compounding King's nervousness was the need for him to stay within range of the microphones to transmit his voice to the crowd and to radio listeners. During the speech, the power failed and the lights went out for a few minutes, prompting exclamations from the crowd and King's appeal for calm, as heard in this excerpt. (3 minutes, 42 seconds)

[RM 2,072 KB]

IDCISN: 86081

William Lyon Mackenzie King tells Canadians that they must be "strong, secure and united," September 3, 1939

In this excerpt from a speech broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio network, the Prime Minister tells Canadians that they must be "strong, secure and united" in the defence of the country. He states what actions the government has taken to prepare for war under the War Measures Act and the Proclamation of the Defence of Canada Regulations. In his diary entry on this date King writes how he and Jack Pickersgill spent most of the day preparing for his speech scheduled for broadcast at 5:30 p.m. Following the Prime Minister's speech, Minister of Justice Ernest Lapointe would address the listening audience in French. The diary also notes the panic shortly before "air" when page two of the speech was missing. With only minutes to broadcast, the page was found. (2 minutes, 27 seconds)

[RM 1,165 KB]

IDCISN: 74651

Final address on the issue of the conscription plebiscite entitled "Give Government a Free Hand," April 24, 1942

In this radio broadcast excerpt, Prime Minister King warns Canadians not to be influenced by the "No" demonstrators and the radio broadcasts from Paris, France, but to base their decisions on the "wisest council" they will receive. (60 seconds)

[RM 589 KB]

IDCISN: 82447

"Give Government a Free Hand," April 24, 1942

Excerpt from the Prime Minister's final address on the plebiscite on conscription. In this radio broadcast, King describes Nazi Germany and its Allies as nothing more than thugs who felt they would be able to conquer all the continents and then divide the spoils of war amongst themselves. The diary entry notes that the Prime Minister was suffering from a cold, but managed to complete the broadcast with few problems, and received a favourable response. (60 seconds)

[RM 587 KB]

IDCISN: 82447

"Temperance and the Total War Effort," December 16, 1942

In this radio broadcast excerpt, the Prime Minister urges Canadians to demonstrate "self-denial and self-discipline," both characteristics of a good soldier. He asks listeners to exercise moderation towards alcoholic beverages as a contribution to the war effort. In his diary, King notes that he felt that the "tempo" of his speech was very good and that he was able to complete it in less than the time allotted to him by the CBC. (59 seconds)

[RM 587 KB]

IDCISN: 85898

Speech given by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio network, June 6, 1944

In this speech excerpt, the Prime Minister informs Canadians that the Allied invasion of Europe has begun and that Canadian troops are among the invading armies. He warns Canadians that casualties could be high and that Canadians must remain patient. In his diary entry for that day, King refers to being woken early with the news and to spending the early morning preparing to give his speech. (2 minutes, 37 seconds)

[RM 1,380 KB]

IDCISN: 331969

Prime Minister Mackenzie King announcing that the war in Europe has ended, May 8, 1945

In this radio excerpt, the Prime Minister announces that the war in Europe has ended but that there is still a war to be fought against the "Japanese aggressor" in the Far East. The speech was broadcast from San Francisco, where King and his Minister of Justice, Louis St. Laurent, were attending a United Nations conference. In his diary, Mackenzie King describes how the British Broadcasting Corporation told him that the speech would be heard by the largest radio audience ever. King felt that the broadcast would be worth more than two weeks of conventional political campaigning. (43 seconds)

[RM 437 KB]

IDCISN: 226952

Speech given by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King at the Liberal Party Convention held at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, August 6, 1948

In this speech excerpt, King states that this will be the last time that he speaks with fellow Liberals as Leader of the Party and as Prime Minister of the country, and that his decision to step down has not been a hasty one. (1 minute, 59 seconds)

[RM 844 KB]

IDCISN: 144202

William Lyon Mackenzie King's last speech as Prime Minister of Canada, November 15, 1948

Before leaving for Government House to hand in his resignation, King, in this excerpt, speaks from Laurier House, thanking all Canadians for allowing him to govern the country for as long as he did. In his diary, King writes that "J.P." (Jack Pickersgill) had informed him that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had requested permission to record the speech and that his dog, Pat, had slept beneath the table while he had made the broadcast. (3 minutes, 33 seconds)

[RM 2,081 KB]

IDCISN: 197401

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