Sgt. MacKenzie

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"Sgt. MacKenzie" is a lament written and sung by Joseph Kilna MacKenzie.[1]


Joseph MacKenzie wrote the haunting lament after the death of his wife, Christine, and in memory of his great-grandfather, Charles Stuart MacKenzie, a sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders, who along with hundreds of his brothers-in-arms from the Elgin-Rothes area in Moray, Scotland went to fight in World War I. Sergeant MacKenzie was bayoneted to death at the age of 35, while defending one of his badly injured fellow soldiers in the hand-to-hand fighting of the trenches.

The track was then included in his band Clann An Drumma's album Tried and True. While working on the film We Were Soldiers, director Randall Wallace, received a CD of the album and was haunted by the emotion and spirit of reverence captured in "Sgt. MacKenzie". He arranged for Joe and band mate Donnie MacNeil, who played the pipes, to re-record "Sgt. MacKenzie" with the backing of an 80-piece orchestra and the United States Military Academy Choir at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. The lament was introduced into the film during key scenes with MacKenzie singing on his own and on the last track of the film with the orchestra and choir. It is mistakenly believed the original version was in Scottish (Gaelic), but it was in Scots, the language used in Scotland.

The original pipe score was written and played by Seoras Wallace not Donnie MacNeil when Joe MacKenzie read his poem to him and Tubar Wilson in a house in Govan many years ago. The original recording is on the ClanWallace live album and it was this recording that inspired Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson to contact Seoras about using the track on the film "We Were Soldiers". Seoras waived his rights but remains the holder of the production rights returned to him three years after the film's release.[citation needed]

Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie[edit]

Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie went to fight in France during World War I and was shot in the shoulder. The military sent him home to Scotland for treatment, where the surgeon wanted to amputate his arm. Sgt. MacKenzie refused, stating that he had to go back to his men. While recuperating in the hospital, he was asked what it was like to kill "the Hun" (as the Germans were called then). He replied, "what a waste of a fine body of men". His last picture, with him in uniform, was taken on the steps of the hospital. This picture hung in his home above the fireplace. Upon his return to the front, he and his men were engaged in fixed bayonet combat. The composer says,

In later works[edit]

Child actor Atticus Shaffer was interested in the story of actual soldier so dressed up as him on Halloween.[2] This was incorporated into his "The Middle" character Brick who did the same. It was also played during a scene in the 2012 film End of Watch starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Younie, Willie. "SGT MACKENZIE". The Rothsian. Retrieved 9 May 2007. 
  2. ^ The New York Times