MacKenzie estate sale attracts hundreds

Shoppers remember Farmer Bill — and get great bargains, too



IQALUIT — It was the yard sale to end all yard sales: On Saturday, the Nunavut government sold off the possessions of the late Bill MacKenzie, Iqaluit’s beloved farmer and packrat.

MacKenzie, who died in June at age 61, left no will. By law, the GN’s public trustees office was left to sell the thousands of items — some would say junk — that jam-packed his ramshackle Apex home.

Several hundred residents attended the estate sale. Many arrived early, and some came armed with bags and buckets and crates. They left with armloads of everything imaginable: oak desks, ottomans, Coleman lanterns, packs of crackers, cassette tapes, bird cages, and countless odds and ends.

Some shoppers were searching for a specific item. One woman was on a quest for a cast-iron skillet. Her face sank when she saw a skillet marching out the door in the grasp of another shopper.

Others were there to grab what they could, and a few behaved like looters, ransacking cupboards and boxes in a frenzy to get the best booty first.

Some came looking for mementos of MacKenzie’s unique life, and some came for — and left with — nothing but memories.

“I should get out of here before I lose track of the stuff I’ve already got,” said one woman.

“I wonder if he had any real silver ones in here,” said a man who was rooting through a box of forks and spoons.

“I need a flashlight,” said a man peering into the darkness of the stable.

“That’s mine,” snapped a woman when someone tried to walk off with her wall-hanging.

For many it was their first time in MacKenzie’s home, which was not so much a house as a sprawling patchwork of shacks, pieced together from scrap wood.

Some Iqalungmiut said being in the home made them feel creepy or voyeuristic.

Others said the sale was a fitting tribute to MacKenzie: He was, after all, the consummate recycler, and it was only right that his trashy treasures would go to other homes.

Jennifer MacIsaac, the GN’s public trustee administrator, said the sale earned about $4,000. The proceeds will go to pay creditors, and if any cash is left it will be sent to Mackenzie’s mother and brother in Scotland.

She admits she has little idea how much was sold. “In a normal estate sale you have a list of all the inventory,” she said. “But in this one, there was just so much.”

Gord Rennie, who owns the lot where MacKenzie’s shack stands, said the building will eventually be “taken down or radically improved.” A few potential buyers have already made offers on the property, he said.

Rennie, who was a friend of MacKenzie’s and worked with him at Iqaluit’s Hudson Bay Store in the 1960s, said it was a shame the home was such a shambles.

“But that was just his way,” Rennie said.

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