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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
James Kennedy


JAMES KENNEDY. engineer, editor, author, poet, is from Aberlemno, Forfarshire, Scotland. The Forfarshire Kennedys are descendants of the Lochaber clan, 300 of whom fought at Culloden. On his mother’s side, Mr. Kennedy is descended from the Mackintoshes of Glenshee. He learned the machinist ‘s trade in Dundee, and came to America at an early age, and worked at locomotive construction and repairs on some of the principal railroads in America. In 1875, he was graduated with honours in the literary courses of the High School, West 13th Street, New York. He had charge of a department in the locomotive shops of the New York Elevated railroad from 1879 to 1902. In 1883, the first steam locomotive built at the company ‘s works, and from which the succeeding locomotives were modelled, was constructed under Mr. Kennedy ‘s superintendence. He was Chief Cashier in the Water Department of New Vork City, 1902-3, and Deputy Superintendent of Elections in 1904. He became associate editor of Railway and Locomotive Engineering in 1905, and advanced to managing editor in 1910. He is a contributor to periodical literature, and an author and writer on technical subjects. His Collected Poems, Songs and Lyrical Character Sketches were published in 1883; The Deeside Lass and 0ther Poems, in 1888; Scottish and American Poems, in 1899; and a revised and enlarged edition was published in Edinburgh, 1910 (seventh thousand). His chief engineering work is The Valve-Setter’s Guide, 1914 (tenth thousand). Mr. Kennedy is VicePresident of the Angus Sinclair Publishing Company, 114 Liberty Street.

Such is a brief outline of the career of one of the most unique and popular Scots of our time. In regard to his merits as a writer in verse in the Scottish dialect, he is conceded to be the chief of the modern Scottish poets, and has also shown an admirable facility in English. He is no idle jangler of the lute strings. A peculiar kind of worldly-wise humour gives point to his character sketches. His ruling passion as exhibited in his more serious verses is an intense love of Scotland, and all things Scottish, a faithful attachment to his adopted country, and an abiding belief in the brotherhood of humanity. His genius is essentially lyrical, and his mastery of versification at once easy and complete, and all the characteristics of true Scottish poetry—simplicity, tenderness, pathos and humour are found in his work. Time has deepened and broadened his poetic faculty, an excellent example being his nobly stirring verses on the occasion of the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, which he delivered on the battlefield, and where he met a most enthusiastic reception, not only at Stirling, but at the Liberal Club, Edinburgh, and in the town Council of Dundee, and at other places in Scotland.

Indeed, it must be said that the Scottish people at home and abroad, as well as the Scottish press, have not been slow in appreciating Mr. Kennedy’s surpassing abilities. In America, he has been engaged in the national and state elections, and has been prominently identified with the occasional reform movements in New York City, and through all these phases of literary and social activity he has never wandered far from his chosen vocation. As a skilled artisan, and mechanical engineer, he has made a distinctive mark, while his home life has been of the sweetest and best and he has had the good fortune to live in his own house for many years where his fine family has grown up around him.

It is also good to know that among his engineering, political, literary and social acquaintances, he is held in the highest esteem. In journalism, he is associated with Dr. Angus Sinclair, the eminent author and publisher on railway engineering. In politics he has held many places with honour. Among literary men he has had the warmest encouragement from the highest and best. In the social circles he has been President of nearly all of the Scottish and other societies to which he has been attached. As a fluent and ready debater, as a teller of stories, as a finished parliamentarian, he has the easy grace of a man of the world, while the moral purity of his life has kept his heart sweet and young, and withal a manly modesty that lends a charm to his engaging personality.

Mr. Kennedy married Isabella, fourth daughter of Francis Low, tenant of Easter Clune, Finzean, Aberdeenshire. Mrs. Kennedy died in 1910. There are five surviving children: Isabella, Jessie, Margaret, Robert and Jean. The only son, a staff surgeon, served with the rank of captain surgeon on the Mexican border in 1916.


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