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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (Mc)
Alan McKenzie


My McKenzie family came from Easter Ross and in tracing the family I find they generally lived in the parishes of Fearn, Tarbat and Nigg. My grandfather, Archibald McKenzie, was born in Bayfield, Nigg in 1867 and he married a ladies maid, my grandmother Elizabeth Martin, in Dingwall in Easter Ross. Archibald enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders (the Mackenzie Clan regiment) in the late 19th century but later transferred to the Military Corps of Staff Clerks. As a consequence he was transferred by the army to the Woolwich Arsenal in London. He was with the Military Corps of Staff Clerks at the time of the Boer War where he served during that war. The military career based in London turned my McKenzie family into an English-based family and although my grandparents had were several brothers and sisters I have only been able to trace very few of these and many may have left Scotland also. One, the eldest McKenzie brother, emigrated to Australia, the youngest brother other than my grandfather who was the youngest of the 9 boys emigrated to New York as a gentleman's gentleman, we are told, and that would be around 1909 we think. The youngest child Janet, otherwise called Jessie Mackenzie, married the Antarctic explorer Dr. William Speirs Bruce who led the only Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in 1902-4 when he discovered and named Coats Land after his sponsor Captain Coats of thread fame. She later emigrated to Australia.

So we find a new McKenzie family in the 20th century living in London.  From the many descendants, my father, like his father joined the army. As a regular soldier we travelled the world and the family lived in Hongkong, Egypt (Cairo) and Nairobi in Kenya at different times. My father retired as a major in the Royal Army Service Corps having gone through the ranks from enlisting as a boy soldier aged 14 in 1911. By the time he retired from the army in 1953 our part of the family was living in the West Country - Devon and it was there that I started my career as a bank clerk with Barclays Bank in 1953 at the Devonport Branch. I married in 1958 (aged almost 22) to Jill Leach aged 20, also from an army family. We had four children and my bank career was doing well. In 1974 the U.K. was in a mess and the Hudson Committee (a think tank) came out with a report that Britain would be the poorest country in Europe by the year 2000 except for Portugal and Greece. Miners' strikes caused the bank to run bank course in hotels in London as the bank's college in Wimbledon could not get the power to run the place. I was instructing at Wimbledon in 1974 and at that time Canadian banks were hiring large numbers of British bankers for their rapidly growing business in Canada, where they were desperately short of trained staff. So after consultation with my wife we decided that the future in Britain looked grim for our four children and after 21 years with the bank I resigned from Barclays Bank to accept an offer to join the Bank of Montreal in Montreal. And that is how our family once in Scotland and then in England, found itself transplanted once again but this time to Canada. The old story - job opportunities seemed better across the Atlantic.

As we now know Britain did not become the poorest country in Europe and despite  the general hatred she seems still to attract, the policies of Margaret Thatcher turned things around in Britain and she was able to tame the trade unions, some of which had political connections with the communist party - a task which at one time seemed impossible. One of my uncles, who had been a shop steward for the huge Transport and General Workers Union, which was constantly bringing the railways out on strike, seriously suggested to me that I could do a lot worse than read the Daily Worker - the communist party newspaper. A cousin of mine in London, who was a hardworking bricklayer, was so disgusted at the work ethic of his companions and the control exercised by the unions that he came round to see all the family to say goodbye as he and his wife decided to seek a better life in Australia.

We now have the First Minister of Scotland coming to Canada to try and persuade young Canadians of Scottish origins to go back to Scotland for the job opportunities there. So perhaps things are looking up!

Attached is a photo of my McKenzie grandparents taken in Belfast (where he was stationed) in 1905. His five children include my own father on the far right.

Alan McKenzie


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