Lieutenant General Alexander
Mackenzie Fraser (1758 - 1809) was not a man who let war get in the way of
playing golf. He served in almost every contemporary theatre of war and
still found time for a family life, politics and playing golf. He is known
to have been a member at Aberdeen and Blackheath golf clubs and probably
played at Fortrose and elsewhere on his travels.
Alexander Mackenzie was born in 1758 at Tore and was the fourth son of Colin
Mackenzie 6th Laird of Kilcoy and younger brother of Charles Mackenzie, who
would become President of Fortrose Golf Society in 1793.
The ancestral home was Kilcoy Castle, which still exists. It was derelict
for much of the 19th century when Charles's son and Alexander's nephew,
Colin Mackenzie, took the roof off to save taxes, when he lived in London.
Now restored, it is in other hands.
Alexander took the additional name of Fraser in 1803 by Royal licence when
he inherited titles through his mother, Martha Fraser and his aunt Elizabeth
Fraser. Martha was a descendant of the Hon Sir Simon Fraser of Inverallochy,
second son of Simon Fraser, eighth Lord Lovat. When the direct male
descendent, Charles Fraser Esq of Inverallochy, had no sons, his estates and
titles passed through his daughters, the eldest of whom was Martha Fraser
who had married Alexander's father. From her, Alexander Mackenzie inherited
the title to Inverallochy and later he inherited the estate of Castle Fraser
from her sister, Elizabeth.
Alexander was educated at Aberdeen University. He initially joined the
banking company, Sir William Forbes & Company, to complete his education.
However, he was not destined to be a banker and in 1778 he became an Ensign
in 74th Foot and later that year he accepted Lord Macleod's offer of a
commission into the 73rd Regiment of Foot. He fought with distinction at the
siege of Gibraltar and served during the American war of Independence, where
he was wounded. At this point, he came out of the army and resumed civilian
life spending his time developing the small estate near his place of birth
that he acquired in 1784. This is probably the land between Belmaduthy and
Munlochy. Belmaduthy House was passed down as part of the Kilcoy estate
until 1935, when it burnt down and was not rebuilt for lack of funds.
Shortly afterwards, most of the estate was sold.
In 1783 Alexander is noted as country member of the Aberdeen Golf Club, now
the Royal Aberdeen GC, as "Captain Alexander Mackenzie late of 73rd
regiment". Aberdeen was where he went to university so he probably knew the
Queens Links well. Three years later he married Helen Mackenzie, sister of
the influential Francis Humberston Mackenzie, who was to become Earl of
Seaforth in 1797 and who would be his patron in a number of his career
Fortrose GC 1793 When his brother-in-law raised the First Battalion of the
78th Highlanders, or Ross-shire Buffs as they were called, he was appointed
Lieutenant-Colonel on 24th July 1793. One of his fellow officers and future
aide-de-camp was Captain Duncan Munro, who joined the regiment on the same
day. Duncan is noted as Croupier at the Fortrose Golf Society dinner in
1793. Charles Mackenzie, his brother and the Fortrose club president, was an
Ensign in the same Regiment. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to
presume that Alexander Mackenzie would also have been present at the golf
meeting and dinner. He was probably playing golf there for some time before
this meeting as Fortrose was just six miles from his estate, much closer
In September 1794, the 78th Regiment was ordered to the Low Countries via
Guernsey to reinforce the Duke of York’s army. They were stationed on the
island of Bommel with Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie in command. During this
time a Dutch spy was caught signalling to the enemy using his windmill which
he would start just prior to allied artillery fire. He was convicted and
sentenced to death, but Mackenzie reprieved the sentence on the condition
that he did not do it again or he would be executed. Soon after, the
regiment saw action at Nijmegen and then had to retreat in appalling weather
to Bremen, where they embarked and returned to England in May 1795. A few
months later they were involved in a brief excursion to Quiberon and the
occupation of the Ile D'Yeu on the west coast of France before returning to
Spithead in December 1795.
So it was the 'Col A Mackenzie' and 'Capt Munro' are listed in the records
of the Knuckle Club as being present on both 26th December 1795 and on
January 1796. The Knuckle Club were a Masonic splinter group of golfers who
played Blackheath Common and who later merged back into the main club there.
By June 1796 Mackenzie was off again, this time in an expedition to the Cape
of Good Hope, where his battalion joined the Second Battalion of the 78th,
shortly after their successful campaign. Afterwards he and the enlarged 78th
Regiment were sent to India from 1796 to 1800. On his return, he enjoyed two
years of domestic peace and quiet until his wife Helen died in 1802. From
1803 to 1805 he was assigned to the Home Staff, latterly commanding one of
the Hanoverian infantry units for a time. It was during this period that he
inherited the Fraser estates.
At the general election of 1802 Mackenzie became MP for Cromarty, a
constituency of less than a dozen voters and effectively a 'pocket borough.'
For political reasons, the seat had become the gift of his brother-in-law
and he was 'elected' as a supporter of the Tory party, then led by William
Pitt the Younger. His politics are not known. Associates of his supported
the Enlightenment, but opposed the abolition of slavery and it is to be
presumed that he thought similarly. He certainly supported the defence of
the Realm and in April 1806 he voted against the repeal of the Additional
Force Act, which had been brought in three years earlier to increase the
size of the armed forces in the face of possible Napoleonic invasion.
At the election in 1806, he became MP for Ross-shire, a constituency of
about 70 people and is generally thought to have been independent, but his
politics were academic as he had returned to active service and was largely
an absent MP until his death in 1809.
At the time of the election, he was already in Sicily, when early in the
following year, as Major-General Mackenzie-Fraser, he was put in charge of a
substantial force sent from Sicily to occupy Alexandria in Egypt. On the
20th of March 1807 he received their surrender just four days after
disembarking. Unfortunately incursions inland were disastrous, with his
force losing two engagements at Rosetta, now known as Rashid, during which
they suffered heavy casualties. So on 19th September, an agreement was
signed with Mohammed Ali, then the de facto power in Egypt, for the British
troops to leave the country.
He does not seem to have been blamed for this reverse and after Egypt he was
given command of the 1st Division to be sent to aid Sweden under Sir John
Moore in 1808 in their fight against the Russians. It is known that he was
granted two weeks’ leave of absence on 29th March 1808 to attend to urgent
private business before he went to Sweden. The army never disembarked in
Sweden but went on to Portugal, where Mackenzie-Fraser distinguished himself
at Corunna, for which he was awarded the army gold medal and for which he
received the thanks of the House of Commons on 25 January 1809. It is said
that he was instrumental in supporting Moore in his decision to engage the
enemy in the fighting retreat, made famous in the poem by Charles Wolfe. By
now Alexander was Lieutenant- General and one of the most eminent members of
the British establishment.
In the summer of 1809 he commanded the third infantry division in the
infamous Walcheren campaign in the Netherlands. Sadly he became one of
thousands of British soldiers who caught malaria, dubbed Walcheren Fever. It
is reported that 106 soldiers died in action, but 4,000 died of sickness and
the campaign was abandoned. Mackenzie-Fraser made it home to England, where
he died from the fever and complications at the house of his brother-in-law
Sir Vicary Gibbs in Hayes in Kent on 13th September 1809, aged 52 years old.
At his request he was buried locally, in St Mary the Virgin graveyard, with
only a few friends and family in attendance.
He had two surviving daughters and sons. His sons too had noteable careers.
His oldest son, Charles Mackenzie-Fraser of Inverallochy and Castle Fraser,
became a Captain in the Coldstream Guards and Colonel the Ross-shire
Militia. Charles also became an MP like his father. His other son Frederic
Alexander Mackenzie became Lt-Colonel in the army and Quartermaster General
to the forces in Canada. Frederic's second wife was the daughter of the
Governor General of Canada.
There were many military personnel who played golf at this time and in the
coming century. Some of them made significant contributions to the
development of golf, but none could claim as illustrious and varied a career
as Lieutenant-General Mackenzie-Fraser of Inverallochy and Castle Fraser.
There is an interesting postscript to this item. Shortly after its initial
publication, it was discovered that Alexander's wife Helen was buried in in
the Mackenzie family plot in Greyfriar's Kirkyard in Edinburgh. Charles
Mackenzie, his elder brother, was also laid to rest in the same plot eleven
years later. This kirkyard is 200 yards from the National Library of
Scotland, which is where the newspaper article documenting Charles's
presidency of the Fortrose Golf Society 1793 was discovered a month
This article appeared in the
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