Robert Mackenzie Esquire
Robert Mackenzie was a man of many parts, his life reflecting his interests in commercial and literary pursuits. He became the editor/proprietor of the Northern Warder and his later historical publications were recognised as having a degree of worth.
Subscription value in 1863:
Relative to inflation up to 2023:
Relative to income compared to 2023:
Personal details and history
Date of birth
Place of birth
Barry, Forfarshire (Angus)
Name of spouse
Wiliam Home Mackenzie (1856-1884): Mary Alice Mackenzie (1857-1946): Robert William Cunningham Mackenzie (1863-): Henry James Mackenzie (1864-):
Age at death:
Place of death:
30 Magdalen Yard Road, Dundee
Date of death:
Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers
Free Church - Robert Mackenzie's family was steeped in Free Church connections - his father was a Free Church Schoolmaster: his brother became minister of Free Abbey Church in Dunfermline: both his marriages were according to the Free Church, his second wife also being the daughter of a Free Church minister:
Liberal - Robert Mackenzie was a named supporter of James Fitzjames Stephen, barrister, who stood as a Liberal candidate in a by-election in Dundee in 1873
Clubs / societies
Subscriber 4 – George Armitstead – acted as a witness at the first marriage of Robert Mackenzie
Subscriber 35 – W E Baxter – was married to Janet Home Scott, the sister of Robert Mackenzie’s wife, Elizabeth Scott
Subscriber 103 – Messrs Henry, Corrie & Co – William Grant Pringle Henry was married to Alice Scott, the sister of Robert Mackenzie’s wife, Elizabeth Scott
Subscriber 199 – James Ramsay Jnr – former business partner of Robert Mackenzie in the firm of Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co
Subscriber 225 – Messrs Scott & Bell – Patrick Scott was Robert Mackenzie’s brother in law
Career and worklife
Place of work
Robert Mackenzie, merchant
Career to date:
Robert Mackenzie was reputed to have entered into his commercial working life in the office of Messrs Baxter Brothers & Co. The dates for this episode are unclear. However, by 1846, Robert Mackenzie was listed, as was his father, within the Dundee Directory for 1846-47, as having been in the employ at the Northern Warder Office at Groom's Close and 9 New Inn Entry, High Street. His father, William, was the book-keeper there. Robert Mackenzie himself was described as having been, along with Robert Stewart, a proprietor of the Northern Warder. It is certain, that Robert Mackenzie entered into a partnership with James Ramsay Jnr, on 1 November 1849, trading as 'Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co.' Their business began as Commission Merchants and Exporters of goods on their own account. The following year (1850-51) saw the business change in character to some extent, by manufacturing goods for export instead of purchasing them. They continued in the commission trade. By 1851-52, the firm of Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co. had added a bleachfield to their interests. The Deanfield Bleachfield was situated on the River Dean, just outside Meigle, within a mile of the Fullerton Station of the Alyth Railway - 'a tolerably sized bleach field situated on the south side of the River Dean.' The firm took Mr Henry S Fitchie into their partnership at Deanfield. This co-partnery was dissolved on the retiral of Mr Fitchie in March of 1857, then being continued by Mackenzie and Ramsay. Although retired from the co-partnery, Henry S Fitchie remained in work at Deanfield which was in operation until 1863. That year, Fitchie met his end, caused by a boiler explosion, on the 7 January 1863, which literally blew the roof off. The firm of 'Mackenzie & Ramsay' finally foundered and was stopped on 9 November 1857. 'The ultimate cause of our stoppage was a general survey of our affairs - nothing more immediate; but from that, we saw that we could not go on.' It was reported that: 'One element which led to their sequestration was the state of commercial matters, both in America and in this country. They would have had remittances from America by this time had it not been for the panic there.' There were a host of additional reasons caused by the actions of both partners. By 1858, both Robert Mackenzie and James Ramsay Jnr had set up further businesses as merchants on their own individual accounts. This state of affairs continued throughout the 1860s.
Robert Mackenzie was born in 1823 to William Mackenzie, schoolmaster of Barrie (now Barry, Angus) and Margaret Millar.
William Mackenzie, Robert’s father, had taught at a school in Lochee, before being appointed schoolmaster to the parish of Barry by the time he was 22 years of age. At the time of the Disruption, William Mackenzie adhered to the seceding church and, in 1844, was summoned before the Established Presbytery of Arbroath and deposed from office. Immediately after his deposition, he became Free Church schoolmaster of Barry. However, William left that post within a year, moving to Dundee where he obtained a post as book-keeper in the office of the ‘Northern Warder.’ He was listed as having been employed there in the Dundee Directory of 1846-47.
The older brother of Robert Mackenzie became the Reverend James Mackenzie, the second appointed minister of the Free Abbey Church in Dunfermline. The Free Abbey Church was completed and opened for public worship in January of 1844. It was built on the site occupied by the ‘Auld Licht Church.’ He was the author of the ‘History of Scotland,’ a publication ‘which was wont to be widely read in Scottish Schools.’ James predeceased his brother Robert, his death arriving in 1869.
Robert Mackenzie himself received his early education in the school at which his father was headmaster. He completed his schooling in St Andrews. It was reported that he then entered the office of Baxter Brothers.
The Dundee Directory of 1846-47 listed him as having been employed in the office of the ‘Northern Warder,’ at the same time as his father.
Robert Mackenzie’s first business partnership began in November of 1849 together with James Ramsay Jnr to form the firm of ‘Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co,’ as commission merchants and exporters. Prior to that, it was said that Robert Mackenzie had undertaken a previous trade on his own account as a commission and export business; ‘I exported goods both on my own account and on account of others.’ After the bankruptcy of ‘Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co’ in 1857, he went on to establish a further business, once again trading on his own account. He was one of the most active and successful agents of the Westinghouse Brake Company and one of the final acts of his life was to complete a contract between his company and the Directors of the Caledonian Railway. His listing as a merchant continued until the year of his death in 1881.
By marrying his first wife, Elizabeth Scott in 1855, Robert Mackenzie established connections with well-known Dundee families. Elizabeth was the daughter of John Home Scott, a writer, in partnership with his brother in law, David Jobson. Her mother was Mary Jobson. Janet Home Scott, her sister, married William Edward Baxter, thereby opening many doors in social and commercial circles, while sister, Alice married William Grant Pringle Henry  of ‘Henry, Corrie & Co.’ Elizabeth was also related to Captain and Mrs Scott who lived at 160 Nethergate. Her brother, Patrick Scott, the youngest of the family and who lived with their mother, was a beneficiary from the estate of Mrs Captain Scott and then resided in her former home at 160 Nethergate, together with his mother. Further connections were made with the marriage of his nephew, William Mackenzie, son of his brother James, to Elizabeth Traill, daughter of Anthony Trail. His nephew went on to become the secretary and, afterwards, manager of the Alliance Trust in Dundee. He was also a President of the Chamber of Commerce in 1910.
It was reported that;
‘Robert Mackenzie was known far beyond Dundee, in consequence of his frequent visits to the United States, where he repeatedly had interviews with many of the leading statesmen, generals and other public men. His sympathies during the Civil War were all on the side of the North and his first publication of note was entitled ‘America and her Army,’ giving a very interesting account of the Volunteer operations during the Civil War and of the general action the North in dealing with the freed men at the conclusion of the war.’
He was described as having been a man of;
‘great intelligence and varied culture. From his youth he was a keen student of of politics and literature and there can be no doubt that if he had devoted himself to literary work he would havee reached a high place among the leading writers of the time. Even as it was, he earned no mean rank as an author. His ‘History of the United States’ and his ‘History of the Nineteenth Century’ are books that have a reputation among minor histories.’
In social life, he had been a most interesting companion – full of strange facts and fancies; and as genial as he was interesting. Described as a brilliant conversationalist, his readiness in repartee and his powers of great irony and sarcasm being surpassed by few – an interesting fellow.
- Old Parish Registers. Barry. Births. (1823). 274/ 20 15. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Statutory Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1855). 282/2 51. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Statutory Registers. Newington. Marriages. (1862). 685/5 214. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee. 1846-47. p.132. National Library of Scotland website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1851). 282/ 00 023. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1850. p.124. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1853-54. p.184. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee 1856-57. p.116. National Library of Scotland website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/2 25 1. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. p.152. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1867-68. p.160. National Library of Scotland website.
- Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1881). 282/ 1 69. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dunfermline Saturday Press. 25 March 1865. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 2 August 1873. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Evening Telegraph. 2 February 1881. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 30 August 1866. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1861-62. p.173. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee Advertiser. 3 February 1881. p.5. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1846-47. p.148. National Library of Scotland website.
- Sheffield Independent. 5 August 1854. p.11. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Caledonian Mercury. 17 December 1857. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 27 March 1863. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Ordnance Survey Name Books (1859-62). Perthshire. Volume 55. OS1/25/55/3. ScotlandsPlaces website.
- Mackay, A. Meigle: Past and Present. (1876). Arbroath. J. Bremnar (Printer). p.47.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1858-59. pp.157 and 176. National Library of Scotland website.
- Stewart, Alexander. Reminiscences of Dunfermline. (Extract). (1886). Edinburgh. pp.38 and 44.
- Old Parish Registers. Liff, Benvie & Invergowrie. Marriages. (1847). 301/ 40 285. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1847). 282/ 230 223. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Statutory Registers. Monifieth, Marriages. (1882). 310/ 40. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Chamber of Commerce Centenary Souvenir. 1836-1936. p.50.
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