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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Mackenzie of Canada
by
Mark S. Wade

published by
William Blackwood & Sons Ltd.
Edinburgh and London 1927

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 11

 p245  Chapter X

The Return to Scotland

In 1808 Mackenzie left Canada to reside permanently in Scotland, a step he had long contemplated and desired. Three years later another Scotsman, Lord Selkirk, undertook to plant a Scottish colony on the banks of the Red River. The publication of Mackenzie's book of 'Voyages' had awakened much interest in Great Britain; among those whom it influenced was Thomas, Earl of Selkirk, who soon formulated his colonisation scheme. Sir Alexander Mackenzie strongly opposed it, and threw every impediment he could devise in the way of its accomplishment. One of his relatives, an aunt, had married a Mr Reid, who was then collector of customs at the port of Stornaway, where the first company of settlers for the proposed colony embarked on the ship Edward and Anne. Reid, instigated it is said by Sir Alexander, with all the zeal of an officious and prejudiced functionary, did his utmost to thwart the carrying out of the project. Means were adopted to create discontent among the emigrants, and some of them were actually induced to withdraw on the eve of departure, and an effort was made to claim some of the colonists as deserters from the King's service. The real motive for Mackenzie's opposition is to be found in the fact that he had acquired an interest in the stock of the Hudson's Bay Company, in which concern Lord Selkirk had been obliged to invest heavily in order to obtain sufficient control to enable him to carry out  p246 his proposals. Mackenzie doubtless held the opinion, so long prevalent among the fur‑traders, that the colonisation of a fur country with settlers would interfere considerably with the profitable prosecution of the fur industry. The question was merely one of profits or no profits, and Mackenzie was more concerned in the success of the fur trade than in that of the Selkirk settlement on Red River.

During the first few years after his return to his native land Mackenzie renewed his intimacy with the Duke of Kent, and was at times his travelling companion. He desired, however, to settle down. He had means, he was in the prime of life, and an estate in the Highlands appealed to him. There he might marry and live, happy and contented, the life of a respected laird with a young family growing up about him. Soon the attractive dream became a fact.

In 1812 Sir Alexander married Geddes Mackenzie, a woman of remarkable beauty. Although of the same clan, they were not related in any way by ties of blood, as some writers have erroneously stated. His lineage has been briefly referred to in a previous chapter. The lady's family were descendants of the second Earl of Seaforth through his grandson, George Mackenzie (II) of Gruinard, who was twice married. By his first wife, Margaret, daughter of Alexander Mackenzie of Ballone, he had twenty-three children, and by his second wife, Elizabeth, natural daughter of President Forbes of Culloden, he had ten more — a total of thirty-three offspring. His eleventh child was Captain John Mackenzie of "Castle Leod," who married Geddes, daughter of his uncle Simon Mackenzie, and who bought Avoch, an estate in the Black Isle, Ross-shire, on Moray Firth, with money left by his wife's brother, Admiral George "Geddes" Mackenzie. Of this union there were eleven children, the eldest of whom, George of Avoch, a merchant of Tower Hill, London, married Margaret, daughter of Rev. William  p247 Mackenzie, minister of Glenmuick. Twin daughters were the issue of this marriage — Geddes Mackenzie, who became the wife of Sir Alexander in 1812, and Margaret Elizabeth Mackenzie.

It has been variously stated by previous writers that his wife brought Avoch to Sir Alexander, while others assert no less positively that he purchased the estate. Careful inquiry has proved the latter contention to be correct. In reply to inquiry made by me of the present owner of Avoch, his legal advisers, at his request, write me as follows:

"George Mackenzie, by his Disposition and Settlement, dated 13th November 1809, disponed his lands and estates to the Trustees named therein for certain specified purposes. On the death of George Mackenzie his two daughters made up title to the estates, as 'heirs-portioners' of their father, and it is specifically stated that this procedure was adopted 'to save expense.' The daughters then conveyed the estates to the Trustees of their father, who was entitled to them to carry out the Trust purposes. George Mackenzie had given his Trustees power, if necessity arose, to sell the estates, and they sold them in 1812 to Sir Alexander Mackenzie, 'now or late of John Street, American Square, London.' "

This letter serves the double purpose of setting at rest all doubt as to the manner in which Sir Alexander acquired his estate of Avoch, and of giving the address he then occupied. John Street, American Square, runs from Crutched Friars to Minories, and the fact that that part of the city was then, partly at least, residential is interesting. John Street is in close proximity to Tower Hill, where Geddes Mackenzie's father resided.

By her marriage to Sir Alexander, Geddes Mackenzie became the mistress of the house and property that had doubtless been occupied from time to time by her father, and where she probably had spent some of her younger days. Her twin sister, Margaret Elizabeth, married  p248 Thomas Mackenzie (III) of Applecross, member of Parliament for Ross, and a Writer to the Signet. Thomas Mackenzie sold Applecross in 1857 to the Duke of Leeds.

Sir Alexander and his wife did not spend all their days at Avoch. Every year during the season they went up to London and participated in the gay life of the capital. Their first town house was in Jermyn Street. Subsequently they moved to Clarges Street, a property that was held by the family for many years after Sir Alexander's death. There is on my desk at this moment a letter written to me in April 1926 by an old lady, a niece of Sir Alexander, in which she states: "When I was a girl entering my 'teens' I remember a juvenile Highland ball at the Mackenzies' London house in Clarges Street, but then that would be some twenty-five years at least after Sir Alexander's death." This indicates that the Clarges Street house was still held by the Mackenzies as late as 1845.

Reference has been made to Sir Alexander's intimacy with the Duke of Kent. How close was the friendship between them is shown by the following letter from His Royal Highness to the explorer. The original of the letter is in the Royal archives at Windsor Castle: —

"Kensington Palace, 1st Novr. 1819.

"My dear Sir Alexander, — I have gratefully to acknowledge your favour of the 26th ulto. received on the 30th, covering the copy of your letter to our mutual worthy friend Mr Charles Forbes, for which fresh mark of your friendship and attachment I beg to express my warmest thanks.

"The Committee of my friends met on the 25th, and, as I understand from General Wetherall, evinced every disposition to do all in their power to make me comfortable, but adjourned until the 6th before they came to any determined resolution, expecting that by that day they might be joined by Messrs Wood and Hume, when I hope everything will be concluded satisfactory to all parties, and some steps taken to impower  p249 two or more active members of the Committee to undertake the business of regulating for the sale of Castle Hill by way of Tontine, or raffle, upon the propriety of which I am quite delighted to find that you so perfectly concur with me.

"I ran over in the course of last week to Devonshire to look out for a house that might suit the Duchess to pass the next four months in, near the Sea, to enjoy the benefit of the mild air of that part of our Coast and of the tepid sea Baths, and I trust we shall be able to manage our remove thither in the course of this month. In the meanwhile I know it will give you pleasure to learn that she is getting over the effects of weaning her Infant,1 as well as I could possibly expect, and that our little child does not appear to thrive the less for the change.

"Sincerely hoping that Lady M'Kenzie will get over her accouchement with every possible comfort, and with every sentiment of the warmest friendship and regard for yourself. — I remain ever,

"My dear Sir Alexander,

"Yours most faithfully,

"Edward.2

"Sir Alexander Mackenzie."

When not enjoying the gaieties of a London season the Mackenzies resided at Avoch, finding abundant occupation and pleasure in caring for the people of the village and vicinity. As a landed proprietor and country gentleman, Sir Alexander was pre‑eminently enterprising and very popular. He took a keen interest in agriculture in the district, and carried out many improvements, including the building of a sea‑wall to protect the road between Avoch and Fortrose from the inroads of the sea. Laying down an oyster‑bed in the Bay of Munlochy, which was successfully operated for many years, was another of his  p250 numerous benefactions. The people of the villages of Avoch and Rosehaugh are simple deep‑sea fishermen, and it is not difficult to visualise Sir Alexander visiting them in their cottages, watching the women weave the great nets that their men‑folk cast into the deep waters far out in the North Sea. Or he might be seen taking note of the progress made by the men in making the heavy sea‑going fishing smacks which they use, and which, being their own handiwork, they could trust to for stability and staunchness. Supported in all these beneficent acts by Lady Mackenzie, his life at Avoch was passed pleasantly and profitably.

In addition to sharing in her husband's projects for the betterment of local conditions, Lady Mackenzie found her domestic duties needed much of her attention and care. Their first child, a girl, was born on May 2nd, 1816, and was named Margaret Geddes. Two years later, on St Valentine's Day, the second child, a boy, named Alexander George, was added to the family circle; and late in 1819 a second son was born, and was named George.

Mackenzie had retired from the active side of the fur trade with a comfortable competence, and was thus enabled to indulge in the luxury of playing the part of the local "laird" or squire. He was not, however, unmindful of his former associates who had shared with him the dangers and hardships of life in the Indian country. Writing to his cousin Roderick from Avoch on January 14th, 1818, he said: —

"I hope that before now you have discovered the annual income of your estate to exceed your expectations. I should not be sorry to hear of your having disposed of it advantageously; perhaps you might think of investing it in your native land. Follow the example of our old friend, Mr M'Gillivray, who, I find, has bought an estate in Argylshire for £20,000.

 p251  "I trust Mrs M'Kenzie3 and your young family are continuing in their usual good health. Marguerite4 must be now a stout lady, and my namesake5 about finishing his education for college. Had you sent him to this country it might have been as well.

"What do you think of sending Roderick-Charles here when he is fit? We have two good academies in this country, at Thain and at Fortrose. I shall have a little fellow, if God spare him, this day eleven months old, that would accompany him.

"Our little girl is very thriving. Her mother has not recovered her usual health since her last confinement, and I have at last been overtaken with the consequences of my sufferings in the North‑West.

"I think it is of the same nature as Mr M'Gillivray's complaint, but it has not yet arrived at a severe crisis. I have, in obedience of orders, become a water drinker and a milksop. I have not tasted wine, spirituous or malt liquor for several months, which I think has been of service to me.

"The symptoms of the disorder are very disagreeable and most uncomfortable. The exercise of walking, particularly up hill, brings on a headache, stupor, or dead pain, which at once pervades the whole frame, attended with listlessness and apathy which I cannot well describe. Exercise in a carriage, if not violent, has a beneficial effect. The great doctor Hamilton of Edinburgh calls it a shake of the constitution.

"Although the usual time of arrivals from Canada is past, I have not yet lost the hope of hearing from your brothers Henry6 and James.7 They are, I fear, retaliating  p252 on my own neglect for not being more punctual in my correspondence.

"By a letter from Angus Bethune, I heard of Donald's8 situation on the Columbia. It is one of considerable personal risk, but advantageous, had he been able to reach the proper hunting-grounds.

"It is now believed there are plenty of beaver in that country, and it will be very hard if it is wrested from him through the ignorance of our negotiators. That crafty cunning statesman — Gallatin — Astor's friend, — was the principal negotiator on the part of the Americans. He would be too many for our people, who are governed more by theory than practice.9

"Lady Mackenzie is sitting by me, and the children are playing on the floor. The former joins me most cordially in kind regards to you, Mrs. M'Kenzie, and your young family. — Yours very truly and sincerely,

"Alex. Mackenzie."

This letter reveals a great deal. From it it is not difficult to glean that although Sir Alexander was living in the midst of plenty, surrounded by every comfort, and wrapped up in his home life, his thoughts oft reverted to the old days, when hunger, cold, wet, and hostile Indians  p253 conspired to imperil his life. And when he wrote that letter to his cousin, the grim reaper was even then lurking near at hand ready to cut him down while still a comparatively young man. As he sat at his desk writing, ever and anon glancing at the picture of domestic happiness he so succinctly describes, he must have felt that his days were numbered; but his indomitable will made him keep his face to the enemy, the inevitable conqueror, even as he had always faced without flinching the unstable savages in the far western wilderness. Bright's disease, with its attendant cycle of pathological sequences, of which the foundation had been laid on his great voyages to the Arctic and Pacific, and his journeyings between Grand Portage and his distant posts, had fastened his grip upon him, and in a little more than a year after he penned the above letter to Roderick, death closed his earthly existence.

At the time Sir Alexander wrote to his cousin Roderick, he could only take carriage exercise "if not violent," and it would not have been possible for him to undertake then the long drive into Edinburgh. What was quite out of the question in 1819 seems to have become feasible in the spring of 1820, for he then journeyed to Edinburgh. Probably careful dieting and physical rest had produced an apparent improvement, and he believed his strength equal to the feat. Accompanied by his wife and their three children — Margaret Geddes, aged four years; Alexander George, two years old; and the baby, George, a few months old only — Sir Alexander made what proved to be his last earthly pilgrimage.

Here again the lapse of time, village gossip, and those apocryphal traditions that seem to spring up about the names and memorials of distinguished men, have produced contradictory accounts of an occurrence about which there should be no uncertainty, but which arise from time to time to disturb the equanimity of biographer and historian. One such account10 states that Sir Alexander  p254 was taken ill at Mulnain, near Dunkeld, when travelling to Edinburgh with his wife and children, and died March 11th. Another story, given with circumstantial detail, tells how "the illness which led to his retirement and had persisted in weakening him for some years, entered on a more serious phase in January 1820, and Sir Alexander was compelled to journey south to seek the aid of physicians in Edinburgh. The travelling coach, driven by the family coachman Taylor, safely carried the invalid to his medical advisers, and when Sir Alexander desired to return, also brought him back. It was late at night when the coach with its occupants passed through Perth on the homeward journey. At some distance from the town the coachman became alarmed, and stopped the coach. He had heard a cry or some such sound from his master, but on looking into the interior of the carriage, he found his charge was in articulo mortis, and ran to a neighbouring inn for human helpers and vain restoratives. Thus Sir Alexander passed from his earthly pilgrimage and struggles."11

Still another account says: "Very unexpectedly, on March 12th, 1820, Sir Alexander Mackenzie died. Returning home from a journey to London he was taken ill in the coach at Mulnain in Perthshire, and died there."12

From these several diverse versions of the fatal attack it would appear that the following letter, written to Roderick Mackenzie shortly after the occurrence, has been overlooked. It decides the question, and should set at rest any doubt respecting the place and time of Sir Alexander's death and the circumstances surrounding it: —

"Montreal, 12th May 1820.

"Dear Sir, — It is with the deepest regret I have to inform you of the death of my uncle, Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

"Accompanied by Lady Mackenzie and children, he was  p255 on his way from Edinburgh to Ross-shire, and was suddenly taken ill at Mulnain, near Dunkeld, on the 11th March, and expired the following morning. — I am, dear Sir, your obd. servt.,

Kenneth Dowie."13

"The Hon. Rod. M'Kenzie, Terrebonne."

The place-name given as Mulnain does not exist as such. It is possible that the name has either been spelt phonetically or the original handwriting might lend itself to that spelling being adopted. The place in reality is Mulinearn, a hamlet on the east bank of the River Tummel, a branch of the River Tay, about ten miles north-west of Dunkeld, and not far from the Pass of Killiecrankie. In the old coaching days Mulinearn was the next coaching station or post-house after leaving Dunkeld for the north. At the time of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Mulinearn Inn was a rendezvous for troops, especially for those of Bonnie Prince Charlie. In those days the spelling of the name varied a good deal, but the two in most common use were "Mulinarn," which might easily be transposed into Mulnain, and "Mulieinarn." The old inn in which Sir Alexander breathed his last no longer exists, but the place is marked by the present hamlet, a farm-steading with a few adjacent houses. The nearest railway station is Ballinluig.

With the assistance of the people of the inn, Sir Alexander, stricken unto death, was removed from the carriage and conveyed to a room of the old coaching-house, and there, on the following morning, in the presence of his wife and children, the illustrious traveller and explorer expired. His body was taken to Avoch, and there interred in the old churchyard. Gathered about his bier were his relatives and friends, together with the villagers and people of the countryside in whose welfare he had taken so deep an interest. A simple service, and reverently  p256 the mortal remains of one of Britain's great empire-builders were laid at rest.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie was a man of vigorous mind and splendid physique. Of medium height, he was of compact build, muscularly very powerful, yet lithe and active, and endowed with great power of endurance. His features were regular; keen bright eyes, yet gentle withal; Grecian nose, firmly shaped mouth, and square chin. A mass of dark wavy hair crowned a noble head. Energetic, his zest was of the deliberate as opposed to the impetuous irritable type. One of his most notable characteristics was the expression of his eyes, which imparted to his features a kindly suavity that exercised a marvellous influence over his men, and materially contributed towards his success in dealing with the natives, who regarded all strangers with fear and suspect, and more especially those of a complexion and habit of dress so different from their own. Among the British Columbia Indians he was known by the name of Me‑tis‑ra‑netlon, which means "his hair is very abundant"; and the voyageurs, men who quickly took the measure of their leaders, applied to him the sobriquet of Kitchi Okema, because of his habit of making forced and rapid journeys.

His general character is indicated by his life and works: eager, industrious, persevering, unsparing of himself; deeply attached to his friends, implacable to those who used him ill; resourceful, steadfast, honourable; of a masterful temper and an indomitable will; a man of strong individuality, firmness, self-confidence, and determination.

After his death, Sir Alexander's widow, the gifted and beautiful Lady Mackenzie, continued to reside at Avoch with her daughter and two sons, going to London as usual for the season. During these periodic visits to town the house in Clarges Street was frequently the scene of festivity. Whether in London or Avoch, the education of the children was one of her first cares. A tutor was  p257 provided for the two boys and a governess for the girl, thus laying a substantial foundation for the future years. The daughter, Margaret, early displayed a talent for drawing, and acquired, among other accomplishments, a considerable degree of skill in water-colour painting.

In 1832, during the absence of the family, Avoch House was burned and practically gutted, the fire starting from the big kitchen chimney, whence it spread to the library — the room in which Sir Alexander sat before the fire just before setting out on his last, and greatest, journey twelve years before. The library contained many valuables — Sir Alexander's instruments, maps, manuscripts of unpublished travels, and many other articles of historic value. Almost the entire contents of the room were consumed, very few things being saved by the sailors, fishermen, and villagers who flocked to the scene and did their utmost to salvage such articles of furniture, &c., as could be removed. Among the books saved from destruction was the French copy — Napoleon's — of Sir Alexander's travels and discoveries.a Some articles taken from the burning house disappeared from view for some time, but ultimately found their way back to the possession of the rightful owners.

After the fire the family took up their residence at "The Square," which term is applied in remote parts of Scotland to the principal farm building on an estate. This building, which had been erected in Sir Alexander's lifetime, was fitted up for the reception of the family, and there they congregated upon their sorrowful return home.

In 1860 Lady Mackenzie died, having survived her husband forty years, and the Avoch estate passed into the hands of the elder son, Alexander George, who married Isabella Mary, a daughter of Simon Fraser of South Molton, Devonshire. Sir Alexander's other children, his daughter Geddes and younger son George, did not marry.

In 1868 Alexander George Mackenzie sold Avoch to his  p258 cousin, Sir John Kirkland (son of Sir Alexander's elder sister Sybilla), and removed to The Deanery in the old cathedral town of Fortrose, a few miles distant, and once the property of the Bennetsfield Mathesons. Subsequently he and his family resided for a period at Wandsworth, London, where Alexander George's wife died in 1888, and was buried there. With her are buried two of her sons, George and Alastair. Alexander George died at Fortrose on March 28th, 1894, aged seventy‑six years, and was interred in the family plot in Avoch Churchyard. In an obituary notice, a Scottish newspaper comments as follows: —-

"On Wednesday night another link of the past was broken by the death of Mr A. G. Mackenzie of Avoch. The old laird, as he was affectionately and respectfully called, was a very great favourite in the district, where he had endeared himself by many acts of kindness, not only during his residence for the past few years but on the former occasion in which he lived at Avoch House. Mr Mackenzie was the elder son of the well-known American explorer, Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Avoch, and to whom belonged the honour of discovering the great Mackenzie River in 1789, the river being appropriately named after its famous discoverer. Mr Mackenzie was born in 1818, and had thus considerably gone beyond the allotted three-score years and ten. He is survived by three sons and two daughters."

Of the son of five children who survived their father, the three sons are all dead: Kenneth Thomas, the youngest, died of dysentery during the Boer War at Salisbury, Rhodesia, in September 1900; Alastair, the second son, died in 1919; and the eldest, George, died in London in 1923. The two daughters, Alexandra Isabel and Geddes Margaret, are living, the former being the wife of Mr Bernard Heald. Her sister is unmarried.

The Mackenzie burial-plot in the churchyard surrounding the ivy‑clad church at Avoch, which was rebuilt in 1870, is  p259 enclosed by a stone wall, into which is built the memorial stone to Sir Alexander and Lady Mackenzie. The stone bears the following inscription:b —

𝕴𝖓 𝕸𝖊𝖒𝖔𝖗𝖞 𝖔𝖋
Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Avoch
The explorer of the north-west of America
and Discoverer of the Mackenzie River
Died 12th March 1820
and
Lady Geddes Mackenzie of Avoch
his widow
Died 7th July 1860.

Within the same walled‑in plot is another memorial stone, on which is inscribed the following: —

𝕴𝖓 𝕸𝖊𝖒𝖔𝖗𝖞 𝖔𝖋
Alexander George, eldest son of
Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Avoch
Born 14th February 1818, Died 28th March 1894

Kenneth Thomas, youngest son of the above
Died at Salisbury, Rhodesia, 5th September 1900.

Neither of Sir Alexander's remaining children, Margaret Geddes, the eldest (born 1816), nor George, the youngest (born 1819), married. The latter, whose business was that of a wine merchant, died at Minehead in Somerset on April 9th, 1880, and is there interred. His elder brother, Alexander George, attended the funeral, and adjusted his estate. Their sister, Margaret Geddes, died on January 25th, 1888, and was buried in Old Greyfriar's Churchyard, Edinburgh, in the same grave as her aunt (her mother's twin and only sister, Margaret Elizabeth Mackenzie), after whom she was named. A memorial  p260 stone was erected to her by her uncle, Captain Dowie, R. N., the inscription reading as follows: —

𝕴𝖓 𝕸𝖊𝖒𝖔𝖗𝖞 𝖔𝖋
Margaret Geddes Mackenzie of Avoch
Born 2nd May 1816, died 25th January 1888
Daughter of Sir Alexander Mackenzie


This stone is erected by Captain James Dowie, of the Revenue
cutter "Wellington," in grateful and affectionate
remembrance of Margaret Mackenzie.

This lady made a number of water-colour sketches of Avoch and vicinity, and the writer has been fortunate in securing, by the kindness of one of her relatives, a number of them, some of which are reproduced in this volume. Her aunt, Margaret Elizabeth Mackenzie of Avoch and Applecross, married an Edinburgh solicitor of the Mackenzie clan, but not a blood relative (in this respect the twin sisters were identical, neither changing her surname upon marriage and neither marrying a relative), by whom she had a numerous family.

As already stated, Sir Alexander had two sisters. Sybilla, the elder, married John Kirkland, a successful Glaswegian merchant. They had several children, the eldest of whom became Sir John Kirkland, who received knighthood from Queen Victoria. Another son, Alexander Mackenzie Kirkland, was named after his uncle, the explorer.

Margaret Mackenzie, Sir Alexander's younger sister, married Captain James Dowie, R. N., commander of the revenue cutter Wellington. A daughter, Isabella, and a son, Kenneth, were among the fruit of this union. Mrs Dowie — Margaret Mackenzie — died in 1815. Subsequent to the death of his wife, Captain Dowie and his family removed to Camberwell, London, where many years later he died. His daughter, Isabella Dowie, married  p261 her cousin, Alexander Mackenzie Kirkland, brother of Sir John; and of this marriage several children were born, among them two daughters — Sybilla Mackenzie, named after her grandmother's sister, and Margaret Dowie, born 1832, named after her grandmother. Miss Margaret Dowie Kirkland is still living at this writing, active, with memory undimmed, at the ripe age of ninety-four. Kenneth Dowie, the youngest son of Captain Dowie and his wife Margaret, went to Canada, and he it was who by letter from Montreal imparted the news of Sir Alexander's death to Roderick Mackenzie. Kenneth afterwards returned to England, and went into business as a merchant in Liverpool. He married Mary Muir of Glasgow, and their second son, James Muir Dowie, married Annie Chambers, a daughter of Robert Chambers, D. C. L., the Edinburgh publisher, a distant cousin. Of the issue of this marriage a son, Robert Chambers Dowie, and a daughter, Menie Muriel, are still living. Menie Muriel Dowie married twice, her first husband being Sir Harry Norman, son of a non‑conformist minister, by whom she had one son; her second husband was Edward Fitzgerald, described as an author, but not the famed man of Boulge of the same name.

Avoch House is not now in possession of any of the Mackenzie family. When Sir John Kirkland — who had purchased the estate from his cousin, Alexander George Mackenzie, Sir Alexander's son — died, the property passed to his son, Major-General John Agmondisham Vesey Kirkland, who, upon finding that the lands connected with the house contained the sheltered fields of the "Home Farm" sheep and were leased to the tenant occupying the farm, sold the estate to the possessor of the adjoining property, Mr Douglas Fletcher, father of the present owner, Mr James Douglas Fletcher of Rosehaugh and Avoch.

For many years after the death of Sir Alexander, his portrait by Lawrence adorned the walls of Avoch House,  p262 and afterwards those of the old Deanery at Fortrose, but subsequently it was sold and passed out of the possession of the family. Napoleon's copy of Mackenzie's 'Voyages,' in three volumes in French, is one of the treasured possessions of Mrs Heald, Sir Alexander's granddaughter.

It is interesting to note that on July 20th, 1893, the centenary of Mackenzie's memorable arrival at the Rock in Dean Channel, marking the successful termination of the overland journey to the Pacific coast, was commemorated at a meeting held in Victoria, British Columbia, at which it was decided that a portrait of the great explorer should be painted and hung up in Parliament Buildings in that city. This project was carried out, and the portrait now occupies a prominent place in the Legislative Library.

At Fort George, at the junction of the Nechaco with the Fraser River, a memorial cairn and bronze tablet, erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, were unveiled on June 13th, 1925. The inscription on the tablet reads thus: —

"Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the first white man to cross the Rocky Mountains and reach the Pacific Coast, passed this spot, westward bound, in his canoe, with his nine companions, on the 19th of June 1793."

It is gratifying to know that the site of Sir Alexander's Rock, his farthest point west, and upon whose face he painted the inspiring words announcing his achievement, has not only been officially recognised by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, but, acting under instructions of that Board, Mr J. P. Forde, Reside Engineer at Victoria, B. C., of the Department of Public Works of Canada, in November 1926 erected thereon a monument bearing a bronze tablet as a permanent memorial in honour of the explorer and his work. Almost  p263 immediately below the foot of the monument, on the face of bare rock, the legend placed there by Sir Alexander has been reproduced, carved in the rock, and the space filled in with red cement in imitation of the red portrait used by Mackenzie. The monument is of cement, is of plain but dignified design, and, being so prominently placed, presents an attractive appearance and is visible for a long distance. The situation of the monument and of the inscription on the rock are indicated in the accompanying photograph of the Rock.

[image ALT: A photograph of a body of water in the foreground, with a large irregular bench-like rock on the shore in the background, and behind it a dense conifer forest. It is a view of a rock in western Canada where the explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie slept on reaching the Pacific Ocean in 1793.]

South-east face of rock on which Mackenzie slept, 22nd July 1793.

The bronze tablet bears the following words: —

"Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.


"Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

"This rock is the Western terminus of the first journey across the Continent of North America.

"It was made by Alexander Mackenzie of the North‑West Company, who, with his nine companions, arrived at this spot on the 21st July 1793.

"Mackenzie, by observations, ascertained his position, spent the night here, and after writing on the south-east face the words now cut therein, retraced his course to Lake Athabasca.

"This transcontinental journey preceded by more than ten years that of Lewis and Clark.

"Erected 1926."

(p284)
[image ALT: An engraving of a historical marker plaque commemorating Sir Alexander Mackenzie on Dean Channel, British Columbia; the inscription is transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Bronze Tablet
on Mackenzie Memorial Monument,
Dean Channel, British Columbia.

Erected by Canadian Government
(Historical Sites and Monuments Board).

The official unveiling of the memorial will take place during the summer of 1927, and will be a function of considerable importance, at which Canadian historians and representatives of both Dominion and Provincial (British Columbia) Governments will be present and take part in the proceedings.


The Author's Notes:

1 This "infant" afterwards became Queen Victoria.

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2 This letter was presented by Mrs Heald, Sir Alexander's granddaughter, to His Majesty King George V through the medium of the late Princess Christian.

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3 Roderick's wife was a daughter of Charles Jean Chaboillez, an old Nor'‑Wester. Her sisters married Simon M'Tavish (Le Premier) and Joseph Bouchette, Surveyor-General of Lower Canada.

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4 Married Robert Lester Morrough, prothonotary of Montreal district.

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5 Afterwards Lieut.‑Colonel Alexander Mackenzie. He resided at Terrebonne, where he died in 1862.

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6 Henry Mackenzie, brother of Roderick and cousin of Alexander, was possessed of marked administrative abilities. He was secretary among other things North‑West Company for many years, and managed the estates of Simon M'Tavish and Joseph Frobisher. He married the daughter of Rev. John Bethune in 1815, and died 1832.

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7 James Mackenzie, another brother, joined the North‑West Company in 1794, had charge of Fort Chipewyan in conjunction with Willard Wentzel in 1799, and became a partner in 1802. Had charge of the King's Post at Quebec. He disliked the Indians of the plains and also the voyageurs, who reciprocated cordially. He died at Quebec in 1849. A son, Keith, was in the Hudson Bay Company's service, and a daughter married Mr Patrick, one time clerk of the House of Commons.

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8 Donald Mackenzie, a third brother of Roderick, was one of those who left the N.‑W. Company and joined the Astor concern, the Pacific Fur Company, as a partner, afterwards re‑entering the service of the N.‑W. Company, and afterwards that of the Hudson Bay Company, and became Governor of Red River. He died in 1851 at Mayville, N. Y.

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9 The negotiations referred to here were between Great Britain and the United States, with a view to settling the dispute respecting the boundary line between the States and British North America west of the Rocky Mountains, which resulted in the Convention of 1818. Albert Gallatin, named in Mackenzie's letter, was one of the U. S. representatives. He also was the U. S. plenipotentiary when the Oregon negotiations were reopened in 1826, and which resulted in a deadlock and the renewal of the agreement for a joint occupation.

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10 Chambers' 'Eminent Scotsmen,' vol. III.

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11 'Ross-shire Journal,' August 7th, 1925.

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12 'Makers of Canada,' vol. VIII p102.

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13 Masson's 'Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest,' vol. I.


Thayer's Notes:

a The fascinating story of Napoleon's copy of Mackenzie's Voyages is detailed by the author in pp276‑279; but how — and why — a book belonging to Napoleon, who died in 1821 (a year after Mackenzie), might have made its way to the Mackenzie family's library by 1832 is a mystery left unexplained there.

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b As can be seen from this beautiful photograph (taken by Robert Watt and now migrated to Find-a‑Grave), the inscriptions are somewhat inaccurately transcribed by Wade, and the Gothic script introduced by his typesetter is fanciful. Correct transcriptions follow:

In Memory of
Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Avoch,
The explorer of the north west of America
and discoverer of the

Mackenzie River
Died 12th March 1820,
and

Lady Geddes Mackenzie of Avoch,
his widow
Died 7th July 1860.


From the lone sheiling of the misty island
Mountains divide us and the waste of seas —
But still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

Avoch House

In Memory of
Alexander George,
elder son of Sir Alexander Mackenzie,
of Avoch,

Born 14th February 1818,
Died 28th March 1894.

Kenneth Thomas,
youngest son of the above
Born 2nd May 1872,
Died at Salisbury, Rhodesia, 5th Sepr 1900.

The verse appended to the first inscription is a stanza from The Canadian Boat Song, and to judge from the photograph, seems to have been carved later.


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Page updated: 24 Jan 17