Monday, 13 June 2016

John Mackenzie, Earlston Banker & A Man of Many Parts

" A man of high character as  a man of business, of  cultivated intellect,  and of literary tastes and aptitude - these were the words that described  Earlston banker John Mackenzie  In a tribute dinner in 1891.   

But who was John Mackenzie?  George Birbeck of Earlston Chess Club looked  to find out about this possible founder member of the Club,  and  his research forms the basis of this article.  

For in 1889  "The Chess Players Annual  and Club Directory" listed among 34 Scottish entries the Earlston entry, noting it had   12 members, and met in members' houses, with John Mackenzie, President.  (He was also  thought to be a founder member).

The census of 1881 lists three entries for the name John McKenzie/MacKenzie/Mackenzie  living in Earlston parish,

  • John Mackenzie, aged 45, a farm servant of Cowdenknowes Mains Cottage, with his 15 year old son, of the same name, also a farm servant.

    Attention focused, however, on the third entry.
  • John MacKenzie, aged 34, born in Inverness, writer and bank agent of Commercial Bank House, High Street, Earlston.   He was in a large household of nine that included his wife, Jane, two young sons, William, aged 4 and Alan  1, widowed mother aged 59, unmarried sister Isabella, unmarried sister in law, Ellen  McPherson, a cook and a housemaid. 
    High Street looking east, with the  Bank and Courthouse on the right. 
    The bunting could have been for the visit of Prime Minister Asquith in 1908. 
Ten years on in the 1891 census, it was a depleted family, with just John, Jane, 11 year old Alan, 9 year old Eleanor, plus two servants. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland Archives (successor to the Commercial Bank of Scotland)  confirmed that John Mackenzie  joined the bank in 1861 and  and was first listed as Manager in Earlston  in the 1881 Bank Directory,

A range of records showed that John quickly involved himself in the local community.  

"Slater's Royal National Directory of Scotland for 1882"  listed,  under the Earlston entry,  John Mackenzie, bank agent to the Commercial Royal Bank, but also:  
  • Clerk to the Earlston School Board
  • Secretary to Earlston Corn Exchange Company
  • Treasurer of Earlston Curling Club 

 "The Southern Reporter" : 29th April 1880

Contemporary press cuttings in "The Southern Reporter" and "The Berwickshire News"  further testified to his involvement with:
  • Earlston Reading Room 
  • Earlston Volunteer Company
  • Earlston Bowling Club  of which he was one of the early  presidents.  whose term of office was distinguished by the club's greatest success - the winning  first place in the Borders Bowling Tournament.
  • Berwickshire Naturalists Club which was founded in 1831 to study the natural history and antiquities of the county. 
  • Lauder Games in the role of Hon. Secretary   

"The Southern  Reporter" of June 11th 1891 featured a lengthy report on a "Complimentary dinner to Mr Mackenzie" on the occasion of his transfer back to Inverness, with fifty  gentlemen sitting  down to a meal at Newton's Hotel (the current Red Lion)   The chairman Colonel Hope of Cowdenknowes, proposed the toast, describing Mr Mackenzie as:
" A man of high character as  a man of business, of  cultivated intellect,  and of literary tastes and aptitude.  .........Mr Mackenzie had performed the duties of his office with great ability and unfailing courtesy and  had secured the respect and esteem of the community, gave much of his spare time to the promotion of all schemes for the public good". 

John Mackenzie died in Inverness in 1898, at 52 years of age. He spent only around eleven  years  in Earlston, but in that time he made his mark locally and can be well described as "A Man of Many Parts".   

But one puzzle remains,  despite intensive research, only one record has been found to confirm that John Mackenzie was President of Earlston Chess Club - and we can only make a fair assumption that that was John Mackenzie,  banker.

Auld Earlston would be delighted to feature further articles on the village's past  from other contributors.  Please contact:  

1 comment:

  1. An interesting article on an unknown man who yet made a great contribution to life in the Earlston community.


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