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John Munro Mackenzie

John Munro Mackenzie

John Munro Mackenzie was Chamberlain of the Lews (working for Sir James Matheson) from 1848 until his resignation in 1854. He succeeded John Scobie as principal agent for the estate.

He was unusual amongst the men who held the post of Chamberlain as he was himself born in Lewis, son of the island Sheriff and a grandson of the Uig minister, Hugh Munro.

As Chamberlain, or Factor, he presided over both the re-lotting of the island in 1849-51, and one of the key periods of emigration from Lewis, when between 1851 and 1855 some 1,772 of the poorest subtenants (from a population of nearly 20,000) were assisted with their passage (not always willingly) to Canada.

He was regarded as a hard factor but was, it seems, respected, and evinced some concern for the welfare of his employer's tenants. When he discovered that the cost of meal distributed as famine relief during the 1840s had been added to the debts of the destitute, he instigated a programme of piecemeal work which alleviated the accumulation of debt; he also sought to improve the fishings on the island for the benefit of the crofters, though Sir James did not take his advice. Mackenzie was also apparently interested in improving the schools in Lewis.

After leaving Lewis, Mackenzie worked in Cumberland and the Lowlands, and later became owner of the Mornish Estate at Calgary on Mull. James Shaw Grant recounts that Col Macleod of Drynoch, a relation of Mackenzie's by marriage, called there en route to Canada, and soon after named the city of Calgary, Alberta after Mackenzie's home.

Mackenzie's diary for 1851 has been published.


Title: John Munro Mackenzie
Record Type: People
Occupation: Chamberlain of the Lews
Sex: Male
Record Maintained By: HC
Subject Id: 49158