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Mackenzie of Druim, Inverness

Looking at the lives of the Rev Hur Libertas MacKenzie, a Scots missionary who was in China from 1860-1899; his son Theodore, who was in charge of the Inverness District Asylum, and grandsons, including Admiral Hugh Stirling Mackenzie, commander of the Polaris submarine. 


The Rev. Hur Libertas Mackenzie (1833-1899)


Born in Inverness, the Rev Hur Libertas MacKenzie (1833-1899) was one of the first Presbyterian missionaries in China, where he preached in the present-day region of Shantou (formerly Swatow)  on the eastern coast of Guangdong between 1860 and his death in 1899. By his wife, Mary Baillie (1841-1897) he had two sons and two daughters, including Mary Lena Mckenzie (1872-1959) and Theodore Charles Mackenzie (1873-1951). This obituary was published by the Inverness Courier on 9 January 1900:


The news of the death of the Rev. Dr. H. L. Mackenzie, of Swatow, China, the senior missionary of the English Presbyterian Church, has been received with sincere regret. To his children and personal friends, who were looking forward to his coming home after a few months, this  bereavement will be all the sorer.

Dr Mackenzie was elected by his Church to represent her at the great Missionary Conference to be held in New York next spring, and he purposed  leaving China for America next month, and after the Conference to visit Scotland and spend a short time with his children. Dr Mackenzie was born in Inverness, and received his early education in the High School, where his father was a teacher. 

Extracted from the Aberdeen Press and Journal – Friday 21 July 1899. Hur died that same year.

His University training was received at Aberdeen, where he took his M.A. degree. He studied theology in the New College, Edinburgh, and among his fellow students were Principal Dykes, Professor Marcus Dods, and Rev. Saewad [sic], of Lovedale. At the end his College career, he was invited to go  to China. He accepted the invitation and sailed for Swatow early in 1860. The Rev. Wm. C. Burns, the first missionary of the English Presbyterian Church, began the work in Swatow in 1856.

Two years later, Mr Burns went to Amoy, leaving the devoted missionary, Mr George Smith, to work in Swatow, and in the summer of 1860  Mr Smith was joined by Mr Mackenzie.

Previous to this time, the missionaries in China were not allowed to work beyond the limits of the five treaty ports then open for trade. After the war of 1860 greater freedom was obtained for missionary work. Of this liberty Mr Smith and Mr Mackenzie took full advantage, and the next  ten years were occupied with evangelistic work in the whole of the Swatow district. Every city, town, and almost every village in the whole of that extensive district were visited from time to time, and the Gospel preached to the people.

Mr Mackenzie would often be for months on end away from Swatow, spending a few days in each village, and longer periods in larger centres, day after day speaking to the people, and showing them the way of life and when out in the country, it was his great delight to preach to the patients in the Swatow Hospital, a place very dear to him, and where his work was widely blessed. In this way the foundation of the great work now carried on in Swatow was laid.

The faithful and prayerful work of these two devoted men has made them a leavening influence in the region. In many places throughout the district small Christian communities were growing up, and not a few of his native Christians were beginning to do Christian work near their own homes.

To prepare such of those as were suitable to become teachers and readers, schools had to be opened, and a theological College established, and Mr Mackenzie took his full share of the work in all these departments. But all through his forty years in China the preaching the Gospel was his favourite work.

I was reminded of Dr Mackenzie’s mission when I re-watched ‘Chariots of Fire,’ about the amazing Eric Liddell. Born in 1902, in Tientsin, China, he the second son of the Reverend and Mrs. James Dunlop Liddell, Scottish missionaries with the London Missionary Society.

After ten years’ active work in the field, Mr Mackenzie returned to Scotland on furlough. During his stay in this country he married Mary Baillie from Inverness, and with her returned to China in 1872. Mrs Mackenzie was an ideal missionary’s wife. Full of love for the work, she devoted her strength and talent to the highest interests of the mission. She and the other ladies of the mission were the first in China to open schools for the teaching of the women and girls in the Church. The far reaching influence of such work in a land like China, no one can overestimate.

Mrs Mackenzie predeceased her husband by ten years, and he death was deeply mourned by the Church in Scotland.

Dr Mackenzie was Moderator of the Missionary Jubilee Synod, which met in Sunderland in April 1897. Everyone was delighted with the Missionary  Moderator. His refined culture and his quiet dignity, his innate Highland courtesy, and the high tone of his spiritual life, made a deep and lasting impression in the Synod. Shortly after the meeting of this Synod, his Alma Mater conferred on him his degree of D.D. [1]

Dr Mackenzie was a model missionary, modest, unassuming, and loving in character, and those who knew him best loved him most [?]. He was dearly loved by the native Christians, and his love for  them was so manifest that among themselves they spoke of him as the Apostle John.

He leaves a family of two sons and two daughters. The elder son is a graduate in medicine of the Edinburgh University, and following in his father’s footsteps, he will soon be leaving for the foreign mission field.

Rev. Mr Mackenzie, of the Free North Church, in course of the English service on Sunday, spoke of the loss which had been sustained by the death of Dr Mackenzie. He said some of them were saddened by the removal of one who was a native of this town and well-known in it, one who had been consecrated his mother to the service of Christ in his infancy, a gift which he believed had been accepted.

When he (Mr Mackenzie) was entering the High School, Dr Mackenzie was leaving for King’s College, Aberdeen, and in the same way his late friend passed out as he was entering Aberdeen and the New College, Edinburgh. At a later time, when Mr Mackenzie was visiting friends at Fort-William, they had frequent intercourse together. Dr Mackenzie baptised his first child. Thus he had many kindly relations with the devoted missionary, and learned a good deal about his work. The first Christian convert at Swatow was baptised on the day of Mackenzie’s first arrival there, and the time of his death there was a native church of 3000 souls, including children. How could any one, in the face of this, say that missions were not successful?

He might mention that when he (Mr Mackenzie) was in America he visited the congregation where his friend’s uncle laboured, and found that, as a result of the evangelical preaching there, more missionaries had gone out to the mission field than whole Churches in some cases had sent forth.

Dr Mackenzie himself was a man filled with enthusiasm for the work of the Gospel, never sparing himself, but following in the footsteps of the great missionary William Burns, whom he so much admired. He was a man of gentle and amiable spirit, and possessed wide knowledge, which he held at the service of his Master. When he was at home on his last visit, the University of Aberdeen conferred on him the degree of D.D., and few on whom they had conferred it merited it so well. Their friend now rested from his labours, and his works followed him.



Theodore Charles Mackenzie (1863-1951), M.D., F.R.C.P. Edin


Theodore Charles Mackenzie, elder son of Dr H.L. and Mary Mackenzie, was born in Swatow, China, in 1873 and studied medicine in Edinburgh University. In about 1908, he became medical superintendent at the Inverness District Asylum (now the Craig Dunain Hospital), which opened in May 1864. [2]

The asylum served the whole Highland area, and was administered by representatives of various counties extending from Morayshire and Nairn to Caithness and Sutherland. New male and female hospital wards had been completed at the asylum in 1898.

On 18 November 1908, he was married at Cardan Place U.F. Church, Aberdeen, to Margaret Irvine Wilson, known as Madge. She was the second daughter of the late Alex. Hall Wilson, an Aberdeen ship builder. [3] The Wilson Hall shipbuilders are studied in detail here.

They had three sons, namely Charles B. Mackenzie, Alexander Irvine Mackenzie (1911–1985), known as Alec, and Hugh Stirling Mackenzie, and a daughter, Margaret.

TC Mackenzie was still medical superintendent at the District Asylum when a large new recreation hall was added to in 1927. There were 711 patients that same year. [4] He resigned in 1931. [5] Two years later, he was appointed temporary deputy visiting commissioner by the General Board of Control for Scotland. He died in Inverness on 11 April 1951.


Vice-Admiral Hugh Stirling Mackenzie (1913-1996)

Theodore Charles Mackenzie and his wife Margaret were the parents of Hugh Stirling Mackenzie, who became Flag Officer Submarines and Chief Polaris Executive.

Lt. Hugh Stirling Mackenzie: ‘Inverness Naval Officer’s Exploit Lieut, H. S. Mackenzie, R.N., who commanded the submarine which sank two enemy supply ships and an armed lighter in the Mediterranean recently, is the youngest son of Dr and Mrs T. C. Mackenzie, Druim, Inverness. He is twenty-eight years of age and has been in the Royal Navy since he was thirteen. His father, formerly medical superintendent of Inverness District Asylum, is now acting as medical superintendent of the Royal Northern Infirmary [at Inverness].’ Aberdeen Press and Journal, 28 April 1942.

In 1943 HS Mackenzie was given command of the Thrasher, as per the image above.


Lieut.-Col. Charles B. Mackenzie


‘Two military men get the OBE. —Lieut.-Col. D. P. Davidson, Caskieben, a director of the Mugiemoss Paper Mills, Aberdeen, and Lieut.-Col. Charles B. Mackenzie, Inverness, one of the heroes of Arnhem … Lieut.-Col. Charles Baillie Mackenzie, D.S.0., (O.B.E.), is the son of Dr and Mrs T. C. Mackenzie of Druim, Inverness, and is at present on the staff of the British Military Mission to Greece. During the last war he joined the Parachute Regiment and went to North Africa in command of a battalion. He returned to this country to take part in the airborne landing at Arnhem, where he was on the staff of Major-General Urquhart. and for his part in this operation he was given the immediate award of the D.S.O. [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 3 January 1950.]


With thanks to Mary Couchman.




[1] ‘The summer graduation in connection with a Aberdeen University took place in. Marischal College yesterday  … The Dean of the Faculty of Divinity introduced the names of the Rev. George M’Innes, MAA., B.D., Sydney, New South Wales, and the Rev. H. L. Mackenzie, MLA., English Presbyterian Church Mission, Swatow, China, for the honorary degrees of doctor of divinity …’   Aberdeen Press and Journal – Friday 21 July 1899

[2] “JC Mackenzie” is named in this report from The Journal of Mental Science, Volume 40 (Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1894), p. 456:

Inverness – This, the first report since the death of Dr Aitken, contains the following extract from Sir Arthur Mitchell’s report of March 1893. We feel sure that the opinions therein expressed will be endorsed by all members of the Association:

“It is recorded with regret that since the asylum was last visited, Dr Aitken, the Medical Superintendent, while travelling on the continent, died after a short illness, on the 11th of September 1892. He had superintended the asylum since it was opened, and for the long period of thirty years had done his work most faithfully and zealously. He was identified with the whole history of the institution, which had been greatly changed and enlarged while under his care. At the time of his death, a further extension of the buildings was under consideration and he was then devoting his earnest attention to the character which this extension should take. Of late years he had not been in robust health, but, in spite of this he was constant and unfailing in the performance of his work. He was held in much esteem and respect and is greatly missed by a large circle of warm friends.

Dr JC Mackenzie, formerly AMO at Morpeth, has taken Dr Aitken’s place and commences his report by paying a tribute to the memory of his predecessor.

So, was JC meant to be TC?

And is this one relevant: ‘MUNRO-BOGIE. The wedding of Mr J. Mackenzie Munro, Inverness District. Asylum, to Nurse Annie Devonport Bogie, was solemnised in the Queensgate Hotel on Thursday afternoon. Rev. Wm. Fraser, P.C., Strathpeffer, officiated.’ [Highland News, 17 April 1909.]

Report, Volume 21 of the Commonwealth Shipping Committee (H.M. Stationery Office, 1920), p. xxv: Inverness District Asylum – It is recorded with regret that Mr. Murdo Mackenzie , who has been Head Attendant since 1891, has retired.” If relevant, is this link here relevant? Or this one here.

[3] Aberdeen Press and Journal of 20 November 1908: MACKENZIE-WILSON.—At Cardan Place U.F. Church, Aberdeen, on 18th inst., by the Rev. T. P. Rankine, assisted the Rev. J. Davidson, Theodore Charles MacKenzie, M.D., F.R.C.P. Edin., Inverness, to Margaret Irvine, second daughter the late Alex. Hall Wilson, ship builder, Aberdeen.

[4] INVERNESS DISTRICT ASYLUM. Superintendent’s Report. In his report for the year to 15th May last, Dr T. C. Mackenzie, medical superintendent of Inverness District Asylum, states that the average number of patients resident during the year was 711, and the total number of cases under treatment 865. …  The number of deaths during the year was 68, being 11 more than for the previous year. the year much work had continued to be expended on the repair and maintenance of the asylum buildings and on extensions and alterations. The farm and gardens continued to provide suitably and abundant occupation for a large number of male patients. [Aberdeen Press and Journal – Saturday 12 November 1927]

[5] The Inverness District Asylum Joint Committee has received intimation of the resignation of Dr T . C . Mackenzie from the post of medical superintendent of the Inverness Asylum. Dr Mackenzie has been medical superintendent for twenty-three years, and his resignation will come up before a meeting of the Committee on Friday. Inverness District Asylum serves the whole Highland area, and is administered by representatives of various counties , extending from Morayshire and Nairn to Caithness and Sutherland. [The Scotsman – Tuesday 10 November 1931]