William MacKenzie

William MacKenzie the solicitor was remembered quite differently by nineteenth-century historians to John the banker. Indeed, the brothers could epitomise all that the Victorians considered best and worst about the emergent Scottish middle class. William is portrayed as the callous, calculating lawyer, making it easy for his employer to forget his clan chief responsibilities by doing the dirty work of clearance. Both were engaged in politics as whigs, unlike their elder brother Colin who was a less active tory. The late-Victorian accounts tell us as much about the authors as about their subjects, but they raise fascinating questions. The whole family, one of the most important in the history of Charlotte Chapel, are worthy of more in-depth study -- which may or may not be possible in the context of this project.

Alexander MacKenzie
Anne MacKenzie, daughter of Colin MacKenzie of Kilcoy
55 Northumberland Street
Political views
He ran for Parliament in 1837 as a whig, unsuccessfully, against Thomas MacKenzie of Applecross. He was charged in the House of Commons with abducting a key tory elector, but the complaint was dismissed as it was admitted the elector had voted in the end. (5)
Writer to the Signet (1803), apprenticed to Colin who was ten years his senior. William appears as a villanous henchman in MacKenzie's History of the Chisholms, which is largely a eulogy to the 'noble souled' Mary Chisholm of Chisholm and her mother. At the time of this story, Mary's father Alexander (the Dowager's husband) has died, and his younger brother William ('The Chisholm') has inherited. His wife was the daughter of MacDonell of Glengarry, 'whom the natives to this day blame for having cleared the whole clan out of their native glen', Strathglass, in 1801 (4 p.125) The Dowager, by contrast, ensured that 'every one' of her tenants,
remained in their holdings undisturbed until the end of he life, notwithstading the many efforts which had been made by the efforts of The chisholm to induce her to hand over her township lnds and people, in return for which she was offered not only to be relieved of all trouble and responsibility in connection with them, but payment, without any expense of collection or management to herself, of a higher rent per annum than she was then receiving from her tenants.
The most active agent of The Chisholm now makes his appearance in person: William MacKenzie himself.
He made himself so obnoxious to the Dowager and her daughter by his persistent efforts and liberal promises that Mary, then Mrs. James Gooden, on one occasion insisted upon his promising never again to speak to her mother on the subject of her Strathglass tenants. However, forgetting or disregarding this promise, Mr. Mackenzie returned some time afterwards and renewed his former offers, determined to get the tenants and their holdings out of the Fair Lady's hands [the tenants' name for the Dowager], and under the immediate control of the chief. He was ready to complete the transaction, with pen in hand and paper before him, when Mrs. Gooden entered her mother's room and peremptorily ordered him out. "Here you are again, William," she said, "quite regardless of your word of honour and your promise as a gentleman; the sooner you take yourself out of this house the better I shall be pleased; and if ever you come here again on your unwelcome errand, to disturb my mother in her frail old age, I shall make Edinburgh too hot for you." Cowed with shame and confusion, Mr. Mackenzie gathered up his papers, left the house, and never again returned to it during the life of the venerable lady, who under the advice and constant care of her daughter, did not allow a single tenant on her jointure lands to be disturbed during the thirty-three years she had possession of them, from the death of her husband in 1793 until her own in 1826. (4)
This story does not give William Chisholm's side of the story, or much account of the financial situation.
Assessed taxes 1811
His house had 22 windows and a rental value of £80. He had one male house servants and three clerks. He paid armorial bearings duty. (3)
Chapel connection
1812 (baptism)
Married on
6 July 1809
Mary Mansfield, Alice Wauchope (died 28 January 1856), eldest daughter of Andrew Wauchope of Niddrie-Marischal, Mid-Lothian.
Alexander (1812, a merchant in Leith at the time of his father's death), James Mansfield (27 August 1813 - 14 February 1838), Marion (1815), William (1816)
Related to
Colin Mackenzie, John MacKenzie, brothers
Further Research
NAS GD271 - his letters


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, National Archives of Scotland E327/51
  4. Alexander MacKenzie, History of the Chisholms (A and W MacKenzie, Inverness, 1901) p.127
  5. House of Commons debate 10 July 1837 vol 38 cc1856-9 (Hansard online accessed 13 August 2011)

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