Basic Biographical Details

Name: George McKenzie
Designation: Architect, Artist
Born: 5 August 1866
Died: March 1913
Bio Notes: George John McKenzie was born in Bombay on 5 August 1866, the eldest of the seven children of Alexander McKenzie. Originally a cabinet maker, Alexander McKenzie had been sent to France to gain experience for his uncle’s business in Glasgow but had a serious disagreement with him on his return, emigrating to Bombay where he found work as a builder’s merchant. There he quickly established his own very successful business as a sawmiller and married Georgina Rose, daughter of an army officer and the mother of his children.

At an early age George and his brother Harry were sent to Larchfield School, Helensburgh, as boarders. George left at eighteen to enrol as a student at Glasgow School of Art where he gained prizes in model and freehand drawing (1885) and for a ‘design for a painted panel’ (1886). In the latter year at the rather late age of nineteen, he was articled to Campbell Douglas & Sellars where he became a friend of John Keppie, then about to leave for the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

Although he had not completed his articles, late in 1887 or early 1888, McKenzie was sent as an assistant clerk of works to the Glasgow International Exhibition site, working under the Chief Clerk of Works, ___Shand. When James Sellars died in October of the latter year and Campbell Douglas took Alexander Morrison into partnership, Keppie at first considered setting up on his own with McKenzie as prospective partner and McKenzie’s friend and fellow student Charles Rennie Mackintosh - then completing his articles with John Hutchison – as assistant. In the event Keppie was persuaded to become the partner of John Honeyman whose practice was then in serious decline, McKenzie and Mackintosh joining the practice as previously planned [recollections of McKenzie’s widow, Mary Osborne, per the late Winifred McKenzie to Dr James Macaulay].

In August 1889 McKenzie joined Keppie and Hugh McNab on a continental study tour which included Rouen, Evreux, and Chartres where they met up with their fellow student Andrew Noble Prentice who had completed his articles with William Leiper in the previous year. They then visited Orleans and the Chateaux of the Loire, meeting Robert Alexander Briggs at Tours before heading for Paris to see the Exposition Universelle. There they stayed with Madame Pirie at the Hotel Britannique, already known to Keppie from his time at the Ecole. Keppie had to return home on 29 August but McKenzie extended his study tour to Switzerland and Italy, visiting Milan, Venice, Pavia, Bologna, Florence and Rome where he spent a week. He returned to Glasgow by sea from Naples in September, but within the next few months he was recalled to Bombay to run the sawmilling business as his father was suffering from glaucoma. It was presumably at this point Keppie gave him the signet ring set with cornelian engraved with the McKenzie’s crest which was latterly worn by his daughter Winifred.

In Bombay McKenzie prospered as a sawmiller and became fluent in Hindi, the better to communicate with his work force. He was later joined by his much younger brother Kenneth, Harry having become an eye specialist, and Alexander, a Scottish woollen manufacturer with a house in Helensburgh: a fifth brother, Charles, joined the Indian Forestry Commission, became a director of several other Bombay companies, a member of the West India Turf Club and an officer in the Bombay Light Horse.

McKenzie returned to Scotland for family visits every two years. Early in 1896 he married Jessie Wallace, the sister of his friend Robert (Bob) Wallace and on 13 January 1897 his son Alexander (Alec) was born. Two years later Jessie died and Alec was sent to Scotland to be brought up by his Wallace grandparents. In May 1903 McKenzie visited Scotland with his brother Kenneth, then engaged to marry Amy Osborne of Thortonhall. At the Osbornes he met her older sister Mary, an accomplished violinist who had spent a year at school in Vevey. They married in October, their daughters Winifred and Alison, both to become distinguished artists and wood engravers, were born on 23 August 1905 and 30 August 1907 respectively both in Bombay.

In 1909 McKenzie bought Ravenswood, a large villa in Bridge of Weir. McKenzie’s three children were brought up there, Mary dividing her time between Bombay and Bridge of Weir. Mary was at Bridge of Weir when McKenzie became ill with enteric fever in March 1913. She set out for Bombay but had only got as far as Egypt when she received a telegram that he had died.

Like Keppie, George McKenzie was a skilful artist in both oil and watercolour although in later year he had little time for anything other then the sawmilling business. Two oils descended to his daughters.

Whether McKenzie designed any buildings in Bombay is not known. His house there, Mount Ida, may have been pre-existing. He did, however, design Mackintosh-like furniture for it with high-backed chairs which were made locally in teak. These passed out of the family after his brother Kenneth died in retirement in Jersey. It is probable that George also designed some of the extensive premises connected to the family’s sawmilling business.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect, artist:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Ravenswood, Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, ScotlandPrivate1909  

Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect, artist (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Campbell Douglas & Sellars1886 Apprentice 
Item 2 of 2Honeyman & Keppiec. 1888 Assistant 

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect, artist:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Clark, Aylwin1996The McKenzie Sisters   
Item 2 of 2Macaulay, James1993Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Glasgow School of Art London 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect, artist:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information to David M Walker from Winifred McKenzie c.1954-55 and later.