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Scots Who Made A Difference

On a wet day in Scotland, and there are many wet days in Scotland, the name of Glaswegian Charles MacIntosh is indeed a blessed one, for it was he who invented in 1823 a method for making waterproof garments.

When Columbus first arrived in the New World, he noticed the natives playing a game with a ball made of gum. After 1615, the Spanish reported the Indians made crude footwear and even bottles by using his substance. In 1735, a French geological expedition reported the use of Caoutchoue as the condensed juice of the Hevea tree and crude rubber was then produced in France.

A breakthrough in the manufacture of rubber came from the separate experiments of Charles MacIntosh and Englishman Thomas Hancock. The Scot had been trying to find uses for the waste products of the gasworks now springing up in industrial Scotland. He noted that coal-tar naphtha, which was used for lighting among other things in this author's own boyhood, especially in the traveling circuses and fairs, dissolved India rubber. By painting one side of wool cloth with the rubber preparation and then placing another thickness of wool cloth on top, MacIntosh produced his waterproof fabric.

And so "The MacIntosh," a double-textured waterproof cloak was born. (Hancock had helped greatly by inventing a masticator to weld scraps of rubber into a coherent mass that could be applied in manufacture.) Shaky at first, because the tailoring of the fabric caused punctures that allowed rainwater to penetrate, thus dissolving the rubber, the macintosh was greatly improved by the availability of vulcanized rubber in 1839 after the work of Goodyear in the US.

With their macintoshes and umbrellas, the people of Scotland are well equipped to handle the rigors of their notorious climate.

A valuable addition to the list of influential Scottish architects and designers is Charles MackIntosh, chiefly remembered for his Glasgow School of Art, perhaps the first original example of Art Nouveau architecture in Britain. Indeed, this inventive, imaginative architect led the Art Nouveau movement in the British Isles, achieving an international reputation with his unorthodox designs and his light, elegant interiors (examples are found in the Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow and Scotland Street School).

Scotland's best-known Gaelic poet of the 18th century is Duncan MacIntyre whose Gaelic name was Donnchadh Ban Mac an t-Saoir and who never learned to read. His poems are mainly songs of praise to Campbell chiefs and clansmen, drinking songs, love songs and satires. He also wrote of the delights of his beloved countryside, then being irrevocably destroyed by social and economic changes. MacIntyre particularly lamented the end of the ancient Gaelic society and the land enclosures that replaced farmers with sheep. A collection of MacIntyre's poems was published by MacMhaighstir Alasdair in 1751.

From Stormness, Orkney, George MacKay Brown expresses through his short stories and novels, plays and poems the ethos of his islands, reflecting the inhabitants' concerns about the survival of their culture and effectively depicting local characters. His themes try to capture the feel of the islands and the continuity of their customs. His poetry includes Loaves and Fishes (1959), The Year of the Whale (1965), Fisherman and Plough (1971) and Selected Poems 1954-1983 (1991).

MacKay Brown's short stories, mainly character studies, are found in A Calendar of Love (1967) and A Time to Keep (1969) many of which have been adapted for television. His most successful play is A Spell for Green Corn (1967). In his novels, he deals with the struggle of local communities against the overwhelming forces of history: they include "Greenvoe" (1972), "Magnus" (the story of Orkney's patron saint), "Time in a Red Coat" (1984) and "Vinland" (1992).

The course of the 1,000 mile Canadian river the MacKenzie, emptying into the Arctic Ocean from its beginning on the Great Slave Lake was charted by Alexander MacKenzie, fur trader and explorer, who began his life at Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

After emigrating to North America, MacKenzie began a trading company at Montreal that later amalgamated with the North West Company to become a serious rival to the Hudson's Bay Company. MacKenzie and his crew of 12 started their great expedition in 1789 in three small boats after setting up a trading post at Ft. Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca one year earlier. Four years later, MacKenzie crossed the Rocky Mountains from the trading post all the way to the Pacific Ocean, travelling through what is now British Columbia -- both journeys constituting the first known transcontinental crossing of America north of Mexico. He and his party survived by eating pemmican, a dried lean meat from a large game animal pounded to shreds and mixed half and half with melted fat, bone marrow and wild berries -- not exactly "Trail Mix."

After 1808, MacKenzie returned to Scotland. Accounts of his journeys are found in Voyage from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence, Through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in the Years 1789 and 1793, published in 1801, one year before he was honored with a knighthood from the British monarch.

The first Liberal Prime Minister of Canada (1873-78) was a Scot from Logierait, Perthshire, who had emigrated in 1842. In Canada West (now Ontario), the young MacKenzie set himself up as a building contractor but his interests lay in politics, especially in government reform. His editorship of the Lambron Shield brought him into contact with George Brown, influential editor of the Toronto Globe and leader of the Reform Party.

Elected to Canada's first House of Commons, following the granting of Dominion status in 1867, MacKenzie led the liberal opposition. He became Prime Minister in 1873, but his policy of "unrestricted reciprocity" with the United States was cast aside in favor of the protectionist policies of Conservative John MacDonald. MacKenzie was also blamed for failure to complete the Pacific Railroad, which was so essential in tying together Canada's vast provinces and scattered population.

Though not too many know of the life of Charles MacKenzie, of Poprtmore, Peebles, it should be known that, as an Anglican priest in Natal, he offended the mainly-English settlers by sharing his bishop's desire that native Christians be allowed to share fully in all Church activities with white Christians. In 1861, MacKenzie was appointed the first bishop in the British colonial territory of central Africa where his tireless labors in most difficult circumstances were undertaken at the request of the Universities' Mission to South Africa after he had supposedly retired.

It is as much for his work as an ardent Scottish nationalist who helped found the Scottish National Party as for his literary talents that Compton MacKenzie (Sir Edward Montague) deserves his place among the Scots who made a difference. Born in West Hartlepool, England, MacKenzie was a true Scot nevertheless, coming to live permanently in Scotland in 1928. His fame as a man of literature stems from his prodigious output of more than 100 novels, not all of which were well received, but which gave him a position as rector of Glasgow University (1931-34). At the same time, he was also the literary critic for the London newspaper, the Daily Mail and the founder and editor of Gramaphone Magazine.

Some of MacKenzie's works include an attack on the British secret service in his Water on the Brain (1933), his autobiographical Greek Memories (1932); The Monarch of the Glen (1941) and Whisky Galore (1947) which was made into a very successful film (in the US known as Tight Little Island). MacKenzie also wrote a series of plays and his memoirs.

MACKENZIE, HENRY (1745-1831)
A writer whose one successful novel had considerable influence on Sir Walter Scott and a major literary figure of Scotland was Edinburgh's Henry MacKenzie. In 1771, MacKenzie published his major novel The Man of Feeling following many years of producing imitations of Scottish ballads and other minor works. After a move to London to study law in 1765, MacKenzie had imitated the new English mode for sentiment; his novel (now considered mawkish) was an immediate success. Other works followed but none of consequence and certainly none with the same influence upon subsequent Scottish authors.

It wasn't only the young priest Charles Frederick MacKenzie who championed the rights of native tribes in South Africa, but also fellow Scottish missionary John MacKenzie of Knockando. John was also a proponent of British intervention against the Boers' influence over many of the lands and tribes of the interior of South Africa. The idealistic Scot was deeply disturbed at the loss of tribal lands to Boers coming in from the Transvaal. His appeals to Britain led to the establishment of Bechuanaland as a British protectorate in 1884 in which he served as deputy commissioner. Succeeded by Cecil Rhodes, the man with friends in high places, MacKenzie continued his work in politics and the mission in both of which he was able to obtain much influence.

John MacKenzie left Ardross, Ross-shire for New Zealand in 1860 to become a farmer. In Scotland he had developed a deep antagonism towards the power of the landlords to dispossess small farmers -- a phenomenon that was destroying much of the traditional life of the Highlands. Witnessing the same kind of activity in New Zealand, MacKenzie entered politics to prevent it from happening in his adopted land. He was elected to Parliament in 1881 as a Liberal, becoming minister of lands and immigration in 1891 under Prime Minister John Ballance, equally committed to preserve the small farmers.

In 1892, MacKenzie won passage of the Lands for Settlement Act, opening up Crown land for leasing. An amendment of 1894 compelled the owners of large estates to sell parts of their lands. The same year, the Advances to Settlers Act greatly expanded the supply of credit available for small farmers. He also sponsored a plan to use the unemployed to clear and then lease land holdings.

In addition to his sponsoring legislation to aid the small farmers and break up the large estates (something that had never been achieved in his native Scotland), MacKenzie used his political clout to promote scientific methods in agriculture. To his credit also is the lying of the foundations of the New Zealand ministry of agriculture.

During the reign of Charles II, George MacKenzie, as king's advocate, conducted his prosecution of the Covenanters for their refusal to conform to the established church with such zeal that he became known as "Bloody MacKenzie." In his favor, however, he founded the Advocate's Library, Edinburgh, now the National Library of Scotland. Not in his favor was his refusal to concur with measures to eliminate the anti-Catholic laws. For this, he was removed from office in 1686 but was reinstated two years later.

MacKenzie's writings contain treatises on religion and law. His support of royal prerogative is found in his Jus Regium (1884). A most valuable reference book for the political and religious turmoil of his age is his Vindication of the Government of Scotland During the Reign of Charles II (1691).

Another immigrant with a significant influence on the political development of Canada was William Lyon MacKenzie, born in Springfield, Angus, and who emigrated in 1820. The independent spirit of modern Canada's provinces and people owes a lot to this man, revered as a symbol of Canadian radicalism. Discontentment with the government soon led the young Scot into politics, his views being published in the Upper Canada newspaper the Colonial Advocate, which he founded in 1824. Elected to the provincial parliament as member for York in 1828, MacKenzie continued his attacks on the Tory majority only to be expelled from the House. Six times he was expelled and six times his constituents returned him to his seat.

When he returned to Britain on an official visit in 1832, MacKenzie took with him many grievances: his sharp criticisms caused the dismissal of several government officials in Canada. In England, he put down many of his grievances in his Sketches of Canada and the United States. In 1835, he was elected to the provincial Canadian Parliament, where his continued agitation against colonial rule brought about the dismissal of the governor. Becoming Mayor of the new city of Toronto in 1835, he was accused of disloyalty to Canada and lost his parliamentary seat. At that point, seriously considering rebellion, he founded the radical Constitution advocating drastic changes in the way Canada was to be governed.

In league with Louis Joseph Papineau in Lower Canada, MacKenzie was aided in his plans by a severe economic depression. Failure to implement his daring scheme to overthrow the government, however, forced him to flee to the United States. Here his attempts to gather an army got him charged with breaking neutrality laws and a spell in prison. In prison he wrote his The Caroline Almanack, attacking US politics. After his pardon and release, MacKenzie returned to Canada in 1849 and two years later was re-elected to Parliament. He then continued his radical ways, refusing several government offices on principal.

Of Scottish descent, though born in Lincolnshire, John Halford MacKinder greatly helped to raise the status of geography as an academic discipline, especially after the publication of his Britain and the British Seas, considered a landmark in British Geographical literature. When he began to read geography at Oxford in 1887, it was the first such appointment at any British university.

MacKinder's theories of a European heartland and his prophetic theory of the Atlantic Community became the basis for the formation of NATO. He had argued that the power of the European heartland could be offset by an alliance of Western Europe and North America, "a single community of nations." His warnings about the threat of eastern and middle Europe, especially the rise of Germany following the harsh conditions laid down at the Treaty of Versailles, were unfortunately largely ignored by the western powers. After the Second World War, however, influential people in the West began to take note.

M, continued

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