Mackenzie, John (1806-1848) (DNB00)

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MACKENZIE, JOHN (1806–1848), Gaelic scholar, was born on 17 July 1806 in the parish of Gairloch, Ross-shire. His father, Alexander Mackenzie, held some lands on the north side of Lochewe, and claimed kinship with the lairds of Gairloch. The family had been in comfortable circumstances, but misfortune had overtaken it. Mackenzie left the parish school of Gairloch at an early age, and was apprenticed to an itinerant carpenter and joiner of the district. During his wanderings Mackenzie began to write down the popular songs and airs which he heard sung. An accident met with while at work compelled him to return to Gairloch, and there he collected the poems of William Ross [q. v.], which were then only preserved orally. The volume was published in Inverness in 1830, and contained a prefatory memoir by Mackenzie. With a view to publishing other of the poems which he had collected, he went to Glasgow in 1833, and he published a second edition of Ross's poems there in 1834. In 1836 he was appointed a book-keeper in the Glasgow University printing-office, and sold his collection of Gaelic poetry to a publisher. The book appeared in 1841, under the title of 'The Beauties of Gaelic Poetry,' and it occupies a position in Gaelic literature second only to the collections that have been made of Ossian. It contained biographies in English of thirty-six of the better-known authors, and an introduction, also in English, on the history and poetry of the Celts, contributed by James Logan [q. v.], author of 'The Scottish Gael.' Mackenzie afterwards prepared a Gaelic history of Prince Charles, and edited a collection of Gaelic Jacobite songs, both volumes appearing in 1844. Entering the service of Messrs. Maclachlan & Stewart, an Edinburgh firm of publishers, he translated several theological works (infra) into Gaelic, edited the last edition of Duncan MacIntyre's [q. v.] poems, compiled the English-Gaelic part of MacAlpine's 'Gaelic Dictionary,' and assisted with the editing of the Gaelic magazine 'Cuaitear nan Gleann.' In 1847 he issued a prospectus of an enlarged edition of 'The Beauties of Gaelic Poetry,' but died at Poolewe on 19 Aug. 1848, before the project was carried out. His materials seem to have disappeared. A monument was erected by public subscription over his grave in 1878 (cf. Celtic Mag. 1877).

Mackenzie's original work is insignificant, and he included only one song of his own in the 'Cuaitear.' He translated or edited about thirty different Gaelic works, including, besides those mentioned, Baxter's 'Call to the Unconverted,' Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress,' 'World to Come,' &c, Dyer's 'Christ's Famous Titles,' and Dr. Guthrie's 'Christian's Great Interest.' Mackenzie's English-Gaelic part of MacAlpine's 'Dictionary' is published separately.

[An account of Mackenzie, written from information supplied by his brother, appeared in the Celtic Mag. vol. ii.]

J. R. M.