George McKenzie (Senior) 1827 – 1897
George McKenzie senior started work as a master carver and gilder in Paisley, Scotland. By 1861 he had a studio and, after a brief spell in Edinburgh around 1880, he returned to Paisley and operated as a photographer until 1895. He Died in 1897.
1851 – age 23 at 16 High Street, Paisley with his mother Ann McKenzie (aged 48 and head of household). Occupation – master carver and gilder.
1861 – age 33 at 20 High Street, Paisley with four children. Occupation – photographic artist
1871 – age 44 at Raschank in Erskine, Renfrewshire with eight children and employing 3 men and 2 girls. Occupation – photographer.
1881 – age 54 at Willowbrae House, Duddingston, Edinburgh with six of his children (his wife had died in 1880). Occupation – photographic artist.
1891 – age 59 (sic) at Auchencairn in Paisley with second wife Elizabeth and one month old son, Edmund. Occupation – photographic artist.
George McKenzie was born on the 7th July 1827 in Coaltown of Balgonie, Fife, Scotland to George McKenzie (Gentleman’s Servant ?) and Ann McKenzie (nee Millar, daughter of Richard Millar, a weaver of the parish of Markinch and his wife Grace Phillips).
In the 1851 census, George was 23 and recorded as being at 16 High Street, Paisley with his mother Ann McKenzie (aged 48 and head of household). George’s occupation showed him to be a master carver and gilder.
On September 18th 1851 George married Janet Fergus in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland.
In July of the following year, 1852, their first son was born and he was called George junior. George grew up to be a photographer as well – see his biography here.
George junior was followed by Walter Fergus McKenzie (1854), Charles McKenzie (1856), John Wilson McKenzie (1858), William Thom McKenzie (1859) and Alexander McKenzie (1860).
In the 1861 census, George was 33 and was at 20 High Street, Paisley with four children (although he had 6 sons by that time). His occupation was stated as a photographic artist.
Between 1851 and 1861, George opened his first studio at 16 High Street Paisley. He was definitely operating from that address in 1862.
More children were born. They were Matthew Keddie McKenzie (1862) and Alfred McKenzie (1864) – both born in Paisley.
George’s mother, Ann, died on the 5th October 1863 at Milton, Glasgow, Scotland at the age of 64. George’s death certificate, in 1897, shows his parents as George McKenzie and Mary Thom so it would seem that his father married again sometime after the death of his mother in 1863.
By 1866, Norman McKenzie was born at Langbank, Renfrew, Scotland followed by Homer McKenzie (1868) and lastly, Harold McKenzie (1870), in all eleven boys and no girls.
Florence MacKenzie, George’s granddaughter, is said to have often talked about hearing stories of her grandfather leading all of his boys into church every Sunday, everyone in their Scottish kilts!
The 1871 census shows George, aged 44, at Raschank in Erskine, Renfrewshire with eight of his children and employing 3 men and 2 girls. His occupation is given as a photographer.
In 1878, for some reason, George decided to uproot his family and moved across the country to open a studio at Willowbrae House, Piershill in Edinburgh. George may also have opened a second studio in Edinburgh.
On December 18th 1880, George’s wife Janet McKenzie (nee Fergus) died at Willowbrae House of an ‘organic disease of the liver’ at the age of 52. Both George’s and Janet’s names were spelled Mackenzie on the death certificate.
In the census of 1881 George, at 54, was still at Willowbrae House, Duddingston, Edinburgh with six of his children and he is still shown as a photographic artist. The census also shows two of his sons, Charles & Matthew, to be photographic artists.
Maybe because of the death of his wife, George decided to move back to Paisley in 1881 and appears to have had a studio in Edinburgh and Paisley open simultaneously – maybe for just a short time.
George’s new studio in Paisley was at 5 Gilmour Street which he advertised in trade directories until at least 1883.
On the 3rd June 1890 George got married again, this time to Elizabeth Porter in the parish of Dunbar, County of Haddington, Scotland. The marriage certificate states that George was 56 (should be 63!) and Elizabeth was 27. He was still a photographer.
In 1891, the following year, a son was born on the 10th March at Auchincairn House, Glasgow Road, Paisley. He was registered as Edmund Porter MacKenzie (not McKenzie).
The 1891 census records George at Auchencairn in Paisley with his second wife Elizabeth and their one month old son, Edmund. George was listed as a photographic artist.
George lived only six more years and died on the 5th March 1897 at Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland.
He died after three months of paralysis, possibly caused by a stroke and was spared the terrible tragedy of losing three of his sons in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
The Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette of the 6th March 1897 reported:
DEATH OF MR. GEORGE MACKENZIE
Another of Paisley’s old and respected citizens passed away at an early hour yesterday morning , March 5, 1897, in the person of Mr. George Mackenzie, photographer. Though not a native of Paisley, Mr. Mackenzie was associated with the town for a long period of years, and it was here that he established and built up his successful business as a photographer. The deceased gentleman was but a boy in his “teens” when he left the home of his fathers in Markinch, Fife, and journeyed to Edinburgh to apprentice himself to the trade of a carver and gilder. After working for some time as a journeyman tradesman, he left the capital and came to Paisley to be foreman to Mr. Wm. Cross, picture-frame maker, Gauze-street. With the desire of improving his position he left the employ of Mr. Cross and started business on his own account at 16 High Street. But all this time the young man was devoting every available moment to the study and practice of photography – an art at that time but in its infancy and very little known. No inconsiderable degree of success attended his labours; and as his friends were quite willing to be experimented upon, Mr. Mackenzie made considerable progress in his taking of pictures. Daguerre in France, and Talbot in England were still alive; the former the discoverer of the process by which the so-called Daguerrotype portraits were produced, the latter the discoverer of the process of Talbotype (or Calotype) negatives from which other pictures could be produced. Mr. Mackenzie kept himself well in touch with all that was being said and written on these interesting topics, and ultimately he resolved to construct a lens and try to take a portrait himself. To accomplish this was a task of no ordinary difficulty, there being no large works devoted to their manufacture such as now exist. Mr. Mackenzie’s first lens, which was composed of an ordinary watch-glass cemented to a piece of plate-glass, the cavity thus formed being filled with water, was made for him by Mr. Liddell, chemist, and after its manufacture a brass-founder had to be sought out to make the fittings for it. In the year 1850, Mr. Mackenzie made the hazardous venture of starting as a photographer, and had the distinction of being not only the first photographer in Paisley, but also in the West of Scotland. His enterprise was fittingly rewarded, and fifteen years later he removed to more commodious premises which he had erected for himself at No. 5 Gilmour Street. At first, Mr. Mackenzie’s photographs consisted of “coloured portraits on glass,” or “positives”, as they were called by Sir John Herschel, to distinguish them from “negatives”, a name which has now become very familiar. The introduction of the system of taking prints from the negatives ended the reign of the positives. These prints were mounted on small cards and were called by the French “Cartes de Visite” or Visiting Cards – now known as C.D.V.’s This fashion became very popular and increased considerably the trade of the photographers, but while it added to Mr. Mackenzie’s business it had at the same time the effect of bringing other competitors into the field. Notwithstanding competition, however, Mr. Mackenzie remained the leading photographer in town, the high reputation he had earned for the excellence of his productions bringing him sitters from far and near. About the year 1880, Mr. Mackenzie started a “studio” on the outskirts of Edinburgh, but this venture proving unsuccessful, after a two or three years’ trial, he gave it up and returned to Paisley. He continued to work at his profession until May of last year, when, after forty-six years of photography, he retired from active life. Until about three months ago he was in the enjoyment of fairly good health, and his friends were hopeful that a life of so great activity would be crowned with a long period of well-earned rest. These anticipations, however, were shattered by a sever attack of paralysis which deprived him of the use of the right side and the power of speech. Mr. Mackenzie never rallied from this attack, and as already mentioned, he passed away yesterday morning. Though never identifying himself with political or public matters, Mr. Mackenzie was well known, his refined nature and quiet and kindly manner winning for him many friends. For a number of years he held the office of elder in George Street U.P. Church, but this connection was severed when Mr. Mackenzie went to Edinburgh, and on his return to Paisley he became a member of the Abbey Church. The deceased gentleman was twice married and is survived by a widow and family. (as transcribed by Linda Walker)
To date, further records cannot be found for Elizabeth.
Father – George McKenzie born 1819, Markinch, Scotland
Mother – Ann Millar, daughter of Richard Millar, a weaver in the Parish of Markinch and Grace Phillips. Ann died on the 5th October 1863 at Milton, Glasgow, Scotland
Born 7th July 1827 in Coaltown of Balgonie, Markinch, Fife, Scotland
Baptized 15th July 1827
Married (1) 18th September 1851 in Paisley Low Church, Renfrew, Scotland to Janet Fergus (born 2nd February 1828 and died 18th December 1880)
Child 1 George McKenzie junior. Born 5th July 1852 at Paisley Middle Church, Scotland and died 16th April 1894 in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland
Child 2 Walter Fergus McKenzie. Born 2nd April 1854, Paisley, Middle Church, Scotland
Child 3 Charles McKenzie. Born 20th March 1856, Paisley, High Church, Scotland
Child 4 John Wilson McKenzie. Born 1st January 1858, Paisley, High Church, Scotland
Child 5 William Thom McKenzie. Born 18th February 1859, Paisley High Church, Scotland
Child 6 Alexander McKenzie. Born 18th December 1860, Paisley, High Church, Scotland
Child 7 Matthew Keddie McKenzie. Born 23rd February 1862, Paisley, High Church, Scotland
Child 8 Alfred McKenzie. Born 7th January 1864, Paisley High Church, Scotland
Child 9 Norman McKenzie. Born 17th March 1866, Langbank, Renfrew, Scotland
Child 10 Homer McKenzie. Born 8th September 1868, Langbank, Renfrew, Scotland and died of consumption on the 21st August 1889, Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland
Child 11 Harold McKenzie. Born 9th August 1870, Langbank, Renfrew, Scotland
Married (2) 3rd June 1890 in the parish of Dunbar, County of Haddington, Scotland to Elizabeth Porter – age 27.
Child 12 Edmund Porter MacKenzie. Born 10th March 1891 at Auchincairn House, Glasgow Road, Paisley. Killed in action in the First World War on 7th. January 1916. He was a sergeant in the 17th. Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.
Died 5th March 1897, Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland.
Compiled by Ron Cosens © www.cartedevisite.co.uk
- Linda Walker (great granddaughter of George McKenzie Junior), family historian, who provided the information for the life story above
- Sandy Barrie for trade directory information
- Ron Cosens for images from the Victorian Image Collection
- Photographers in Western Scotland to 1914, by Richard Torrance
George McKenzie – Gallery