That Bluidy Mackenzie!

nancy-jardine-nov-2014This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Research and accessible libraries. I’m constantly accessing sources of historical information from various internet sites as I write my historical adventures. Often a simple question that I want answered will have me digressing for hours as I latch onto something only vaguely related to my initial inquiry, but which in its own right is engrossing.

kim traynor -creative commons

Over the last decade, I’ve found it increasingly easier to access useful information from highly respected online sources because that information has been gradually released for public use. Just days ago, I picked up a prompt from an author colleague that more visual information had been released via The National Library of Scotland, specifically photographs of my birth city of Glasgow which were taken during the 1860s. Though the photos indicate the absolute squalor that existed in the slums of Glasgow, they’ll be very useful for one of my writing projects that I temporarily shelved some months ago in favour of my most current writing. Viewing the portfolio of photographs made me appreciate how much information they contain and which I can access free of charge.


I’ve been to many public buildings in Edinburgh but not to the National Library of Scotland, though I’ve often passed it en route to somewhere else.  It’s possible to get access to reading rooms and Tourist Centre but thorough research in it is only practical if you live around our capital city. However, I have been using the online sources for years now and love how useful it can be. What I’ve never thought about before is how long the library has been functioning and who started it. Scottish history is full of positives and negatives and, in my opinion, is never dull!

Sir George Mackenzie -Wikimedia Commons

Skip back with me to March 1st 1682. According to one historical events site March 1st, 1682, was the day that the library started though not called ‘National’ at that time. Sir George Mackenzie was the current Lord Advocate, a member of the Scottish Parliament. (The original one before the 1707 Union of the Parliaments of Scotland, England and Wales but the dodgy politics of that can wait for another day!) George Mackenzie was also a member of the Privy Council of Scotland which meant advising the monarch, an extremely exalted position to hold.

He was reputed to be a learned man with literal tendencies. He wrote several books and essays—legal, political and antiquarian. As Dean of the Faculty of Advocates he was the founder of The Library of the Faculty of Advocates in 1682. By 1689, the building was formally inaugurated and the collection of works grew and grew.

In 1710, the Copyright Act meant the Library had the legal right to claim a copy of every book written in Britain. The collection continued and eventually outgrew its original building. In 1925 the collection became the National Library of Scotland, formalised by an Act of the UK Parliament. Since then the collection has been housed and re-housed in different places and we are now fortunate that much of it is available to the public online.

That’s all very commendable but where does the ‘Bluidy’ Mackenzie bit come from. As well as being a man of letters, Mackenzie was also in a position of power during many of the Scottish Witch trials that I’ve mentioned before on this blog. He was also responsible for the persecution of many of the Covenanters, sending large numbers to a nasty death, their tortured bodies buried near the Covenanters’ Prison in Edinburgh. The history of the Covenanters is a long one and would need a number of blog posts to cover but at the time, the adherents of the Protestant forms of Christian worship were greatly at odds with those who were of the Roman Catholic faith.

Mackenzie Mausoleum-Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh

Sir George Mackenzie is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard which is not far from the Covenanters grave site. It’s no real surprise that thousands of tourists flock past Mackenzie’s ‘Black Mausoleum’ as they partake of a ‘Graveyard Tour of Edinburgh’. There’s a heavy chain kept in place by a stout padlock across the door which it’s said is there  – not to keep the dead in, but to keep the living out! You can read the gory details here;:

I took that Graveyard Tour some years ago and it can be a creepy experience for many. Oh, the shivers? Well, I’m personally not normally inclined to spiritual occurrences so any frisson of feeling down my spine was probably due to the fact that it was a chilly September evening and that I was there with a bunch of ladies at a ‘Hen Do’ – during the fun-filled weekend spent with my daughter’s friends prior to her wedding in 2008.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I have Mackenzie blood in me on my mother’s side. I probably should get back to my ancestry studies and see if there’s any connection to Bluidy Mackenzie.  

Have a fun week!

Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures is set in first century northern Roman Britain.

new-twittterHer contemporary romantic mysteries are set in fabulous world-wide cities, Topaz Eyes being a finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014.

The Taexali Game, her Teen time-travel adventure, is set in third century Roman Scotland.

She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association,  The Scottish Association of Writers and The Federation of Writers, Scotland. 

You can find her at these places: Blog:  Website:   Facebook: & email:  Twitter @nansjar

Amazon Author page



18 thoughts on “That Bluidy Mackenzie!

  1. Nancy, your posts are always so interesting. I’m not sure how to react to Mackenzie story. As a librarian, I revere anyone who supports libraries, but as a Presbyterian… Years ago I was sitting in a tea room on Mull, eavesdropping on the conversation at a nearby table, four Americans over for a church conference, when I heard one say, “When I was at First Presby in San Antonio…” American Presbyterians love Scotland.


  2. Interesting blog. I have friends who claim to have seen ghosts, I have not. Not sure what I’d do if I saw one. I used to watch the ghost buster shows, but they were downstairs on tv in the family room late at night and my husband was upstairs in bed, and I got scared! Had to quit. While intriguing, it is so sad how many deaths have been caused due to religion, the opposite of what should happen. In my mind that shows how effective religion is, it wouldn’t be attacked if it wasn’t.


    1. thank you, Neva. I like to think I’m open minded about there being some other ancestral plane but till I experience something (anything new) I don’t know it. I think religion can be effective for many adherents, but not for all of humanity.


  3. Graveyard ghost tours often take on a life of their own. I once went on a tour given by a woman that had done several tours. During a tour she stepped off the path and her foot plunged into an old grave. It took two large men to get her foot out. If that was me that would have been my last tour.


    1. Oh, I think so, S.J. – except I’d not be conducting ghost tours in the first instance. I’m really a fearty!


  4. Oh my, I remember reading this during break at work, and now I realize I didn’t comment.

    What an interesting history, and of course you know me, I inhaled every word. Thank you! Doris


    1. No problem, Doris! I snatch a moment here and there, as well, to read blog posts and comments maybe have to come later.


  5. Great post, Nancy! I enjoy learning more about Scottish history, for, as you may recall, part of my husband’s ancestry comes from your country. I once portrayed a Casper historical character for a graveyard tour for a local group called Painted Past Productions — as I said, I “once” did it. Not that it gave me the creeps, but I’m not an actor; I subbed for someone who couldn’t work one of the evenings, and the leader of group was a friend of mine. But, the experience, and learning the part, certainly helped me know more Casper area history, and the people who were part of settling this area. Always fun to learn, and thank you for sharing your knowledge, about history and about writing, with the rest of us!


  6. If I could travel back in time, I’d avoid this Mackenzie. He’d be hunting me for ‘corrupted’ thoughts. Best to head to Ancient Rome for a week of debauchery with Nero. Hey, I’m kidding.


  7. Interesting info and fun facts, Nancy. I would love to do that graveyard tour. It’s amazing when you think about how much research is conducted online now. I remember the days of looking everything up at the library. Sometimes I miss that feeling of going to the library and getting lost in research, but then again, it’s so easy when it’s right here at my fingertips.


    1. Knowledge at your fingertips is great Sarah, but I have to say that walking the streets of old Edinburgh, or York, or Heildelberg, or Paris, and being part of a tour like the above adds a whole extra atmospheric dimension to the learning experience.


  8. Cher’ley – I don’t know anything about the MacVarnock name but John Kibble was certainly known in the west coast/ Glasgow area as being an inventor, scientist, engineer and photographer. He was the son of a wire and metal warehouse owner and they must have been doing well financially since they lived out of the city and near Loch Long. Those wealthy traders lived in large houses around the River Cyde estuary which had fresh air and fantastic views.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.