Agnes Mure Mackenzie


Scottish Historian & Writer

Daughter of physician and surgeon Dr Murdoch Mackenzie and Sarah Agnes Mackenzie (née Drake), Agnes was born in Stornoway on Lewis, then a busy fishing port. In childhood she was taken seriously ill with scarlet fever, the after-effects of which left her with poor hearing and eyesight. Educated at home until the age of fourteen, she then attended the Nicolson Institute until the age of seventeen. She then left Lewis for Aberdeen. As an undergraduate at the University of Aberdeen she studied English literature and edited the university magazine.

Her first novel Without Conditions was published in 1923. She was a prolific write challenging modern works of that time, including Shakespeare.

She produced A Historical Survey of Scottish Literature to 1714, published in 1933. This work also led to her 1934 biography of King Robert, Robert Bruce, King of Scots and historical novels for younger readers.  She published countless numbers of books related to Scottish History thereafter. A member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Mackenzie was not afraid to criticise Scotland's sacred cows, comparing John Knox to Adolf Hitler and describing John Calvin's Geneva as a totalitarian statelet. In 1941 she was elected as the Honorary President of the Saltire Society. Her 1942 pamphlet for the Society, The Arts and the Future of Scotland, rejected the idea of national art as proposed by Hugh MacDiarmid and J. D. Fergusson.

She was made a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1945 for services to Scottish literature and Scottish history. In 1951 she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Aberdeen. She died suddenly in Edinburgh in 1955. The Saltire Society established the Saltire History Book of the Year Award in her honour on the tenth anniversary of her death.


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