Obituary: Ian James MacKenzie, civil servant
Born: 13 October, 1931, in Edinburgh. Died: 1 June, 2012, in Falkirk, aged 80.
Ian MacKenzie was an inspiring figure in the preservation of Scotland’s buildings and heritage. When he worked for Historic Scotland he did much to improve the attractions and the public facilities of the nation’s historic sites. His love of Scottish history and traditions ensured that those upgraded amenities at such world-wide attractions as Edinburgh and Stirling Castles made them more “user-friendly” and welcoming to visitors. MacKenzie realised, more than 30 years ago, the importance that tourism was going to play in Scotland’s economy.
It was MacKenzie’s foresight and drive resulted in the excellent shop along the cobbled entrance – and exit – at Edinburgh Castle. Similarly his contribution to the upgrading of Stirling Castle was enormous.
Sir Tam Dalyell told The Scotsman yesterday: “Iain played a significant role in the transformation of Stirling Castle. It is now one of the premier attractions of Scotland – superbly painted and is a spectacular showpiece of medieval Scotland. Other structures such as Arbroath Abbey, the barracks at Fort George, Smailholm Tower in the Borders all greatly benefited from the careful restoration under Iain’s sensitive direction.”
Iain James MacKenzie was the son of the chief accountant of the Department of Health in Scotland and after attending Daniel Stewart’s in the capital (now Stewarts Melville) he entered the civil service in Edinburgh in the Department of Health.
Poor eyesight had made him unavailable for military service but he was one of the team of civil servants which introduced the National Health Service to Scotland in 1949 – an institution which he passionately supported all his life.
MacKenzie remained in the Scottish Office until 1973 when he was transferred to Historic Scotland. It was an inspired appointment.
Not only did he have the drive and knowledge for such a demanding post but his diplomatic and patient manner meant he could deal with historians and academics who were not always in agreement.
Refurbishments of historic buildings can cause lengthy debate and diverging opinions. MacKenzie followed reasoned argument, studied the long and complicated legal documents, and found solutions before any work commenced.
MacKenzie was a man of action who got things done. He was a good listener and either had an answer as to how a monument could best be preserved or assured a local historical group that he would have an answer soon.
In the 1970s and 1980s, as the senior civil servant in Historic Scotland directly responsible for buildings, MacKenzie initiated the plans to improve the facilities at Edinburgh Castle.
From the shops, to the greatly improved viewing facilities of the Scottish Crown Jewels and the catering arrangements Mackenzie ensured the amenities were always in keeping with the existing buildings and were historically, and architecturally, correct.
Mackenzie and his colleagues at Historic Scotland and at Stirling Castle turned the castle and several buildings in the area into important sites for historians, students and tourists.
Their undoubted coup was to restore replicas of the 37 Stirling Heads – which depicted the faces of 16th-century historical figures – on the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall.
The project achieved its objective – to return the palace inside Stirling Castle to its former glory – and a special gallery was built to display the original Stirling Heads. This exemplary transformation of a much loved castle and the preservation of the Stirling Heads – known as “Scotland’s other Crown Jewels” – is a fitting legacy to represent MacKenzie’s career.
His concern for other local landmarks included Argyll’s Lodgings – one of the finest Renaissance townhouses in Scotland. It is situated close to Stirling Castle and has played a central part in Scottish history.
The architect, Neil Hynd, who saw through the Stirling project to completion, recalled: “At a moment when the whole Stirling Castle project seemed to stall, MacKenzie got the loose ends together and moved the project forward; he was good with politicians.”
MacKenzie had a determined zeal to see all these projects through and his canny eye for detail ensured budgets were kept to. Professor Roger Mercer, former secretary of the Royal Commission, sat on various boards with MacKenzie.
“I met Iain every three months and I principally remember him for his impish sense of humour. When discussions went on too long he had a way to reduce the chatter. The Stirling Heads are unique and Iain’s work to preserve them was remarkable.”
Mackenzie would regularly tour Scottish monuments and houses with noted historians such as the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, Magnus Magnusson, Sir Tam Dalyell and Professor Eric Fernie, inspecting prospective refurbishments and checking completed upgrading.
One of MacKenzie’s proudest moments was when Historic Scotland restored the Dallas Dhu Distillery in Banffshire, which had been closed down in 1983. MacKenzie ensured that Historic Scotland bought the distillery and it is now a popular visitor museum.
MacKenzie retired in 2001 to Fife where he and his son ran a salmon and trout farm at Loch Fitty.
More recently MacKenzie and his wife Florence (who was distinguished director of Scottish Churches Architectural Heritage Trust) moved to Falkirk.
They had married in 1957. She predeceased him and MacKenzie is survived by their son and daughter.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South