Famous Scots
- Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820)

Alexander Mackenzie was born in Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, in 1764. His family emigrated to North America when he was 12. Mackenzie worked for the North West Company as a fur trapper and trader and became convinced that there had to be a river route to the Pacific and set out to find it. On his first trip in 1789 he followed a river which the local indians called the "Big River". It was later to be called the Mackenzie River but instead of reaching the Pacific it ended up in the Arctic.

Three years later he began a voyage on the Peace River but, when it became impassable, the rest of the journey had to be completed overland on foot through the Rocky Mountains. He eventually reached the Pacific, carving on a rock the words "Alex Mackenzie from Canada by Land 22 July 1793."

He returned to Scotland, married the heiress to the Avoch Estate on the Black Isle and stayed there until his death in 1820. In 1998, an exhibition on his life opened in the village of Avoch, where he is buried.

In 1999, BBC TV showed a documentary on his life. True to the balance and political correctness of the age, the programme includes comment from the present-day chief of the Cree indians who believes that his ancestors should have treated him as an enemy and killed him - and so avoided all of today's problems!

Return to the Index of Famous Scots

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line