I’ve decided to write a historical fiction series based on the life of William Nelson Mackenzie, my great-great-great-grandfather.
It’s an interesting project for me to undertake because he did in fact live a very interesting life during an incredibly interesting time (1828-1891), but there are many, many gaps in my knowledge about him. This is both a blessing and a curse, though, as it makes it less of a true story, but it gives me a lot of creative freedom to tell the best possible story.
Mackenzie was born and raised in Scotland in 1828, but this chapter of his life is the biggest mystery, as records are hard to come by. I know that he had a Scottish father and an English mother, and was raised in Lanarkshire, a lowland county. Now, Mackenzie was one of the great Highland Clans, but the clan system had been largely suppressed and dismantled in the 1700’s, just a few generations before Mackenzie’s life. I want to describe and explore the Jacobite Risings and subsequent Highland Clearances as a prelude to his birth.
I also know that William Mackenzie was a Presbyterian, and his life in Scotland coincided with a very fraught time for the Church of Scotland. The heart of the issue was the insistence of adopting Episcopacy by the English government; which many Presbyterians resisted. This was a formative experience in his life.
Already, my fictionalized (and idealized) character is coming together. He’s a Highlander in the Lowlands. A Scot born to an Englishwoman. A Presbyterian being told to accept Episcopacy. It’s a portrait of a character that has no place in the world, that feels like an outsider in his home. What might one do under such circumstances?
The next fact I’m aware of, is that, aged 16, William Mackenzie left Scotland on a merchant ship, never to return.
The first book in this series would focus on all of this conflict and duality while also painting a vivid picture of Regency Era Scotland.
Stay tuned for updates about the rest of this series.