Sir Edward Montague Compton Mackenzie lived from 17 January 1883 to 30 November 1972. He was an author and novelist whose books such as "Whisky Galore" and "The Monarch of the Glen", and their film and TV adaptations, helped put little known parts of Scotland firmly on the map. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Mackenzie was born in Hartlepool in North East England into a theatrical family with Scottish roots. He was educated at St Paul's School in London and Magdalen College, Oxford where he studied Modern History. He was an ardent Scottish Nationalist who went to great lengths to trace his Scottish ancestry and explore Gaelic culture, leading one biographer to comment: "Mackenzie wasn't born a Scot, and he didn't sound like a Scot. But nevertheless his imagination was truly Scottish."
By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Mackenzie had published three novels. During the war he served with British Intelligence in the Mediterranean, later publishing four books about his experiences.
Between 1920 and 1923 Mackenzie became the tenant of the Channel Islands, Herm and Jethou. In 1928 he discovered and settled on the Isle of Barra in the Western Isles, later building a large house there. It has been suggested that Compton Mackenzie was the inspiration for D.H. Lawrence's short story "The Man Who Loved Islands", though this is something Lawrence later denied.
The first of Mackenzie's really enduring works, "Monarch of the Glen" was published in 1941. The seven TV series it inspired, between 2000 and 2005 were enormously successful, if some way removed from the spirit of the original book, which satirised the Anglicisation of Scottish nobility and had a distinctly Nationalist edge. Compton Mackenzie's most spectacular early hit, however, was with "Whisky Galore", published in 1947 and turned into a classic film which was made on Barra in 1949. This fictionalised real events that had taken place in 1941 when a cargo vessel bound for the United States with a cargo including 28,000 cases of Scotch Whisky had run aground on the island of Eriskay, an island visible from Mackenzie's Barra home.
In all, Mackenzie published around 100 books, including his ten volume autobiography and the six volume novel "The Four Winds Of Love", which one critic declared to be "one of the greatest works of English literature produced in the Twentieth Century." In 1923, Mackenzie co-founded the classical music magazine "The Gramaphone", and as a passionate Jacobite, he became the third Governor-General of the Royal Stuart Society. He was also involved in the establishment of the Scottish National Party in 1934.