Thursday, November 3, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie May and June 1921

12 Marchmont Road

My Dear Colin

I think it is about time I was writing you again as it is some weeks since I did so. We have not had any word from you lately but we expect a few letters soon now.

I have now got clear of the Infirmary after eleven weeks.  In my last letter I told you that they had opened it up again & scraped it out well it did not heal up as quickly as they had expected so I got an xray plate taken, however the result was satisfactory so I was discharged although there is still a nasty mark left.

Since then I went to the dentist and got two teeth out and am now getting two more stopped. It is not a very nice job but it will save me a lot of trouble with them later on.

We got a note from the Military authorities in Brisbane saying that the War Gratuity had been paid into the Commonwealth Bank.

You will see from the papers that the coal miners are still out on strike.  It is causing a great deal of unemployment. Many factories have closed down and the railways have reduced their train service by 60%.

We are just going on with our work as usual at present as it is the only thing to do while this industrial unrest & trade depression lasts.  Hope you are well.

Yours & c


12 Marchmont Road
1st June 1921

My Dear Colin

We were glad to get two letters from you on Monday one to Mamma & one to Alex also one to John received today. We note what you say about conditions of trade in Australia.

You seem to be doing pretty well in your business.  In Mamma’s letter we received the bank Draft for £86-0-3 which we were very glad to see.  You did well in getting it attended to. Of course this money is Mamma's so she has banked it and will get herself attended to in regard to hearing, eyesight and dress & c.  You know Mamma’s eyesight is getting very bad; she cannot read now or thread a needle which is a great drawback to her as it was about the only little recreation she had.  However she went to an Eye Specialist a Mr Sym but got no more information from him than what she knew in Brisbane. He never mentioned Cataract so I don’t think she has that trouble. Yesterday she went to an Optitian (sic) but he could give her no glasses to help, he said it was just failing of the eyesight. I don’t think her hearing is any worse than when you saw her but she is going to get that attended to too; also her teeth are bothering her a little. So you see the money is very welcome to her. The firm I am with at Bonnyrigg is Henry Widnell and Stewart Ltd.  We have also a factory at Rosslyn and Eskbank. This is (I think) one of the largest carpet manufacturer in Scotland and is the only one working on full time just now. Every other one being closed down owing to the coal strike or rather for want of orders. We also make Velvet Table Covers and Furniture Moquette. Most of our trade is export a good per centage going to Australia. Nearly all the big firms we know in Brisbane buy from us either direct or through our agent.

Tomorrow is McDougall’s picnic so Alex will have a holiday. I hope he gets a good day. Alex also gets his summer holidays in a fortnight on Saturday. He is going to Balinluig again.
We have not yet started farming so are all in our respective jobs.

We are now into Summer and I must say that you can’t beat this country.  The trees with their big leaves (I had almost forgotten what they were like) are simply beautiful. Soo many different shapes and verities.

How is Mrs Reeve so slack in regard to boarders.

Hope you are keeping well as we are all here.

Your loving brother.


P.S. Postage after 12th June to Aust. Will be 3d per letter pretty stiff!! WMcK

Note from Alex

This will be the last of the letters because there is some great news to hand.  State Library of Queensland have accepted the donation from our library service so the items will be preserved properly.  Hoorah! I will miss the letters as I have grown quite attached to the correspondents but in my heart of hearts I am really relieved as they are very precious and old and need proper care.  

Also, because I promised Diane that I would reveal some news about Walter in a comment on a previous post, I feel obliged to finish the story somewhat.  Walter continued to stay in Scotland for a few years but then seemed to change his mind and returned to Australia in 1927.  However - most unfortunately - he contracted TB and succumbed very quickly.  He died at the Waterfall Sanitorium in New South Wales.  Colin was able to be with him when he died.  Weirdly I blogged about Waterfall before here.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie 6th April 1921

12 Marchmont Road

6th April 1921

My Dear Colin,

I don't think any of us wrote last week so I am just writing a short note to let you know that we are all right. We have not heard from you for a few weeks now but expect a mail soon.

You will see from the papers that we have another coal strike with the prospect of the railwaymen and transport workers joining. Just when things are beginning to right themselves we have more trouble. However things must be put on a self paying basis. Up till present the Government have had control of the mines and it is only now when they have let go the control that the coalowners are trying to reduce the wages. The railways are under government control too but it is later on when they are to be decontroled (sic). 

We are now getting into lovely weather and with the trees & bushes coming into leaf again and the birds busy; it makes this country perfect. We have the clocks put on one hour so that gives us fine & long light at night.

We had Aunt Kate and her "intended" here on the Glasgow Spring holiday 28th March. John was also through for that week end as he had the Monday too. Aunt Kate looks pretty much the same as when I went away (this is the first time I have seen her as I have not been through to Glasgow yet) Perhaps you have not heard that she is going to be married too (to a Mr Urquhart a widower with one child, a daughter of 3 years) Mr Urquhart is a painter and has just started on his own. He is a working man but as I only saw him for about 10 minutes at night I can not say much about him.

Mamma has been troubled with her eyes so she went to a Specialist but got no further information from him that what she already knew in Brisbane except that she had got cold behind the eyes and he gave her a bottle of medicine to take away the inflamation (sic). Her eyes are a little better now she thinks.

I am still attending the Infirmary as you see I have had a bad time too with my cheek.

Alex is busy at nights practicing the violin and I must say he is improving greatly.

Trade in this country is very depressed and jobs are scarce so the only thing to do is to hand on to whatever work we are at as we might be left outside altogether so we are all at our usual jobs. any one asking about me tell them I want to be remembered to them and especially Janet Campbell.

I hope you are keeping well yourself and doing well in your business.

Your loving brother


Note from Alex: Written in top left hand corner of letter pencil "Replied to 7/5/21". The photo is from the album dated 1921.

If you've just tuned in to the McKenzie story, you may want to read the introductory post here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie 6th March 1921

12 Marchmont Rd

6th March 1921

My Dear Colin

I was pleased to get your letter during the week and to see you had a good holiday at Redcliffe. Thank Mr Gibbs for the photos. We are not doing any photography just now as it is useless during the winter time here. We are now getting into Spring although we had snow yesterday morning but it soon melted away. The days are also getting much longer, the sun rising at 6.58am and setting at 5.52pm.

In my last letters I told you what I thought of the country and I am still of the same opinion and I am not sorry to be here as we are now getting into summer.

We are going to start a poultry farm sometime but as houses are so scarce and everything at it's (sic) worst we are waiting until things right themselves a bit and mainly because we want the "dough". I wish they would deal with houses a& land as they do in Qld instead of the old fashioned idea of feu-duty & ground annuals & c.

The cost of living is coming down now so we will be getting into better times soon I hope.

I told you I had an abscess in my cheek well I am still attending the Infirmary but hope to be discharged this week. This is all my news at present.

Your loving brother 


Note from Alex: Colin has marked top left hand corner of letter with Ansd 21/4/21

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie 20th February 1921

12 Marchmont Road
20th February 1921

My Dear Colin,

It is now some weeks since I wrote you but as I have been troubled lately with an abscess I left it to Mamma, A & J.

You know I suffered a good deal in Queensland with toothache well on my way home my left jaw was swollen a good bit so a few weeks after my arrival here I got my tooth taken out and the swelling went down a good deal but 5 weeks ago I must have got cold in it as it swelled up again so I went to a dentist to see if he could do any thing for me but he said it was beyond him and advised me to go to the Infirmary.  So I went and they put a needle or some such instrument into the swelling from the inside after having given me gas. A few days after that it certainly went down a bit but as the wound had head up it simply began to swell up again. So in I went again and this time they cut it from the outside; that is a fortnight ago yesterday and it is still not healed up. Of course they keep it open until it is quite clean. So if you are troubled with a rotten tooth get it out as it does not pay to have as much trouble with it as I have had.

We have had a very mild winter with only one fall of snow which only lasted 2 days but plenty of rain. The days are much longer already and spring is already showing signs of coming.

Things are not looking too well here at present as we have over 1 million unemployed in the country partly owing to trade unions and high wages and trade is very much depressed all over the world. However things are coming down in price which is a good sign.

Alex is at present taking lessons on the Violin and is making good progress. He also goes to an Orchestra on Sunday afternoons.

John is still doing well in Glasgow.

We had a letter from Mrs Hall of Northgate and a card from Mrs Smith of Sandgate and the seem to be feeling the rise of prices in Queensland.

Are you still staying with Mrs Reeve?

I suppose you are still keeping on your business quarters at 8 London Bank Chambers.  It is now over a year since you started.

I hope the people who bought my Banyo Land are still paying it up and if there is any chance of them paying cash for it.

This is all my news at present.

Your loving brother


Note from Alex: These photos are from one of the albums that were in the box dated 1921. I don't know who took the photos.  Alex and Walter both talk about taking photos in their letters.  I don't know who the lady is in the second photo.  Best guess is the boy's mother.  If you've just tuned in to the McKenzie story, you may want to read the introductory post here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie 26th December 1920

12 Marchmont Road
26th Dec. 1920

My Dear Colin, 

We were glad to receive three letters from you last night also 2 Daily Mails on Thursday last. You seem to have been having exceptionally severe weather with hailstones as large as eggs; I was wondering how the glass in the back verandah in our old Northgate House stood the storm.

I see the Labour Party have still a strong hold in Queensland. You would perhaps see from the papers how the Liquor referendum went in Scotland. One or two district in Edinburgh voted against Prohibition which we were surprised at as we thought a few of the better class districts would have gone "dry", not even one voting for reduction of licenses.

"Three Liquor Referendums." The Armidale Chronicle (NSW : 1894 - 1929) 1 December 1920: 2. Web. 29 Oct 2016 <>.

You mentioned in your letter to John that Cameron Bros did not receive a single bid at their sale of House properties. Business seems to be pretty bad in Australia just now from what I hear in fact I notice the prices are rising very high.

The firm I am with send carpets & co out to nearly all the big firms in Brisbane in fact we do a large Australian Trade.

We seem to have reached the high price limit here and a number of things are already dropping in price.  Since I arrived home sugar was 1/2 per lb and only 6 ozs were rationed to each person per week. If you required more than that we could get free sugar at 1/7 per lb but now it is all free which means that we can buy as much as we like and the price has fallen to 10ˀ per lb. Bread is going down also being ¼ˀ cheaper for the 2lb loaf this week.

The Edinburgh trams are now in the hands of the Corporation who are converting them slowly into sometime (sic) more mordern (sic).  Some routes they will electrify and others are already running with Motor buses. The Mound to Toll X was the first to be done and now the Comely Bank route is also a bus route. The buses are only one storey so do not hold as many passengers as the trams did but they go much quicker and look much nicer.

As for the Climate here when I arrived it was just before harvest time and a sight worth seeing after the dried up land of Queensland. The trees were lovely and green far beyond any you could ever see in Australia and then the fields with their rich crops of golden grain and deep green vegetation far exceed anything you see in Queensland. The weather too is not all wet and dark; summer time with its long glorious summer evenings is just perfect and even winter although the days are very short the sun rising at 8.46 am and setting at 3.37pm on 22nd Dec. has some fine days epecially in the country, the town however is rather foggy. We certainly get a lot of rain but I have never seen it so far come down as heavy as the average shower of rain in Queensland. In fact the winter time in Queensland with its Westerly winds (although it is much shorter than our winter here) is under the condition of living in Queensland just about as disagreeable as our winter here. Then the summer time here has no scorching heat and no vicious mosquitoes to spoil a decent country walk in the heart of a wood.

Conditions too have changed a lot, the workers now getting far better conditions shorter hours and no early start in the morning as they used to. Some of the routes in the Edinburgh Trams do not start until after seven. 

At the present moment however there is a terrible lot of unemployment mostly unskilled labour but on the other hand there is also a shortage of high efficient skilled men. There are thousands of unemployed in nearly every large town in the country in fact I think it is pretty general all over the world. If I wanted to get on I would need to study but as I intend to go in for Poultry it would be useless.

I have no intention of returning to Australia as I am satisfied that this is a more agreeable country to live in.

This is all my news at present

Hope you are well

Your loving brother Walter

Note by Alex: In pencil in the top left hand corner of this letter "Recd 19/2/21 Answered 20/2/21" in presumably Colin's hand.  Finding Creative Commons photos of Edinburgh in the 1920s was a bit of a challenge for me this morning so if anyone wants to offer advice in this regard, please do so.  I found two great sites for research - Canmore and Capital Collections but if you know of any others please share.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie 15th August 1920

If you've just tuned in to the McKenzie story, you may want to read the introductory post here.

Worker's dwelling at Banyo, Brisbane. Banyo is the name of an eastern suburb of Brisbane and a railway station on the Sandgate line. The name is an aboriginal word meaning 'a small hill' and was probably so called from the hill on which now stands Pope Pius XII Seminary. The railway station was originally called Clapton Junction, however the name was changed to Banyo in 1897 when it was intended to make it the junction for the North Coast line - this junction was subsequently made at Northgate. Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Negative number: 147209  Out of copyright

28 Comely Bank Place, 

15th August 1920

My Dear Colin,

We received a letter from you written on 27th June and addressed to Alex on Wednesday last and see that you are getting on all right. I have now got a job as a clerk at £2-10-0 per week at Bonnyrigg in Henry Widnell & Co wholesale carpet manufacturing firm.  So it is a start made and I will try and get a rise as soon as I can,. I see from the papers in London that there are more jobs in England and better paid ones. I could easily have got £3 or over in London or Manchester but as I wanted to be a at home I decided to take this one in Bonnyrigg. I have to start on Monday which is the same time as John starts in Glasgow.

Up to now we have not got fixed in a house yet. John & I have been round looking at ever so many different ones and also enquiring of an architect to see if we could build one but as things are so bad just now in the building line no one can give us an exact estimate as to the cost. At the present moment it would cost well over £1000 then there would be a fence to put round it and drain pipes to be connected up and in the event of a strike we would need to pay, above the estimated price the increase in wages or the increase in material if it should go up. So at present we have given up the idea of building one. We also enquired into the price of an army hut but that is even worse. The hut would cost about £150 and then £300 to erect it which would be value for £450 when it was up. 

I am enclosing two photos of Mr Gibbs which you might give him. I would have sent them out with my last letter but I must have forgotten. 

Next time you see Miss J Campbell tell her mamma wrote to her when on her voyage home and that she will be writing again soon. So will I.

Hoping you keep well

Your loving brother


P.S. How are the people paying up my land at Banyo also you can let us know how Haynes pays up the Petrie land and anything else you think I will be interested in. WMcK

Note from Alex: This blog also provides some great background reading on Henry Widnell & Co and carpet manufacturing in West Scotland.  Do watch the video - it gladdens a librarian's heart - a design library - who knew?  Also the photo chosen to go with this blog post was chosen as a point of comparison between Edinburgh and Brisbane and what it cost to build houses in each place at the time.  To my knowledge there is no connection between the dwelling at Banyo in the picture and the McKenzie family.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Walter McKenzie to Colin McKenzie 1st August 1920

The boy in this photograph has been identified as Edgar Tainton. (Description supplied with photograph.)This is an image of a horse drawn cart delivering bakery goods to suburban homes in Nundah district. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Negative number: 53417 
c/- Gillies
28 Comely Bank Place

1st August '20

My Dear Colin

I am now three weeks at home and have seen round Edinburgh a bit as I have got an idea of how things stand.  First of all prices of food are just we thought; not very bad except sugar which is 1/2 per lb. Rationed to ½ each person per week although there is also what they call free sugar at 1/7 ½ lb and can be bought in any quantity. Butter is 3/6 per lb. but we use margarine at 1/- per lb which works out at half the price we paid for butter in Northgate. Bread 6 ½ for 2lb loaf (same as in Qld) milk 8d per quart (1d cheaper than in Northgate. Meat is about 2/4 to 2/6 lb about double in  price of Qld meat. Then clothing is from 50% to 100% cheaper than Brisbane.  A good Blue serge suit to measure I could get at £6-2-6 and grey suit from £4-10-0 and looks perfect.  Shirts are about the same from 7/6 upwards boots the same as Brisbane.

Roughly things work out as follows.  Food each person per week 16/-. Clothing 5/- per week - £13 per year I think would keep you fairly decent.  

John wrote to you 3 weeks ago giving an account of himself so you will know he has got a job in Glasgow at £4-10-0 per week. He has to start on the 15th August so he left his work in time to meet me in London and come up to Edinburgh with me. Since then John and I have been hunting high and low for a house. It is absolutely impossible to rent one and so we have been trying to buy one.  John is going to buy one and the house will rent it from him.  Of course Alex is lending John some money to do so.  However we have been chasing round after different ones and find them absolute "take ins" not fit for pigs to live in or if they are respectable they go at a terrific price, beyond our means.  So the next thing we are trying is John will build one which will cost about £1050 for a brick building containing 3 bedrooms kitchen and scullery.  At present we are looking for a large piece of ground so as we can have poultry and market garden.  However until we can have something definite fixed we can't give you many particulars.  

The government is giving £260 towards the building of houses at present which is to encourage building so this would bring the price down to £800 for a house which is what we would need to pay for one if we were buying one that was built in pre-war times.  This £260 is entirely a gift and does not tie you to any rules as regards selling.  Builders can take advantage of it too but until the rents of house are put up to bring a decent return on their money they won't build.

So far I have been applying to a good many jobs in the papers but have not been successful yet.  

I hope you get the signed transfer which I posted to you from Adelaide.  You redirected a letter addressed to me which was from the Kedron Shire Council and containing the receipt of rates paid to end of 1920 which I am sending on to you in case you require it and as you have all the other papers in connection with my land.

How are you getting on with your business?  

I hope you are well

I am

Your loving brother

Walter McKenzie

Note from Alex, Colin wrote in top left hand corner of letter 11/9/20 Answered 12/9/20