10 / August / 2020
01:39:31

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10 Siam Teak logging with elephants

When Alice Barringer Mackie died in 1977 at the age of 92, she had outlived all her peers. My father James Ogilvie (Peter) Mackie was the oldest member of her family, and had been to visit her twice in the early 70s. She left a great many of her possessions and a sizeable sum of money to her New Zealand family, as none of her half-brothers, Sister or half-sisters had children. Only my Grandfather, who had 6! I am the youngest of his oldest child Peter’s 3 Children. With our parents passing, most of the archives that came from Alice and my Father and Mother have come into my care. They include many photo albums, and historic documents associated with my grandfather’s family in England. Notably a collection of Sir James Mackie’s (Alice’s father) papers, wills, birth and death certificates, numerous correspondence and records of all sorts, as well as the evidence of Alice’s life - probably largely unknown to her family. These I have organised and carefully stored for the next generation if any are interested.

The picture that emerges is of a life lived well. She travelled extensively and was good with money. She never had to work in her life, but was also generous to her family in New Zealand who had fallen on bankruptcy and hard times before and during the great depression. For example, when her brother (Our grandfather) died in 1938, she stepped in to put my Aunts through boarding school, and helped financially too. Apart from my father, none of the Mackie family met her as an adult. Her last visit to New Zealand was in 1928. She came in 1924 too, but the later visit must have been very harrowing, as grandfather was declared bankrupt and gran dmother Doris was in hospital. She found herself in charge of the children – she had never cooked in her life! However, she rose to the occasion then, and helped the family to start a new life as market gardeners in partnership with Doris’ family.

We know this because she kept a diary. I have most of the surviving ones, the exception being her WW1 diaries which are in the care of the NZ Army Museum (I have copies of these). The diaries document her extensive travels, often as a friend and photographer for an eminent Entomologist; Professor Cockerell, an Englishman based at the university of Colorado. The relevant diaries have been to the Cockerell collection at the university of Colorado and been digitised due to her association with the Professor. She also carried with her a film camera, hence these uploads to YouTube so that they can be viewed by the wider family and others. I remember accompanying my father to the National Film Unit in Mirimar in the 70s to look at some of the reels that she had preserved, and recently found 2 VHS tapes when going through his things. I have had them copied to a digital format, and tried to group them logically, with only limited success.

One thing I am sure of, is that not all of them are on the two tapes. I clearly recall seeing shots of Professor Cockerell in a white suit with a long beard in the Congo – this is absent. All the original reels have been lodged with the NZ Film Archive since 1987. Presumably they have never been taken out of their cans since that day. I have twice tried to find out about them, but no one bothered to get back to me. I am sure they are not catalogued for content, and are just listed as “16 cans of 16mm film – Travels in Europe and Africa – 1930s” in their acknowledgement letter. Dad checked in 2000, and in a note observes “…they did not want to know any background to the films.....probably because they had not had any interest or requests to see the films. I left it at that”. So, there they remain, and these uploads are all that I have to share. Perhaps I shall have another go sometime and see what I can discover. I do still have 2 reels with me however, and I shall have them copied at some stage. One is labelled Morocco, and the other carries no information.

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