Florence MacKenzie: Assiduous fundraiser and treasurer of the Scottish Churches Architectural Heritage Trust

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The Independent Online

It would be fanciful to suggest that the medieval ecclesiastical, and indeed later ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland matches the glories of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Suffolk and several other English counties. None the less, there are many churches in dire need of repair, well worth rescue, dotted around Scotland.

Where rescue has taken place it has often happened as the result of the work and partial funding of the Scottish Churches Architectural Heritage Trust, a slim and effective dispenser of funds. For a quarter of a century its assiduous workhorse and dedicated secretary/fundraiser was Florence MacKenzie. The current chairman of SCAHT, George, Lord Penrose, a distinguished retired judge known throughout Britain as the leader of the Inquiry into Equitable Life, 2001-2004, told me, "Florence MacKenzie was committed to the conservation of Scottish church architecture, whether the focus of attention was on the exterior, as at Yester and Gifford in East Lothian, the medieval interior, as at St Marnoch's, Foulis Easter, Fife, or the setting of a little church such as St Magnus at Tingwall in Orkney.

"As director of SCAHT, Florence applied herself unstintingly in raising the funds required to keep up the work of the Trust and in ensuring that townscape and landscape continued to reflect the religious history of Scotland as expressed in its churches."

Florence MacKenzie made sure that SCAHT was ecumenical in the distribution of its funds. However, the church of Scotland was the main recipient and Marion, Lady Kerr-Fraser LT (Lady of the Thistle is the Scottish equivalent of the Lady of the Garter), Lord High Commissioner representing the Queen at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1994-95, recollected, "Florence's integrity of purpose and quiet efficiency allowed her to assess just what each trustee or advisor could most effectively contribute. With uncanny skill and gentle humour she brought the best out of her colleagues in the proper use of funds which she had so expertly assembled.

"The preservation of Scotland's churches mattered deeply to her, both as historic ecumenical legacies and as places of present-day worship. Many congregations have been encouraged by her genuine interest in their well-being as they saw their beloved churches restored to good condition. Florence led her forces, pressurising from behind, but her sense of purpose was always directly dedicated to the aims of the Scottish churches."

Florence Miller was born the daughter of an LNER official in Bathgate who had been an infantryman badly wounded in France in the Great War. Her father's lifelong affliction made her passionate against war and in her belief that the peoples of the world, particularly the churches, should come together. In June 1957, while she was working as a laboratory technician in Bangour Hospital, famous in Europe for its pioneering burns unit, she married Iain MacKenzie, who was to become Principal of the Ancient Monuments Division and Secretary of the Board of Ancient Monuments, Historic Scotland, responsible for maintaining and scheduling much of the Scottish building heritage.

As a member of the Board, my wife Kathleen saw at first hand Florence's considerable organisational skills and her kindness in supporting her dynamic and energetic husband. There were the annual Board tours on which Members were taken to specific sites to study in situ before making their judgements. After retirement the MacKenzies bought a small loch, Loch Fitty in Fife, and developed a fish farm.

Tam Dalyell

Florence MacKenzie, laboratory technician and secretary-treasurer, Scottish Churches Architectural Heritage Trust, 1980-2009: born Edinburgh 23 January 1935; educated, Bathgate Academy; laboratory technician, Bangour Hospital; MBE; married 1957 Iain MacKenzie (one son, one daughter); died Stirling 1 January 2010.