Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

John Forbes Cock Mackenzie


Doctor, surgeon

Personal Photo 1

John Forbes Mackenzie was an eminent physician and surgeon who practised in Clifton Hill and Collins Street for many years and was also consulting surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy. In 1940 a portrait of him painted by Max Meldrum won the Archibald Prize.

Dr Mackenzie was born in England of Scottish parents, Hugh and Mary, coffee planters in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He arrived in Australia as a child and attended Toorak College in 1893 and East Malvern Grammar School in 1894, passing matriculation subjects in both years as was common at the time. He enrolled in medicine at the University of Melbourne, achieving honours in Senior Descriptive and Surgical Anatomy in 1898. Early in 1902 he passed Medicine with First class honours in both Obstetrics and Diseases of Women, and  Surgery, and was awarded a Beaney scholarship in surgery.

If this youthful period of his life appears to indicate a privileged background, in reality it was a time of family upheaval. Like so many Melbourne people in the difficult 1890s period, his father Hugh Mackenzie had his fingers burnt in real estate and bank shares. In 1896 he appeared in court  insolvent with debts close to £30,000.  He engaged in poultry farming on 22 acres at Cheltenham, a property bought in Mary’s name and heavily mortgaged. Then in 1898 Mary died. Hugh re-married in 1900.

After graduating in April 1902, John Mackenzie worked at Melbourne Hospital, before spending some time overseas in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  In September 1905 Lieutenant MacKenzie married Jean Jackson Kirkaldy in London. Jean (called Jane on her birth certificate) was born in Glasgow but her family migrated to Australia when she was two, and she had travelled back to England with her widowed  aunt  Frances Smith Ellis in 1904. 

The young couple sailed home in 1907, landing two months before their first child, Ellis, was born. In 1909 Mackenzie took over the practice and home of Dr Haynes at 266 Queens Parade, next door to the National Australia Bank in North Fitzroy. This area formed a medical cluster with Dr Stock,  Dr T Taylor Downie, and Dr Bradford while over the road in Clifton Hill was Dr Horne.  In the ensuing years two more children, Mary and Ian, were born . 

As well as his Queens Parade practice Dr Mackenzie had professional rooms in Collins Street. He was making a name for himself as a physician and surgeon, was active in the St John Ambulance Association, for whom he gave local lectures on first aid and nursing, and enjoyed playing golf in his spare time. He and Jean holidayed at Queenscliff, and Jean took holidays in Sydney and Cairns. In 1914 they bought a house in Jean’s name on the south side of Queens Parade and replaced it in 1915 with a large house in the very up-to-date Arts and Crafts style, making a grand statement on the largely Victorian street. There was plenty of space for professional rooms as well as the family home, a driveway at the side for the doctor’s vehicle, and two live-in servants whose responsibilities included answering the door and telephone. 

When Ian was seven years old, the couple found that another infant was on its way, but this led to a watershed in the family’s life. Jean made a hurried will in June 1921, leaving the house to her husband. In July, she gave birth by Caesarean section to a stillborn daughter, and died herself  of a pulmonary embolus three days later. 

Mackenzie re-married in 1923, to Winifred Myers from Dunkeld, who was then in her late twenties.  A daughter, Joan, was born in 1926.  He and Winifred were often mentioned in the society pages, travelling to Sydney for the races, staying at the Peninsula Golf House in Frankston, attending concerts and balls, or staying at their holiday house Willow Cottage in Frankston. The fact that he had bought a Baby Austin (Austin 7) for his wife’s use rated a mention in the newspaper. As well as sharing her husband’s keenness for golf,  Winifred loved driving, competing in the Women Drivers Reliability Trial in 1937. 

However the advent of a stepmother had led to trouble with his son Ellis, who moved out of the family home in his twenties because of his ongoing disagreements with Winifred. A court case ensued in 1933 in which Winifred Mackenzie accused him of assault during an attempted visit, though the charge was dismissed. As part of this public airing of dirty linen, the defending counsel accused Mrs MacKenzie of indulging in  a life of ‘bridge parties and cocktails’ since her marriage, and spending inordinate amounts of money.

Life seemed to resume its normal course with many social engagements but suddenly, after the St Vincent’s Hospital ball in November 1936,  the two are no longer mentioned together. No divorce records have been located but it seems that the couple were definitely separated and there was no mention of Winifred in Dr Mackenzie’s will, written in 1959. In her later years she lived in Frankston where she died in 1980.

In 1938 the elder son Ellis Forbes Mackenzie graduated as a doctor. After spending some time as a Major in the Australian Army Medical Corps and marrying in 1943, he was appointed Metropolitan District Health Officer of the State Health Department in the 1940s. In this role he frequently featured in the press commenting on infectious outbreaks, the importance of inoculations for children, and food poisoning. He was instrumental in promoting diptheria inoculations and the triple antigen serum developed by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL).

Dr Mackenzie continued to occupy the house in Queens Parade until his death in 1970 at the age of 90, and the 1915 house continues to make a distinctive contribution to the streetscape of Queens Parade as a fine and representative example of Federation Arts and Crafts domestic architecture. It is rated individually significant in the City of Yarra Heritage Overlay  (HO330): ‘It displays typical features of the Federation Arts and Crafts architectural style popular in the first decades of the twentieth century in Clifton Hill and across Melbourne more broadly, including roughcast walls and chimney, both hip and gable roofs, prominent exposed rafters and projecting window bay with fishscale shingle cladding … a well-considered and carefully detailed example of a Federation Arts and Crafts house. The design, with main hipped roof, prominent front bay and central chimney, presents a picturesque composition of this architectural style, particularly within the commercial context of Queens Parade.’

Life Summary

Birth DateBirth Place
April 1879Croydon, Surrey, England
Spouse NameDate of MarriageChildren
Jane/Jean Jackson Kirkaldy, 18 January 1881 - 8 July 192123 September 1905, LondonEllis Forbes 31 October 1907-1975, Mary 1910-1964, Ian 24 May 1913; Katherine 5 July 1921 (stillborn)
Winifred Mary Myers, 1895 - 10 Feb 19801923Joan Forbes 30 April 1926
Home Addresses
Home StreetHome CityStatus of Building
266 Queens ParadeNorth FitzroyDemolished
105 Queens ParadeClifton HillExtant
Death DateDeath PlaceCemetery
14 March 1970Clifton HillFawkner Memorial Park (Presbyterian section)

The Age; The ArgusLeaderThe Herald; Weekly Times; Mercury and Weekly CourierThe AustralasianAdvertiser (Hurstbridge); The Herald; Punch; Table Talk; Weekly Times; Frankston and Somerville Standard; Daily telegraph (Sydney); Brunswick and Coburg Star; Advocate; The Prahran TelegraphThe Medical Directory 1905; The Medical Directory 1911; Yarra C231 Built Form Heritage Analysis GJM.

See Trove List “Forbes Mackenzie” for newspaper articles.

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