FIR HILL

1899 – 1929

Mackenzie-Grieve family

Canadian connections

 

We know from his will that Capt Frederick Mackenzie-Grieve had owned farmland in Alberta, Canada but the whole family had strong links with Canada. It is clear that he and his wife spent long periods of time in Canada and that Fir Hill was rented out during their absences. For example, church records in Droxford show that Henry Hamilton Bridge (not as far as we know related to the earlier Hamilton owners of Fir Hill) was living at Fir Hill in 1907 when, aged 63, he married Laura Beatrice Douglas, aged 29. Two of Capt Mackenzie-Grieve's sons, Eric and Kenneth, emigrated to Canada, as did his daughter Louisa who married Alik Martin in British Columbia in 1910.

 

Alik Martin joined up with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in August 1914. Alik and Louisa, together with their two sons, lived at Fir Hill with Louisa's parents during the First World War. Alik was wounded first in 1915 and again in 1916, was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross. He died in action in France on 23 March 1918. He is commemorated on the First World War In Memoriam plaque in St Mary & All Saints, Droxford. After Alik's death, Louisa took her sons, Dermot and Patrick, back to Canada where they all settled.

 

Another son, Alan Mackenzie-Grieve (Commander RN), also had a distinguished First World War record and in June 1918 was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur for distinguished services rendered during the war.

Left: Mrs Charlotte Mackenzie-Grieve mid to late 1860s.

Right: Mrs Mackenzie-Grieve at Fir Hill, date unknown but probably 1920s.

Above: Louisa aged 21 and Kenneth MacKenzie Grieve aged 19 in 1899 or 1900

Right: Louisa Mackenzie-Grieve aged 18 in 1896 or 1897

Far right: Dermot and Patrick Martin (Louisa and Alik Martin's sons) in 1918

Alik Martin at Fir Hill in 1914 or 1915

L to R: Alik Martin, Kenneth Mackenzie-Grieve and Capt Frederick Mackenzie-Grieve in 1915 or 1916

Mackenzie-Grieve family photographs from Louisa Martin's album, kindly provided by her grandson Evan Martin.

Memorial plaque for Alik Martin and others in St Mary & All Saints, Droxford.

Atlantic non-stop flight

 

After the First World War, Capt Mackenzie-Grieve's son, Lt Commander Kenneth Mackenzie-Grieve, attempted to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. Though in the Navy, Lt Commander Mackenzie-Grieve was a passionate aviator and became the navigator to Harry Hawker’s pilot of the small Sopwith aeroplane that took off from Newfoundland on 18 May 1919.

 

Blown miles off course by storms and with their radiator overheating, probably caused by its having been fitted back to front, Hawker and Mackenzie-Grieve realised that they had no choice but to ditch the plane in the Atlantic having covered just 1,100 miles. After searching the sea lanes they spotted a Danish steamer, the Mary, and ditched the Sopwith in the sea two miles ahead of her. They were rescued by the ship after 90 minutes in the water and brought back to England.

 

The Mary did not have a radio and so everyone back home assumed that the pilots had perished. When the Mary passed the Butt of Lewis telegraph station, it signalled ‘Saved hands Sopwith aeroplane’. News of their rescue was flashed to London and the Daily Mirror realised that they had a potential scoop since no one in Droxford had yet heard the news. 

 

The newspaper hired a small plane to fly a reporter down to Droxford and the plane landed on the Corhampton golf links. The Daily Mirror reporter was thereby the first person to break the news to Captain and Mrs Mackenzie-Grieve and to record their happy reaction. Both Hawker and Lt Commander Mackenzie-Grieve became nationally famous. King George V awarded them both the Air Force Cross. Lt Commander Mackenzie-Grieve returned to Droxford to a hero’s welcome and together with Harry Hawker wrote a book about their adventure in 1919. His portrait was also painted in 1920 by Ambrose McEvoy, who had been attached to the Royal Naval Division between 1916 and 1918 and so painted a number of distinguished sailors and soldiers.

 

WWI had resulted in enormous advances in aircraft design and as soon as the war ended there was a rush to be the first to fly across the Atlantic. The May 1919 attempt of Harry Hawker and Kenneth Mackenzie-Grieve ended in failure, but even while they were in the air, an American, Albert Read, was successfully piloting his US Navy Flying Boat, a Curtiss NC-4, in a solo flight from Newfoundland to England, with stops in the Azores and in Lisbon. His journey took 15 days, taking off from Newfoundland on 16 May and landing in Plymouth on 31 May.

 

A month later, on 14 June 1919, the second English attempt to be the first to fly the Atlantic non-stop was successful. John Alcock and Arthur Whiten-Brown took off from St John’s, Newfoundland in their Vickers Vimy plane and landed at Clifden, Ireland on 15 June 1919.

 

The first successful solo non-stop Atlantic crossing had to wait until the famous American pilot, Charles Lindbergh, achieved it eight years later when he took off from Mineola, New York in his Ryan Mono-plane on 20 May, landing in Paris on 21 May 1927. 

The Sopwith plane ‘Atlantic’ in which Hawker and Mackenzie-Grieve made their transatlantic attempt.

Source: flyingmachines.ru

Letter from Lt Comm Mackenzie-Grieve to his father at Fir Hill, recovered from the mail bag that was in the Sopwith.

Source: Siegle Auctions

Mackenzie-Grieve legacy

 

Charlotte Mackenzie-Grieve died at Fir Hill, aged 75, on 7 October 1928 and her husband shortly followed her, aged 81, on 11 April 1929. Under Mrs Mackenzie-Grieve’s will, dated 14 November 1922, which received probate on 16 January 1929, she appointed her husband sole executor and left him everything. Her estate had a net value of £409 (£20,200/£107,000/£149,000). Captain Mackenzie-Grieve’s will, dated 3 November 1928, received probate on 10 August 1929 and he left a net estate of £36,459 (£1,820,000/£9,390,000/£13,000,000).

 

He directed that Fir Hill and its contents be sold on his death. He left a legacy of £30 (£1,500/£7,750/£10,700) to his head gardener, Ernest Parker, of Parker’s Cottage in Mill Lane, Droxford. The rest of his estate was left to his children and grand-children, some of whom had emigrated to Canada.

 

Both Mrs and Captain Mackenzie-Grieve are buried in the churchyard of St Mary and All Saints, Droxford.

 

Captain Mackenzie-Grieve’s obituary described him as ‘a staunch churchman and a most generous donor to all social activities connected with the village’ (HRO: 217M84/40). He had been the Manager of Droxford School, which for many years was housed in the building off the square that was later converted into the Droxford Village Hall.

Lt Commander Kenneth Mackenzie-Grieve (L) and Harry Hawker (R)

Source: Kingston Aviation

Above: The Mackenzie-Grieves at Fir Hill, 1919.

With thanks to Stuart Attrill.

Above: Lt Comm Mackenzie-Grieve painted by Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927). 1920.

Source: The Athenaeum

Crowds at King’s Cross, London await the arrival of Harry Hawker and Lt Comm Mackenzie-Grieve. Hawker was Australian, hence the flag bottom right.

 Gravestone of Capt and Mrs Mackenzie-Grieve

Research, words and web design by Matthew & Georgy.

 

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