William MacKenzie Update

Posted by The Bearkeeper on
Category: Local Stuff44 Comments

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Old, grainy photograph purported to be of William MacKenzie standing outside St Andrew’s Church.

Last year I told everyone the story of William MacKenzie – you can read the full story here but here is the short version. William Mackenzie was an Anglo-Scottish Civil Engineer and Civil Engineering Contractor who was one of the leading European contractors in the 1840s. He was born near Nelson, Lancashire, England, the eldest of the 11 children of Alexander Mackenzie, a Scottish contractor, and Mary née Roberts. He started his career as an apprentice weaver but changed to civil engineering, becoming a very successful civil engineer undertaking work on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway between Edge Hill and Lime Street. During his lifetime he amassed a large amount of money.

Local folklore has it that MacKenzie loved to gamble. He spent many evenings around the taverns of Rodney Street in Liverpool playing poker. He was not a very skilled poker player and as well as earning vast sums of money, he also gambled away large sums. One night he was playing poker against a dark, mysterious stranger and was losing heavily. He asked the stranger for one more chance to win back some of the money he had lost that evening and the stranger agreed – but only on one condition. The condition was that after William died and was buried six foot under consecrated ground his soul would belong to this stranger.

In desperation, William agreed and lost the hand. The stranger left but before doing so told William that he would be back to collect his prize after William’s death. William then realised that this dark, stranger was none other than Satan himself.

William was scared. What would happen after his death?

Mackenzie lived at 74 Grove Street, Liverpool, where he died in 1851. However, local legend has it that MacKenzie had thought of a plan to cheat the devil of his soul. He made plans for a pyramid to be built within the grounds of St Andrew’s Church in Rodney Street and that when the time came, he would not be buried six foot underground but would be entombed within the pyramid above ground and so cheat the devil of his prize. Also, as a two-fingered salute towards Satan, he was not entombed lying down but sitting up in a chair holding a winning hand of cards.

It makes a great ghost story and has even been featured in one of Tom Slemen’s Ghosts of Liverpool books. However, I have now discovered that the truth is a little different. William MacKenzie was indeed buried in St Andrew’s Church, Rodney Street, Liverpool in 1851. The pyramid-shaped monument was erected at the grave by his brother Edward but not until 1868. An inscription on the pyramid door reads: “In the vault beneath lie the remains of William Mackenzie of Newbie, Dumfriesshire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection AD 1868. The memory of the just is blessed.”

The inscription proves that MacKenzie was buried beneath (not entombed inside) the pyramid and that the monument itself was not erected until 16 years after his demise. Even so, the legend of his upright interment to cheat the devil continues to be told and believed by many.

Shame it has now been disproven, it was one of my favourite ghost stories.

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About the Author

The Bearkeeper

A sad and lonely old man who used to have a life but it has now been taken over by his dedication to the cause of saving Renault Bears, running Jammy Toast and searching eBay, car boot sales, charity shops, lofts and even under beds for his beloved bears. He has even now taken in Flat Eric to save him from homelessness – his life is no longer his own!

44 Comments on “William MacKenzie Update”

  1. I’ve read a few of his books. The early ones were quite good but these days he gets carried away with himself. It’s almost like he has run out of believable yarns and so is now using any old rubbish for a story.

  2. How weird I was only showing little Sis the pyramid last night! She nearly crashed the car trying to take a peek. Mind you she was all tarted up apparently she had been on a date wooo!

  3. It’s a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees,
    They’d build their nests at the BOTTOM of trees.
    And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),
    We shouldn’t have to climb up all these stairs.

  4. When you’re working on a Sunday and you answer the phone “Hello, (insert name of company here)” and they say “Oh, I didn’t think you’d be open on a Sunday” and you wonder why the fuck they rang up then.

  5. Bought far too much in our favourite veg shop in Southwold and couldn’t get it all in the fridge. Thought for a few minutes about how to solve the problem of the extra veg… you’ve guessed it… the soup is now simmering.

  6. Just been the car boot sale . Hundreds of pairs of Stone Island shorts and loads of Quad bikes up for grabs . The arse has fell out of the Coke dealing business. Gove has made it unfashionable .

  7. Mum has booked a posh restaurant as another treat for dad’s birthday. He is driving so she can have the wine… I don’t know what he sees in her!

  8. you have £400. your boyfriend texts and says he needs £200 and your ex texts and says he needs £100. How much you have left?

    £400 and 2 unread messages!

  9. If Scotland wins Mrs Bird has said we can have extra scones. If England wins Mr Brown says we can have extra large slices of Victoria sponge. Jonathan says that sounds like a ‘win, win’ already.

  10. When I was a kid, the only air conditioner we had was in my parents’ bedroom. My son just threatened to call child protective services because we’re out of freeze pops.

    My wife ran out and got more freeze pops because we don’t want any trouble!

  11. I’m at the airport and everywhere I look, people clutch little computers. The robot apocalypse we once feared turned out to be less like Terminator and more like Buck Rogers – because we’ve all become a buncha Twikis, each carrying our own Dr. Theopolis. 25th Century came early.

  12. when someone’s sat there telling you everyone’s fucking business and then they ask you how you are doing. well carol you gob on a fucking stick…


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