Angus William Rugg
A.W.R. MacKenzie was
born on June 24, 1891, at Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland. He was the
son of John MacKenzie and Georgina Thomasina Rugg, the third of their
nine children. He left Scotland for the United States in 1913. He
enlisted in the US Army during WWI. After the war he moved to Canada and
attended the University of Saskatoon between 1922 and 1925. He went on
to enter the ministry. In
1929 he graduated from the Presbyterian College in Montreal. He was
ordained and took up a position at the Presbyterian church in
Spencerville, Ontario. There he met and married Angie Brownell. In 1935
the MacKenzies left Spencerville for a posting at Knox Presbyterian
Church in Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
A.W.R. MacKenzie got
involved in a committee that was planning to mark the 100th anniversary
of Scottish Gaelic settlement in Victoria County. Though he himself was
not a Gaelic speaker, he was passionate about Scottish culture. One of
the initiatives this committee decided on was the establishment of a
Gaelic educational institution in Victoria County. They started the Cape
Breton Island Gaelic Foundation, which raised funds, bought land and
built the Gaelic College in St. Annís, Nova Scotia. A.W.R. MacKenzie was
heavily involved in all these efforts. In 1938 he helped organize a
Highland Gathering on the site. In 1939 the first building was built, a
log cabin where Gaelic classes, history lectures and piping lessons
could be held.
In 1942 A.W.R.
MacKenzie resigned as minister in the Knox congregation in order to work
full-time as the Executive Director of the Gaelic College. He organized
an annual Gaelic mod starting in the 1940s, a Gaelic College pipe band,
and an annual summer school and winter evening classes in Gaelic,
piping, drumming, highland dance, and Gaelic song. His wife Angie ran a
craft shop that sold locally-produced weaving. The couple lived on site
at the Gaelic College.
A.W.R. MacKenzie died
suddenly in 1967 at the age of 76.
Our thanks to Joyce MacDonald for
providing this bio.