mackenzie's books
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Below is a list of books published by R.F. Mackenzie
(all are now out of print)

 A Question of Living (1963)

 Escape from the Classroom (1965)

 The Sins of the Children (1967)

 State School (1970)

 The Unbowed Head (1976)

 A Search for Scotland (1989)

Road Fortune (1935)

Manifesto for the Educational Revolution (2004)



A Question of Living


1. All Dressed Up and Nowwhere
  to Go

2. The Blind Leading the Blind

3. "Respite from Pressure"

4. Where Do We Go From Here?

5. First and Last Things

The first of R.F. Mackenzies books
the first in his 'trilogy'
printed in 1963, published by Collins.

a question of living - book cover

This book is about boys and girls at a state school: that is, nine-tenths of tomorrow's men and women. How are we preparing them for life beyond the classroom and what do they think of it all?
The characters are pupils at a Scottish Junior Secondary School (the equivalent of an English Secondary Modern): the author a headmaster who, after a varied career, including war service as a navigator in the RAF, returning to teaching in 1946.
Though he speaks from firsthand knowledge, he is more concerned to challenge an answer than to lay down the law. "Education", he writes, "is too serious a matter to be left entirely to the professional educationists. It would be a good thing if the great majority of people started inquiring into education, taking policy out of the hands of the experts, and basing it not on tradition but on their own ideas for what is the best way to prepare a

child for life and for making a living.

The system has become so out of touch with living conditions that it is no longer feasible to patch and repair it. It needs remaking from the foundation, that is, starting with the whole purpose of having schools at all.

This book is an attempt to persuade people to start out on their own and decide for themselves what education is about. Then, when we see clearly the purpose of having schools, it should not be beyond our ability to carry out in these schools the kind of work which aims at achieving that purpose.
Not content with theory, he and his staff have put these ideas to the test of practice. His account of these experiments is perhaps the most exciting part of a deeply human and absorbing book.

October 16th 1963 - The Courier and Advertiser
What did local parents think about this first book?
Press the link above to read what they had to say!

Escape from the Classroom

Escape from the Classroom - book cover
Second of R.F. Mackenzies
books printed in 1965,
 published by Collins.


1. "By Tummel and Loch Ranoch . . ."

2. " . . . and Lochaber I will go"

3. The Red Carpet

4. Peter on Licence

5. "To measure life, learn thou betimes"

6. The Old Order

7. The Road to the Isles

8. St. Dominic in the Classroom

9. "I'm Talking about Jerusalem"

10. Stop Press

'I can think of no analysis of what is wrong with our schools more exciting and urgent. In describing his own small but immensely important mutiny, Mr. Mackenzie hits out in a general way at the dullness and staleness of the education we offer three quarters of our children' wrote Edward Blishen, reviewing in The Listener R.F. Mackenzie's book
A Question of Living. Sir John Newsom concluded his review in The Teacher with the words 'it should be read by all who have adolescent children in their care. They will find much to disturb as well as to encourage. That book described what
Mr. Mackenzie, who is headmaster of a Secondary School in Fife, was trying to do and why.


This book is concerned with his efforts to extend and enrich the education offered to the boys and girls in his care by the acquisition of a house in the Highlands, where they would escape from the familiar and dreary influences that shape their lives and would learn to enjoy and understand the beauty and interest of their country. Staff and pupils would live together and develop, it was hoped, a healthier and more fruitful relationship.

In the story he has to tell as much as in his reflections on the objects, methods and deficiencies of our system of education,
Mr. Mackenzie provides a vivid and instructive commentary on the quality of life in modern Britain both as to what is fresh and hopeful as well as to what is jaded and effete.

Introduction by Gavin Maxwell
An appropriate start-point for an introduction to this book is a quotation from a letter written to me by its author in 1964. It reads: "Last August, in a foreword to the Newsom Report, the (then) Minister of Education wrote: 'There is above all a need for new modes of thought, and a change of heart.' Although I think he meant it honestly, I couldn't help recalling a Punch cartoon of Richard III at Bosworth, unhorsed and waving his sword wildly, and a farm-worker disconsolately leading away a farm-horse and saying 'He said something about not meaning it literally.'"

One of the most important things about Mr. Mackenzie is that he does mean it literally. He believes the standard educational system to be not so much rotten as horrifyingly and grotesquely solid - a ferro-concrete prison built facing the wrong way upon the foundations of an archaic defensive position.

The esoteric knowledge crammed in with difficulty or not at all (the tonnage of beef exported from the Argentine in 1963, or the tactical difficulties of the Battle of Hastings); the boredom; the artificial classroom relationship between teacher and pupil; the frantic search for relief from the pressure of dead factual knowledge unrelated to emergent life; these, and the means for their radical destruction, are Mr. Mackenzie's theme. He believes, and with the corroboration of long experience, that our now earlier-maturing children can no longer be forced into this mould without waste or disaster or both.

Mr. Mackenzie is a careful but inspired worker in a scientific field; he has tested his theories and documents them. Unlike many visionaries, he knows that a single affirmation of belief is not enough, and in this book he states and restates the urgent necessity for the schoolchild's liberation. This liberation implies the removal of bars from the traditional cage of school, bars whose desirability remains largely unquestioned for on better reason than that of their antiquity.

Because Mr. Mackenzie would blast the foundations of the whole sick structure - including those of the priesthood responsible for fact-cramming and dyspeptic regurgitation in exams - it would be unfair to stress any particular aspect of his attack upon it. He is, however, far from a destroyer who would build nothing where he has razed, and he believes that intimate contact with the countryside, as part of a term's curriculum, can build and sustain a child's personality despite parental and other disorders of background.

He believes that personal discovery of kinship with the whole natural world is essential for a child's or an adolescent's full development as an individual. In nature a child senses an order and security often lacking in his home surroundings, and thus becomes part of a unity elusive in urban upbringing. Above all, the child is released from guilt feelings - for there is no guilt in the natural order - and consequently from anti-social actions that stem from induced guilt.

Mr. Mackenzie's thesis postulates the right of every urban child to spend time in the true countryside as part of his or her heritage; and, by implication, the duty of the government to provide at least the financial facilities to do this. There can be few who would question his reasoning, and fewer still who would do so after reading this intensely stimulation book written from profound knowledge and conviction.

Gavin Maxwell

The Sins of The Children


1. 'There is no Road through the Woods'
2.  A Liberal Song at Twilight
3.  The Laodiceans
4.  Micawber and Michiavelli
5.  The Shape of Things to come
6.  The Mole and the River
7. 'Rub it all out and start over'
8.  H.G. Wells and A.S. Neill
9. 'The Desert shall Rejoice
10. Rhum is a Haven
11. 'Don't fence me in'
12. 'Not in entire Forgetfulness'
13. A New Life in Lochaber
14. A prison of Words
15. 'What was the Professor saying
16. Nineteen seventy, here we come!

The Sins of the Children - book cover
Third of R.F. Mackenzies books
printed in 1967,
 published by Collins.

The Author:
R.F. Mackenzie, the son of a stationmaster, was born in Aberdeenshire. After graduating at the University of Aberdeen, he toured most of the countries of Europe on a bicycle - afterwards collaborating on a travel book, 'Road Fortune', and later visited Canada, the USA and South Africa, taking a variety of jobs.

He taught in experimental schools in England and Switzerland and was living with a Jewish family in Germany when their house was attacked by the Nazis in 1938.

During the war he served with Bomber Command as a navigator, afterwards returning to Scotland to teach.

He was appointed headmaster of Braehead Secondary School in 1957. An authority on education, he has contributed many articles to newspapers on that subject, and has also written school programs for Sound and Television broadcasting.

(As this book goes to press we hear that the Secretary of State for Scotland has confirmed the decision of the Fife County Council to close the school.

State School

State School - book cover
'State School' printed in 1970,
published by Penquin
Cover photo - Hamish Brown


   Authors Note

1. The School

2. The Pupils

3. The Theory

4. The Practice

5. The Journeys

6. The Belt

7. The Establishment

8. The Verdict

State School - Authors note:       Alternative book cover
State School - Alternative book coverBraehead School, the subject of this book, is a mixed junior secondary (secondary modern) school of 500 pupils in Buckhaven, Fife, which opened in an old building in 1957 and is to be shut down under the comprehensive organisation in 1971. From the three books published by Collins, A Question of Living (1963), and Escape from the Classroom (1965), and The Sins of the Children (1967), I have selected extracts to present in a more concise form what happens to a state school which experiments in education.

I am much indebted to Mr. Edward Blishen, whose candid and detailed criticism has made the presentation much more readable. And I'd like to express my gratitude to the Braehead staff, a goodly company, now after all these years to be broken up.

Text taken from the back cover of this book:
When he became headmaster of a secondary modern school in the Scottish coalfields,
R.F. Mackenzie found himself in charge of children whose lives promised to become as derelict as their surroundings - unhappy, delinquent, their futures blocked by a joyless and, to them, impossible tradition of academic education.

This anthology of extracts from his writings describes his fight to provide them with an education which was both imaginative and relevant. Trips in the Scottish countryside, which were the children's first experience of independence and of the beauty of the land they lived in, convinced him that the school should acquire an permanent base in the Highlands, an ambition which thrust him into a long and bitter struggle with an officialdom which prized narrow restrictions more than such dreams.

There were other dreams, too, and other defeats: staff who betrayed his ideal of a school free from authoritarian modes of discipline, delinquent children who tried, unsuccessfully, to keep out of trouble. But these pages speak of anything but defeat: they describe the authentic feel of the experience which education should provide, especially for the underprivileged, and demonstrate convincingly how good the victory will be when it is, finally, won.

R. F. Mackenzie is now headmaster of Summerhill comprehensive school in Aberdeen.

This book is about working-class children in the Scottish coalfield, and their fate in the post-war world. But it all began for me among middle class children in Hampshire, before the war; and I must start my story there, since what I tried to put into practice in a state school in Fife in the fifties and sixties were some of the things I learned from the serene idealists of the Forest School, in the thirties.

The Unbowed Head



Crisis in the Classroom

Summerhill School


The New Comprehensive

The Voice of the People


A Cultural Revolution?

The Unbowed Head - book cover
'The Unbowed Head' printed in 1976, published by EUSP

Text taken from the back cover
of the Unbowed Head:

Here, after two and a half years, is RF. Mackenzie's own story of the headline-catching events at Summerhill Academy in Aberdeen, culminating in his suspension as headmaster and creating one of the most controversial and highly publicised incidents Scottish education has ever witnessed.

Exceptionally readable and entertaining, Mr. Mackenzie's book serves as a profound indictment on the state of Scottish education today. He succeeds in giving a remarkable insight into, staff, pupils, administrators and politicians involved in the schools system.

Particularly relevant as part of the ongoing debate on Scotland's future, citing education as the prime area for reform and change, this story goes to the heart of the present controversy on comprehensive schooling.

The time: 4 p.m. on Monday April 1, 1974. The place: the chambers of Aberdeen Corportation. The education convener, Councillor Roy Pirie, turned to R.F. Mackeznie and said: "I have to inform you that as of now you are suspended".

Thus ended what was at once the most controversial and most celebrated headmastership Scotland has ever known. It was a moment charged with the most intense emotion. I and other journalists had just witnessed what was not so much a special meeting of Aberdeen Education Committee called to discuss the position of the headmaster of Summerhill Academy as a trial of the whole idea of the comprehensive school. That very point was made by R. F. Mackenzie in his peroration.

"It is the comprehensive school that is on trial today", he said. He went on to speak of children with wounds in their souls. "We could cure them, we could have cured them, but we were not allowed to, Mr Chairman, because you have given us a divided staff".

Mr Mackenzie's words were of no avail. The committee suspended him. The decision was taken by 16 votes to 6. Later he received a remarkably sympathetic Press. One of my colleagues, John Pirie, introduced his story with this sentence: "I accuse Aberdeen Education Committee of treachery". These were unusually emotive words with which to start a newspaper report but then it had been an unusually emotive occasion.

Mr Mackenzie had in effect been suspended because a group of parents and, more significantly, a faction of his own staff, had objected to his policies.

There were side issues and there were more detailed arguments about documents and memoranda and reports and all the mnutiae of a burequcratic dispute but at the end of the day the charge against Mr Mackenzie was best summed up by Councillor Pirie:
"Mr Mackenzie in my opinion is unwilling or unable to exercise authoritative control over his staff and secure the effective implementation of his policy, and he shows an apparent disregard for the need to win the confidence and co-operation of his staff".

Well, it was then and still is my chosen opinion that the education authority should have backed their headmaster - after all, they had appointed him in full awareness of his views - against the faction of his staff who would not support him.

Nevertheless, to be fair to Councillor Pirie, he spoke well and even movingly in deploying his case. He made a sincere speech. Equally impressive speeches were made by two of Mr Mackenzie's supporters, Councillor Bob Middleton and Mr Andrew Walls.

Mr Mackenzie heard none of these arguments and speeches; as he recalls in this book, he sat outside, in an ante-room. But as the debate reached its climax he was called in to address the committee. As he said, it was a trial. The fatal verdict came; the judgement was passed; and the next day, judge and jury were accused of treachery and the pupils of Summerhill went on strike in protest.

On the Monday evening I visitied Mr Mackenzie in his farmhouse by the River Dee. A certain phrase Councillor Pirie had used earlier in the day kept insinuating itself in my mind: "The man is at the most critical point in his career - and yet he talks in parables".

The term parables had unavoidable Biblical connotations. Mr Mackenzie is himself much given to quoting from the Bible. It is pleasant to recall now how that night I gradually realised that for the first time in my life I was in the presence of someone of genuine vision: a prophet. Earlier in the day Mr Mackenzie had been accused of the "grossest arrogance" and no doubt most great prophets are sometimes arrogant in the certainty of their vision.

But that night Mr Mackenzie discarded arrogance and spoke very gently. He talked in the soft Aberdeenshire accent he has never lost; he spoke of his parents and the sacrifices they had made for his own education, an education he had come to regard as worthless; he spoke of his own children; he spoke of the tyranny of examiners; he spoke of his love and care for young people; he referred to his favourite parable, that of the lost sheep. Above all, he talked of his new book, which even then was beginning to take shape in his mind.

I remember writing the next day that no doubt this book would be subjected to the scrutiny of parents, teachers and councillors. "But they cannot suspend a book", I wrote. Well, here is that book at last.

Almost three years have elapsed since that spring afternoon in Aberdeen. I think it is reasonable to suggest that the publication of this book is the most significant event in Scottish education since R. F. Mackenzie's suspension.

The suspension was a defeat, if a temporary one. The publication of this book is a permanent victory. Talking to R. F. Mackenzie that evening in 1974, I realised for the first time that it was not children who most needed education, but parents and indeed adults. This book will not only regale and amuse and enlighten and entertain; it will also educate.

Harry Reid,
Education Correspondent, "The Scotsman".

A Search for Scotland

Search for Scotland - Softbook cover
'A Search for Scotland' printed in 1989, published by Collins.
ISBN 0-00-215185-5


    Preface by T. C. Smout
 1. Introduction
 2. Grampian
 3. The Land of the Three Rivers
 4. The Mearns, Angus, Perth, Stirling
 5. Glasgow and Galloway
 6. The Borders
 7. The Capital
 8. The Kingdom of Fife
 9. The Central Highlands
10. West from Fort William
11. The Isle of Lewis
12. Skye
13. Strathconon
14. The North
15. Inverness to Aberdeen
16. Scotland Turned Upside-down
17. The Pedigree of the Scottish God
18. The Conclusion of the Whole Matter

Text taken from the cover of the
Paper back edition:

This, R. F. Mackenzie's last book, reflects at its most brilliant his lifelong love of Scotland. Simply as a travel book, it would enrich any journey made there. But MacKenzie writes about what he sees in order to stimulate reflection. He would have gone further and said action on what lies behind the seen: the moral quality of society.

The result is a book that has the un-selfconscious individuality, the wholeness, the savior, the gout de terroir of a fine malt whisky. Whatever the reader may think of Mackenzie's diagnoses and prescriptions for the ills of contemporary humanity, he will find the author a vivid, imaginative companion, with a feeling for Scottish life and the riches of Scottish speech that he will not easily forget.

Search for Scotland - Hard Back Cover
'A Search for Scotland'
on the left paper back cover and
above the hard back cover.

Text from the cover
Hard back edition:

This, R.F. Mackenzie's last book, reflects at its most brilliant his lifelong love of Scotland: the wild, grand Highlands from which his forebearers came, the settled countryside of Aberdeenshire in which he was brought up, the romantic beauties of the Borders where he spent his first years of marriage. He responds to the character of each, to their history no less than to their relation to the Scotland of today. It is not just the countryside, though his feeling for that combines the strengths of poet and peasant. The towns and cities, the industrial landscape, the ports, large and active or small and forgotten, the roads and railways, above all the railways (he was the son of a country stationmaster) are perceived and evoked with a rare mastery.

Simply as a travel book about Scotland this book would enrich any journey made there. But the author would have been disgusted by such a classification. Like Ruskin, he writes about what he sees in order to stimulate reflection - he would have gone further and said action - on what lies behind the seen: the moral quality of society. Like Carlyle, he is a visionary with a Cromwellian contempt for the fripperies and baubles for which he sees his countrymen contending. The result is a book that has the unselfconscious individuality, the wholeness, the savour, the gout du terroir of a fine malt whisky.

Yet for all his passionate patriotism Mackenzie is in no way provincial. As a young man he taught in Switzerland and in Nazi Germany. He served as aircrew in Bomber Command. He travelled widely in Europe. He could, as his chapter on Scottish religion shows, enter sympathetically into the mentality of the Boer Calvinists among whom he had lived while in war service in South Africa. These experiences, and those gained from his turbulent career as a radical headmaster in the tradition of A. S. Neill, inform his insights.

Whatever the reader may think of his diagnosis and prescription for the ills of contemporary humanity he will find the author a vivid, imaginative and warm hearted companion, with a feeling for Scottish life and the riches of Scottish speech that he will not easily forget.

Preface by
T. C. Smout

R. F. Mackenzie was a prophet almost without honour in his own country. In a land of educational authoritarianism, he was a teacher of progressive freedoms. In a world that worships the golden calf of economic growth, he was sceptical of the happiness it could bring. In a political climate that nurtured the New Right and rampant individualism, he affirmed an old belief in equality and community. This is his last book, completed during his final illness. Superficially, it takes the form of a guide book or a tour: but like Edwin Muir's Scottish Journey fifty years before, it becomes much more than that. It is a commentary on modern Scotland, a moving and sometimes despairing farewell to his native land.

Mackenzie was born in 1910, the son of a rural stationmaster in Aberdeenshire: a respect for trains runs through the book. He went to the local school in Turriff, and then to Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, where he became Dux; in 1931 he graduated MA from the University of Aberdeen. The next few years were spent in adventure. He and a friend cycled round Europe and wrote a book about it, Road Fortune, published in 1935. He then tried his hand at local journalism, took casual teaching jobs in England (including one at the progressive Forest School in Hampshire) and in Germany, and, when the Second World War broke out, he bacame a navigator in Bomber Command. His posting to South Africa gave him an understanding of Boer society of which he writes impressively in the final chapter of this book.

He came properly to teaching after the war, going from training college to Galashiels Academy as English master, and moving from thence to Fife, first to Templehall school in Kirkcaldy and then, in 1957 to a new junior secondary school, Braehead in Buckhaven, of which he was appointed head. Buckhaven gave him the opportunity to put into practice the educational theories of his revered mentor, A.S. Neill, and as he taught, he wrote, A Question of Living (1963), Escape from the Classroom (1965), The Sins of the Children (1967). The following year he was appointed Head of a new comprehensive in Aberdeen, Summerhill Academy. All the success that he had had in Fife for his progressivism turned suddenly and quickly to disaster, in 1972, more than half the staff of Summerhill wrote a formal complaint about his 'unusual and particularly permissive philosophy' and two years later he was removed from his post by Aberdeen Education Committee. His account of the affair, The Unbowed Head, was published in 1977, but his teaching career had ended.

There were rights and wrongs on both sides in the Summerhill affair, no doubt, but the conflict was not really between a hidebound local education authority and an obstreperous Head. It was between two educational philosophies, one of rules, discipline and examination, the other of freedom and of teaching as exploration, as the undoing of repression. The marvel is that Mackenzie survived the Scottish Education Department for a quarter of a century, and his main achievement was simply to do do. A.S. Neill had practiced progressive education as leader of a private school with sympathetic governors and parents; R. F. Mackenzie for a decade demonstrated that the same ideals could also be forwarded in the public sector. Perhaps, as his critics said, a relaxed education was not 'practicable' in modern Scotland; but the pupils from Braehead and Summerhill who came to reunions with Mackenzie in 1986 to tell him that they were bringing their own children up in a different way as a relult of their education at his hands, had found it the pivot in their lives.

It is far too soon to assess the wider influence of R. F. Mackenzie. It would be wrong to overplay it and wrong to underrate it; his was not the only voice crying in the wilderness, though it was one of the most arresting. Corporal punishment in Scottish schools, against which he had fought all his life, was abolished before his death. The new Standard and Higher grade curricula give a much greater emphasis on learning-by-doing than was thinkable when he entered the profession. But of course the examinations remain and the rules remain. Rightly or wrongly, no-one in authority can imagine a world without them.

A Search for Scotland should indeed be read as the book of a prophet. In points that do not matter greatly, except to academics like myself, he is not always accurate - flocks of Brent Geese do not occur near Stirling, nor grouse near Kilconquhar Loch; Dr Hunter's doctorate was not from Aberdeen University but from Edinburgh;

                      continued >

words attributed to Adam Smith are not the phrases he used. Things that an ordinary guide might be expected to mention on a journey round Scotland go unobserved; the physical alteration of Glasgow that has made it, if not 'miles better', at least miles better than it used to be, is not noticed, though the miles of plastic and other detritus that still have to be traversed on approaching the city quite correctly are. The Scottish Development Agency, too, might as well have not existed, presumable because it has developed nothing that Mackenzie would have regarded as important to Scotland's real and spiritual prosperity. In his lamentations over a mode of writing history that emphasises only dynasties and elites and glorifies war, he has not noticed the grass-root vigour of oral history, social history and local history that is about to infiltrate the classrooms in the new curricula with a quite new vision of the people's past, and one much along the lines that he repeatedly calls in these chapters.

None of this should distract. The reader should rather attune to what Mackenzie is saying about the Scottish condition. We live in a country of extreme natural beauty and our treatment of it is ugly:

'In the morning we resumed our journey. There were smashed-up hedgehogs on the road and, off it, a dump of wrecked cars. Smoke rose from a white chimney. Lochs filled in the spaces between the ancient rocks. And then we came down to the trees, ash, and rowan, their berries very red, the ancient trees of Scotland, the larch; and to Lochinver.'

But we need the country, we need its beauty and the reviving force within it for the human spirit far, far more than we need 'economic growth', which in Scotland is so often little more than enrichment for the absent and the few. There are not many passages in the book more arresting and moving than his account of taking the pupils of Braehead Junior Secondary to Perthshire :

'In Rannoch I have seen the vision of Isaiah explode into reality. The mountains and the hills broke forth before them singing and all the trees of the fields clapped their hands . . . After even two or three days at Rannoch, the Fife youngsters became different people. Loud-mouthed, sex-experienced, cigarette-smoking, fifteen-year-old girls lay on the ground, propping their chins in their hands and watching looping caterpillars. They watched the milking of the cows. They saw how Coire Carie had been scraped out by glaciers. Briefly the age of innocence re-entered their lives, and they became almost unrecognisably different. . . . we began to get glimpses of how a Scottish cultural revolution might be set in motion. It would begin in country places.'

Along with this prophetic vision goes a prophetic anger: for an agnostic, it is surprising how often R.F. Mackenzie speaks the language of the Old Testament. 'Is there no balm in Gilead' he exclaims when an Aberdeen father smashes his son's face after he has been in trouble with the police. His rage is at the inhumanity of forms of human authority - the family authority, academic authority, bureaucratic authority. He despises the education system from the SED to the universities, and we wince under the blow even as we think it sometimes unfair. It was no business of Amos or Elijah to be fair. He finds no hope in the politics of left or right, as currently practised; he regards social and political Scotland as duped, and drugged, and the mockery self perpetuated through an education that is still interested in inculcating only good behaviour and blind obedience. In a world where the battle for the hearts and minds of the population is fought out in a circulation war between Maxwell's Daily Record and Murdoch's Sun, can we gainsay the proposition?

Yet one puts down A Search for Scotland not with a sense of having been subjected to sermon and harangue, but with a feeling of having been with a man who was troubled and angry, but who also knew where hope lies. Through all the accurate and arresting observations runs a thread of humane understanding: we are at one with nature, if we but knew it; we are at one in a community, and a community must start on love and gentleness. The world has said of R.F. Mackenzie that he was not a practical man, that he was a dreaming idealist. As we sit in an unlit train approaching the black tunnel of the earth at the end of the twentieth century, do we dare to ignore the little pocket torch the prophet hands to us? Perhaps it might give us enough light to grope towards the communication cord.

T.C. Smout   15th November 1988

Road Fortune


 1. Out beyond the Old Kent Road... page 1
 2.  Mr H.G. Well's at Grasse… page 29
 3.  'Gaily into Italy' . . .  page 49
 4.  Wandering Men of Europe… 
    page 63
 5.  'In Tuscany, in Tuscany' . . . . page 82
 6. Roman Interlude . . . page 100
 7. A Benedictine Monastery and the
    Town in Europe . . . page 129
    Interchapter . . .page 153
 8. East from Tyrrhenian . . . page 154
 9. The Anvil of the Turks . . . page 161
10. In the Mountains of Montenegro
11. Across Croatia
   Interchapter . . . page 246
12. The Backbone of Italy
13. An Alpine Highway
14. Munich to Sankt Pauli . . .page 278
15. The Venice of the North . . . page 292
16. Envoi .. .. .. page 317

Road Fortune

An Account of A Cycling Journey
through Europe

By Hunter Diack
and R.F. Mackenzie

London, Macmillan & Co. Ltd 1935


I have only had one opportunity to access the book 'Road Fortune' written by RF Mackenzie and Hunter Diack. I accessed the book at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Below are a few ramblings of my thoughts while having a browse through this early book.

The book I found to be in very good condition, only a few blemishes (brown stains) on the outer edge of the leaves of the pages, nothing else. The book to me looked as if it had maybe never been opened or read before. So maybe, just maybe I was the first person in who knows how many years to pick this book up and to let all of the energy and memories come back to life by allowing this printed word, once forgotten to live again.
(That is the poetic bit over, you can now relax)

I firstly copied the title etc.,then the chapter heading and page numbers. (which you can see above.)

Then with anticipation I set of on their journey made all those years ago. I must say they both have a very easy way of writing and you could almost feel RF style at times.

Anyway, the first chapter told of the preparations and their setting of for France from London. As I dipped into the first few chapters I could not understand why they had left in mid winter? They describe the cold, the wet, the discomfort they had to endure. I know I'm a bit of a sissy, but it would make sense to have started when the weather was better. If I have the opportunity to talk to the Mackenzie's I can ask if they know when they set of and why that time of the year.

I take my hat of to them, to cycle from London to France and around Europe in 1933/34 was very, very brave. No mobile phones, no light weight equipment, no comfy specially made sleeping bags, or wet weather clothes, no internet, no easy way of keeping in touch with home… wow what a pair of adventurers… Their journey certainly puts some of our modern journey's in the shade and certainly would have made a great 'video diary' if they had had such things in those days. What a story they could have told not just on paper but on film as well. I wonder if the Mackenzie's will have any photo's from that great adventure?


Thinking of their age, early 20's, setting out on a journey of adventure. I wonder if they had really taken into account the risks they were going to take?

I would love to have followed them with my little box brownie camera and taken roll upon roll of film of their adventures.

The journey appeared to be filled with great excitement, meeting wonderful and hospitable people. Also fear drove them on at different times, for instance at times when seeking a safe site to camp and being followed by locals or others on bicycles.

One thing that came over was that whatever happened, riding their 3 gear, yes, 3 gear bikes around the countryside they were and must have been supper fit. I bet no matter what they ate there was no chance of them putting on any weight.!! They both must have returned in a super-fit state.

HG Wells, wow they got to meet HG Wells on their travels through France and stayed with him for a number of days talking about politics and more. That must have been mind blowing as I think both of them held him in high esteem.

Well that is just some of my thoughts above on flicking through this marvelous book. I will over time add to the content of this part of their journey through life when I have the opportunity to spend time in the National Library.


Manifesto for the

Educational Revolution


1.  The Incomprehensible School

2.  The Educational Priesthood

3.  The Ecclesiastical Priesthood

4.  The Political Priesthood

5.  An Anatomy of Priestcraft

6.  Education in Russia –
   The Defeat of the Revolution

7.  Education in the West –
   The Retreat of the Humanists

8.  The Next Leap Forward

9.  Summary

This book written by R.F. Mackenzie in 1980 and did not find a publisher.

Manuscript found in his papers and
published on the WWW in 2004,

 published by the
Mackenzie Family and made available
on the WWW free to all who want to download and read.

The online version of this book is available through the menu system on the web site. Also a download is available to allow you to read off-line if you wish.

The download can be found on the Forward page of this online book.

"The only possible revolution, the only worthwhile revolution, must be created not by politicians or militarists, but by educators. Rimbaud was right when he said that, ' everything we are taught is false'
           Henry Miller


Forward by Alasdair Mackenzie
"This is the story of how a child in a Scottish rural community saw the world, the picture of earth-life presented by school and church and received folklore; the widening horizons illumined by questing amateurs and clouded by defensive professionals; a teenager¹s innate and continuing belief that things should make sense confronted with the forbidding incomprehensibility of his mentors in school and university; the sense of wonder and enquiry and hope re-emerging under the stimulus of people throughout the world who this century tried to alter their society¹s set pattern of ideas and to make education intelligible; their widescale failure, in the USSR and the USA and western Europe, to make any appreciable difference to the way children are still everywhere herded and controlled and puzzled and disheartened."


In his conclusion R.F.makes, "One more effort to take the ordering of our thoughts and feelings out of the hands of the priestly rulers, and pool our wisdom and devise a better way of bringing up our children. Altogether, the book could be called a sketch plan or manifesto for the educational revolution."

Manifesto For the Educational Revolution was written in 1980 by R.F. Mackenzie and turned down for publication at the time. Mrs D.C. Mackenzie, wife of R.F., kindly agreed to allow us to publish after it had been found among R.F.¹s papers.

The book has been transcribed directly as read from the original manuscript. In chapter 4 there are pieces of writing in the original that we have not been able to discern. Where these occur we have indicated as much in bold italic writing. These have been minor but we leave you to make your own judgements, not wishing to impose any ideas of our own. You will have to
fill the gaps, something R.F. saw as a preferred option to imposed will.


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