Prominent Menzies

Archibald Menzies – Botanist & Surgeon. (1754-1842)

Archibald Menzies Dedicated Page>

Archibald Menzies was born and brought up at Styx House on Bolfracks Estate and there is evidence that he spent some of his formative years in Weem either in or around the Castle Gardens. This is probably where his love of botany was first born. Menzies attended Edinburgh University where he studied both Medicine and Botany before completing his medical training as an assistant to a surgeon in Carnarvon in Wales. Menzies then enlisted in the Royal Navy and was posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia where he continued his medical career and his study of botany. During his Navy career Menzies managed to combine his medical duties with his botanical studies. The pinnacle of this being his appointment as naturalist and ship’s surgeon in 1790 on the ship ‘Discovery’ on its around the world expedition. Menzies was tasked with listing all the flora and fauna and as much information as he could find out about them in each country they visited. On returning from his travels Menzies was responsible for the introduction of hundreds of different plants and trees to the British Isles. After leaving the Navy, Menzies continued his practice of medicine in London where he remained until his death.

Archibald Menzies Memorial
Renovation of his gravesite at Kensal Green Cemetery, London 6th August 2019

John Menzies – Bookseller and Publisher. (1808-1879)

John Menzies was born in Edinburgh and served an apprenticeship as a bookseller before moving to London and finding employment there. Returning to Edinburgh in 1833 he opened his own shop in Prince’s Street where he sold books, newspapers and stationary. Using his time and contacts in London to his advantage Menzies managed to secure the distribution rights to the works of Charles Dickens and Punch magazine two very popular publications of their time. The expansion of the railway system brought many business opportunities to the firm. Not only did it allow them to offer a  wider range of publications to their customers but brought new markets as they expanded the business into selling newspapers and books to train passengers directly in the station.Another benefit of the rail network was the ability for Menzies to become the main distributor of all newspapers to other newsagents in Scotland. The firm that John Menzies founded is still in business and has expanded the distribution side of its business to the rest of the UK.

Sir Robert Menzies – Prime Minister of Australia. (1894 – 1977)

Robert Gordon Menzies was born in Jeparit in Victoria, Australia in 1894. Academically brilliant he graduated with first-class honours from Melbourne University before a successful career as a barrister. Entering politics initially at State level and later in the then Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Menzies succeeded Joseph Lyons as Prime Minister after the latter’s death. Menzies was only in the top job a couple of months before he had the unpleasant duty of informing the Australian public that they were at war with Germany. The war ripped apart the United Australia Party and Menzies resigned after only two years as Prime Minister. In December 1949 Menzies was re-elected as the head of a new party he had founded – The Liberal Party. Menzies was to remain leader of his party and Prime Minister for the next sixteen years, and dominated the political scene of the time. The political and economic impact of Menzies’s leadership in these years is a matter of historical debate but most would highlight his positive contribution to education (the building of eight universities) and his progression of the project to move the capital of Australia to a purpose built site at Canberra. Menzies was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1963.


Donald Dewar – First Minister of Scotland (1937-2000)

Donald Campbell Dewar was born in the West End of Glasgow in 1937. Educated at Glasgow Academy and at Glasgow University, where he read law. After practising as a solicitor in Glasgow for a short time, Dewar was elected to the Westminster parliament at the relatively young age of 29 for the constituency of Aberdeen South. However, he was to represent this constituency for only four years before having to return to his legal practice. Dewar however bounced back and won Glasgow Garscadden in 1978, which he continued to do until his death. Now returned to Westminster, Dewar held a variety of shadow cabinet positions including Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. With the return of the Labour Party to government in 1992, Dewar was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for enacting Labour’s devolution pledge. In 1999, Scotland regained its own Parliament for the first time in 300 years with Dewar appointed as its First Minister. With this success came difficulties. The “access-to-ministers” scandal, the problems with the Holyrood project (late and over budget) and difficult domestic issues (Repeal of Section 28, introduction of University tuition fees) all contributed to a less than easy start. Added to his work difficulties Dewar had health problems as well; undergoing major heart surgery to fix a leaky valve. After surgery Dewar returned to work and although affected by his operation seemed to be coping well. A seemingly everyday accident turned tragic when after a fall Dewar complained of not feeling well. On admission to hospital it was found he had a large brain haemorrhage. Donald Dewar died on the 11th October 2000 with his family around him. A “thoroughly decent man” with a sometimes acerbic wit and a razor sharp legal mind, Dewar was a rarity in that he commanded wide respect from all sorts of people, from all walks of life, regardless of their political views. His legacy is, and will be the Scottish Parliament that he campaigned for initially within a sceptical Labour Party and outside amongst the population as a whole.

Thomas Robert Dewar  (1864 – 1930)

‘​A teetotaller is one who suffers from thirst, instead of enjoying it.’








Witty, charming, a born salesman and a natural extrovert – Tommy Dewar was the polar opposite of his more serious-minded brother, John. But this most colourful of Scotch whisky characters helped build John Dewar & Sons into the global success it remains to this day.

In a buccaneering era for blended Scotch whisky, when colourful characters were not thin on the ground, Thomas Robert Dewar, born into a crofting family in the hamlet of Dull, near Aberfeldy, and better known as ‘Tommy’, was one of the most vivid.

Gavin D Smith tells Tommy’s story in magazine.

J. Ivan ‘Jimmy’ Menzies (1896 – 19 April 1985)

J. Ivan “Jimmy” Menzies was an English singer and actor, best known for his performances in the comic baritone roles of the Savoy Operas with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in Britain in the 1920s and the J. C. Williamson Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s.

Ivan Menzies as Ko-Ko in The Mikado, c. 1925

Menzies married a D’Oyly Carte principal soprano, Elsie Griffin, but he left her repeatedly to go on extensive tours in Australia and New Zealand. Later, Menzies became a leader of the Moral Re-Armamentmovement in Australia and Britain, and he continued to perform on stage until 1962.

Ivan Menzies was born in Bristol, England, the son of a Lake Districtmedical doctor. He served on the Western Front in World War I before shattering his right arm and thigh in the Battle of the Somme on 8 August 1916.[1] He served in the King’s Own Royal Regiment. In 2014 a love letter came to light that was sent to him, on Valentine’s Day in 1916, as preparations were under way for the Battle of the Somme. The sender was a French woman named Eleonore Aneelle, a cafe owner’s daughter from the Somme village of Berteaucourt-les-Dames. After his injury, Menzies performed in concert parties for the rest of the war.[2]

Early career

Menzies joined the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company as a chorister in 1921, soon playing small Gilbert and Sullivan roles in the company’s second touring company, including the Associate in Trial by Jury, First Citizen in The Yeomen of the Guardand Antonio in The Gondoliers and sometimes joining the organisation’s main repertory company. In 1923, Menzies added the role of Major Murgatroyd in Patience to his regular repertory.[3]The same year, over the protests of her family, Menzies married D’Oyly Carte soprano star Elsie Griffin. They had one daughter, Mahala.[4]

During these early seasons, Menzies understudied Henry Lytton, Leo Sheffield and other principal comedians of the company and appeared occasionally in the leading comedy roles of the Learned Judge in Trial, Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, Jack Point in Yeomen, and the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.[3] Menzies related that “The first time I played the Duke of Plaza-Toro, I started by catching my spurs and falling into the canal. It was decidedly not traditional.”[5]

In the secondary touring company, Menzies became the principal comedian in 1925, playing Reginald Bunthorne in Patience, Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko in The Mikado, Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore, Major General Stanley and the Duke of Plaza Toro. In 1927, with the closing of the secondary touring company, Menzies left D’Oyly Carte. He then appeared with Macdonald & Young’s company in Happy Go Lucky, and, in 1928, at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in Love in a Village.[3]

J. C. Williamson and Moral Re-Armament

Menzies in Australia, 1941, with J. C. Williamson actresses

In 1931, Menzies joined the J. C. Williamson Gilbert and Sullivan company in Australia. He toured extensively with that company as Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore, General Stanley, Bunthorne, the Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, Jack Point, the Duke of Plaza Toro and the Learned Judge, leaving Griffin and his infant daughter in England while carrying on extra-marital affairs in Australia.[3][6] Menzies was not a generous performer, and he was notorious for hogging the spotlight and making demands upon Williamson’s managers.[7]

Back in Britain in 1934, he met Peggy Williams from the Oxford Group, later known as the Moral Re-Armament, a Christian movement founded at Oxford in the 1920s. Williams persuaded Menzies to join the movement, and he resolved to change his life, adopting the group’s so-called four absolutes: honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. He aggressively proselytized for the movement by giving lectures, when not performing onstage. When he returned for another Australian tour, he insultingly said that God had called him “to pioneer in a country that had never known a major spiritual awakening”.[8]

In September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, the British government ordered all theatres to close. Rupert D’Oyly Cartecancelled the company’s autumn tour and terminated the contracts of his performers. When the company started up again at Christmas 1939,[9] the company’s principal comedian, Martyn Green, had accepted another engagement.[10] Carte hired Grahame Clifford to play Green’s roles. Carte engaged Menzies to return to England and the company to share some of the principal comedian roles with Clifford for two months until Clifford could be trained in all the roles and could settle in. Menzies appeared as Sir Joseph, General Stanley, the Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, and (occasionally) the Duke of Plaza Toro, before leaving the company in February 1940. He was in Australia and New Zealand again as principal comedian in the J. C. Williamson G&S tours in 1941, 1944, 1949, and 1951.[3]

Later years

Later, Menzies and Griffin (who never divorced) appeared in the Moral Re-Armament musical, The Vanishing Island, in which they toured around the world from 1955 until 1957.[3] In 1962, Griffin’s singing career was ended by a throat operation; Menzies had a heart attack the same year. They spent most of their remaining years living quietly in the London suburb of Barnes, although they continued to participate in Moral Re-Armament activities.[11] In 1975, during the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company’s centennial season, Menzies was invited to participate in the final performance of Trial by Jury, in which the company’s regular chorus was augmented by fourteen former stars of the company.

Menzies died in Blackheath, London at the age of 89.

Source: Wikipedia.