Robert Mackie was baptised at Airth, Stirling, on 14 August 1754, the son of Robert and Mary (née Duncanson) Mackie. Airth is on the southern shore of the Forth, about 7 kilometres north of Falkirk. The surname appears variously as Mackie and Mackay.
Mackie joined the Royal Navy as captain’s servant to Richard Braithwaite in HMS Liverpool and spent three years in her. It is probable that Mackie was introduced to naval life by his older brother, Andrew Mackie, who became a master.
On 1 May 1772, Mackie joined HMS Adventure, Cook’s companion vessel for the Second Voyage, as servant to William Bayly, the ship’s astronomer. He does not feature in any journals or records.
After his return to Britain in 1774, Mackie joined HMS Raisonnable as an AB under Captain Thomas Graves. He later became a midshipman. He then had six months in HMS Nonsuch as a midshipman under Captain Walter Griffith before contacting James Cook.
He must have impressed Tobias Furneaux and James Cook, as Cook wrote to Philip Stephens, the Admiralty Secretary on 11 March 1776, “Mr Robt Mackie, Midshipman on board the Nonsuch, who was the late voyage in the Adventure, hath appli’d to me to go out in the Resolution – As I have great reason to believe, that he will, on many occasions, be a very usefull Man, I beg you will move their Lordships to Order hime to be discharged from the Nonsuch into the Resolution”.1
Presumably, Cook reasoned Mackie had learned well from Bayly and would be useful as an extra astronomer.
Mackie joined Resolution on 16 March 1776, and sailed in her as a midshipman until 1 September 1777 when he became an AB. He was sent before the mast at Huahine on 31 October 1777 after he and William Harvey let a Huahine prisoner escape while they were officers of the watch. Bayly wrote, “It is an unfortunate stroke for both these Gentlemen as their preferment soly depended on Capt. Cook’s interest”.
Mackie accompanied James King across to Discovery on 23 August 1779, as a midshipman, though it is not clear when he was reinstated to this rank. Immediately after the voyage he passed his lieutenant’s examination, and received his commission a few days later on 1 November 1780. Interestingly, his time in Adventure did not appear on his service record when he sat this examination.
Mackie’s first posting as a lieutenant was in November 1780 to the Merlin sloop under Commander John Luttrell. In 1785, Mackie joined HMS Salisbury, and the next year moved to HMS Elizabeth.
Mackie died in 1789 and his will, proven on 8 May 1789,2 lists his home as Carron in Stirling. Carron is situated between Falkirk and Airth. In the will, Mackie refers to three half kinsmen named Kier. Presumably, Mackie’s father had died and his mother had remarried to a man called Kier. Neither parent is mentioned in the will, so both were probably dead by 1783.
His older brother, Andrew Mackie (1748-1813), proved the will. Andrew eventually settled in Shoreditch, east London, where he married twice. With his first wife, Sarah Hovell, he had two children; Mary born in 1801; and Josiah born in 1802. After Sarah’s death Andrew married Rebecca Crickmore with whom he had two more children; Martha born in 1805; and John born in 1807.
- TNA. Adm 1/1611
- PROB 11/1080
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 36, volume 34, number 3 (2011).