Robert Andrew Macfie

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Robert Andrew Macfie FRSE FRCI (4 October 1811 – 16 February 1893) was a Scottish businessman and, in later life, a Member of the British Parliament.

Early years[edit]

Macfie was born at 52 Kirkgate in Leith, the son of John Macfie, sugar-refiner, and his wife, Alison Thorburn.[1]

He attended Leith High School then the Royal High School in nearby Edinburgh, to which he had won a scholarship. As a schoolboy he displayed particular interest in geology and mineralogy. He left school in 1825 and in October, round about the time of his 15th birthday, he started attending classes at the University of Edinburgh, where he continued his studies till 1827.[2]

In September 1838 he relocated to Liverpool in England, there to establish, in the first instance at a rented refinery in Temple Street, a Liverpool branch of the family sugar business.[3]

National Politics[edit]

Macfie stood for election to the British parliament as the Liberal Party candidate in 1859, but failed to be elected. He was more successful in 1868, and from November 1868 to February 1874 he served as a Liberal Party Member of the British Parliament, representing the constituency of Leith Burghs near to Edinburgh.[4]

Postal reform[edit]

As a Liberal MP, Macfie took a particular interest in Postal Reform, but long before he entered parliament he held strong views on the subject. As a young businessman based, by now, in Greenock, he responded with characteristic passion and at considerable length,in a letter dated 31 March 1838, to an invitation from a committee of London Merchants to provide information appropriately.[5] His father returning from a business trip to London and finding that Macfie had been "meddling in public matters" in this way opined strongly that at the age of 26 the son was far too young for this level of involvement, and there is no record of Macfie having challenged his father's judgement nor, in the immediate term, of his having again involved himself in public life.[6]

Personal Life[edit]

On 17 May 1839 Macfie proposed marriage to Caroline Eliza Easton, daughter of Dr John Easton of Edinburgh. The marriage took place in Edinburgh in January 1840, following what was seen as an unusually long engagement.[7] The couple produced 7 recorded children, born between 1840 and 1854 in Liverpool where Macfie was by now based.

In 1877 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Christian H. Millar, David Stevenson (engineer), John Hutton Balfour and Sir Andrew Douglas Maclagan.[8]

Around 1880 he purchased Dreghorn Castle near Colinton (south west of Edinburgh) from the Trotter family and made it his family home.[9]

He died on 17 February 1893 at Dreghorn Castle[10] south-west of Edinburgh. The site was later redeveloped as Dreghorn Barracks.


  1. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  2. ^ John Macfie of Edinburgh and his family, pp 17, 37 & 40
  3. ^ John Macfie of Edinburgh and his family, pp 91 & 92
  4. ^ John Macfie of Edinburgh and his family, p 184
  5. ^ John Macfie of Edinburgh and his family, pp 84 & 85 "My desire for a change ...was stimulated by ... a domestic servant from the country all whose hard-earned wages did not leave over her needful outlays a surplus sufficient to defray the expense of a monthly letter from home. The question is by no means one of commercial facility chiefly, but one of philanthropy and civilisation. The post office must no longer be a luxury to the rich....How hard it is that in the ordinary course of business men must become smugglers [by breaching the post-office monopoly]."
  6. ^ John Macfie of Edinburgh and his family, p85
  7. ^ John Macfie of Edinburgh and his family, pp 97 - 101
  8. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1892-93


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Miller
Member of Parliament for Leith Burghs
Succeeded by
Donald Robert Macgregor