Rev. Alexander MACLACHLAN D.D.
- Born: 1858
- Marriage (1): Lizzie H. STEPHENS on 19 Oct 1887 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada
- Marriage (2): Rosalind Hooper BLACKLER on 14 Feb 1891 in All Saints Church, Boudja, Smyrna, Turkey
- Died: 9 Sep 1940, Kingston, Ontario, Canada aged 82
Extract from Ontario Marriages
Groom: Alexander MacLachlan
Est. birth year: 1858
Groom's father's name: Malcolm MacLachlan
Groom's mother's name: Christina McDonald
Marriage: 19 October 1887 at Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada
Bride: Lizzie H. Stephens
Est. birth year: 1860
Bride's father's name: Joseph Stephens
Bride's mother's name: Jean Calder
Extract from "The Blight of Asia" by G. Horton (1926)
Mrs. Cass Arthur Reed, wife of the dean of the American College at Paradise, near Smyrna, thus describes the stripping and beating of her father, the venerable president, as also of Sergeant Crocker, an American navy officer:
"On September 11, 1922, American Marines who were on the lookout from the roof of the college notified their chief that the American settlement house, belonging to the college, was being looted by the Turkish soldiers. So the chief and father rode over to the settlement house in the college car, carrying the American flag. They informed the men that this was American property they were looting and asked why they were doing it? Father explained it was a community house and served the Turks as well as Christians in its work. They seized both men and stripped them of their clothes, valuables and money, shoes and stockings, and beat them both with a club five feet long and three inches in diameter. Sergeant Crocker was the officer who was beaten. He took the club over to the college afterward. Before he was stripped of his clothes he, of his own accord, took off his revolver and showed the Turkish soldiers that he did not mean to hurt them. They beat both men severely and separated them so they could not stand together. They beat them with the butt end of their rifles and with this big club I have mentioned. Then they demanded of Doctor MacLachlan that he hand over the Marines guarding his college. He said he was not a military man and had no control over the Marines, who had been sent by the American Government to protect the American property and the refugees in it."
"They hit him on the head, limbs, crushed the big toe of his right foot, all the time lunging at him to run, which he refused to do knowing they would put bullets in his back if he did. What he considered saved his life was that he kept calm through the whole procedure, saying they could kill him if they wished, but he wanted to explain why he was there and why he wanted them to stop robbing the Armenian property. One man lunged at him with a bayonet, and father put out his hand to grasp it and cut his palm. When the soldier drew back to get another lunge at him, the bayonet remained in father's hand. He was naked all this time. Then they lamed his left foot, breaking the tendons in the back of his knee so that he fell to the ground. He endeavored throughout the whole thing to keep his feet and he saved the blows on his head by putting up his arms. Several times they stood him up a few yards away and threatened to blaze at him."
"During this time, one of the Turkish students, who had seen the thing from the college, ran over. While the guns were pointed at father, he threw him-self on the butt ends of the rifles and beseeched the men not to kill him, that he was a good man. They then accused this student of being an infidel and he swore that he was a true Moslem and he was wearing Khemal's picture on his arm and also wearing a fez. Sergeant Crocker had given the order to his men on the roof of the college not to fire or use their machine guns. Two of the Marines chased over to help when they saw what was going on. Sergeant Crocker ordered them to retreat in order to save Doctor MacLachlan's and his own life. The Turks placed Doctor MacLachlan up against a wall and were about to shoot him when, at the very moment, a young Turkish officer appeared on horse-back and ordered them to desist." They obeyed immediately and went away, proving by their immediate obedience that they were regular troops under good discipline.
Extract from the "International College Newsletters"
Historical information largely based on: an interview with Dr. Howard Reed (summer 2011); Memoir of the Rev. Pliny Fisk, A.M.: late missionary to Palestine (1828); Memoires, Lights and Shadow in the Orient (1898) by Hartune Jenanyan; Fifty
Three years in Syria (1910) by Henry Jessup; The Mail and Empire, Toronto, Saturday December 17, 1898; The Evening Post, New York, Wednesday
May 11, 1887
The Adventures of Alexander MacLachlan
Spring 2012: Part 1
On a cold wintery day in 1820, two 27-year-old men caught their first glimpse of the coastal Turkish town of Smyrna. Church bells were ringing in town, almost drowning the yells of multi-lingual shouts of passerbys on the streets below. More than a hundred vessels were harbored nearby getting ready for the day's trade. Long camel caravans, mostly laden with figs, licorice root, raisins, wood, tobacco, and rugs attached with ropes and led by drivers, dominated the narrow streets.
For Reverends Pliny Fisk and Levi Parsons, the scenes were a welcome respite from the tossing and turning of their ship. Two months earlier, they had embarked on their mission to Palestine from Boston, where the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had appointed them to investigate opportunities for religious and social work in Jerusalem.
Their stop in Smyrna was supposed to be a temporary one. But the two men found themselves captivated with the area and decided that Smyrna was an ideal location for a Protestant mission base. Neither Parsons nor Fisk lived to see the mission base. Both men succumbed to fevers less than six years later. But their missionary work in the region had been extensive (Fisk was the pioneer missionary in Beirut) and Smyrna was now firmly established as a staunch missionary post.
Forty years later, a small Canadian boy was stuffing tree leaves in his pants as he walked the 22km through the forest to reach the area's only school. He had gotten into another fight and the schoolmaster was sure to take the rod to his backside again.The leaves, he thought, would lessen the effects of the blows which were sure to come. He would later have to trudge back home carrying not only his school supplies but the needed family provisions from the general store. But young Alexander MacLachlan took it all in his stride. His hard working but penniless family had emigrated from Scotland a few years back and claimed a 20-acre forested homestead in the unruly area of Muddy York (later to become Toronto). They singlehandedly cleared the trees, built a log cabin and farm. Joined by other homesteaders, the MacLachlan family donated some of their land and built a church and cemetery (where Alexander MacLachlan is now buried).
While Alexander loved farm work, he felt a higher calling and ultimately received a university scholarship to Queens University in Ontario. He continued his studies at Union Seminary in New York and was very active in the bible study group. It was in this group that MacLachlan met Elliot Shepard, a young newspaper publisher who had married into the wealthy Vanderbuilt family. As the aristocratic class did back then, Shepard took a ship tour of the Middle East in 1885. Upon his return, he mesmerized his friends with tales from the east. Most of all, he seemed open to the idea of financing a school in Tarsus. An Armenian student at the Seminary, Hartune Jenanyan, solicited from him the needed funds '96 and along with MacLachlan and the approval of the American Board of Commissioners '96 began preparing for a new life in Turkey. (Shepard also financed the purchase of some of the Protestant missionary land in Beirut).
The event was deemed important enough to be cited in the New York Evening Post that year. "Fifty one students were graduated from the Union Theological Seminary last evening," stated the Post on Wednesday May 11, 1887. "Hartune Jenanyan and Alexander MacLachlan were ordained, as they are soon to go to Tarsus to found an orphanage and school. The Rev W.D. Buchanon, moderator of the Presbytery, presided at the ordination…"
And so, on January 27 1888, MacLachlan and his new bride, Lizzie Stephens, boarded the Servia alongside Jenanyan and his wife and set sail to Turkey. Upon their arrival, hundreds came to welcome them, "among the number," writes Jenanyan in his 1898 memoires,
Lights and Shadow in the Orient , "curious Turks with high Turban and long flowing robes, the mothers of Tarsus with their tiny babes swaddled, the leading people of the church, Armenians in their beautiful embroidered garments, Greeks gaily dressed, peasant women from the mountains with their little ones strapped across their backs."
MacLachlan and Jenanyan set to work. On November 22 1888, St. Paul's Institute opened with seventeen students. The school grew quickly and before long was offering collegiate classes. (Today it is known as "The American Tarsus College", and credits both MacLachlan and Jenanyan as its founders).
Tragedy struck, however, shortly after the school's opening. MacLachlan's wife, Lizzie, developed cholera and died. MacLachlan was devastated. Compounding this loss, the two men were not getting along well. Disagreements about fund allocation and
the school mission were taking their toll on MacLachlan.The Armenian minister wanted a stricter religious syllabus while MacLachlan wanted a more liberal approach.
During an 1888 trip from Beirut to Tarsus, Henry Jessup, one of the Syrian Protestant College (AUB) founders, was quick to pick up on the differences.
"There were indications of an incompatibility which almost invariably develops itself where any institution in the East is placed under the dual control of an Oriental and an Occidental," he writes in his book,
Fifty Three years in Syria (1910). "I then wrote a long document to the New York Board of Trustees, which I read to Mr. Jenanyan, and which he approved, advising that hereafter St. Paul's Institute be made either wholly Armenian with Mr. Jenanyan at its head, or wholly American with an American at its head."
Two years after their arrival to Tarsus, MacLachlan resigned his post. His grandson, Dr. Howard Reed, who currently lives in the US, remembers his grandfather telling him the story. "He was tired of this
mess and wanted to go back to America," he said. "But a friend told him to take a vacation in Smyrna and visit the mission base there."
The missionaries had opened up a girls' school in Smyrna (American Collegiate Institute) but there was still a strong need for a boys' school. Would MacLachlan go and take a look at the city?
Summer 2012: Part 2
If Alexander MacLachlan expected a backward city, he didn't find one. Smyrna was a thriving city in the Ottoman Empire. It was, if the phrase can be coined, the 'Paris of Asia Minor'. It was well-known for its majority Christian population, which comprised of Greeks, Armenians, Levantines, Europeans, and Americans. The city was divided into quarters: the Greek quarter across the city; the European quarter just behind the quayside; the wealthy Armenian quarter nearby, and the Jewish quarter.
It was a friendly arrangement. All were enjoying a bourgeoisie lifestyle, enjoying dining in opulent hotels, reveling in imported foods, and frequenting lavish clubs.The many banks and at least seven postal systems (each country set up its own next to the Ottoman system) were further testimony of the city's prosperity. Just beyond, were the overcrowded and dilapidated quarter of the Turks, most of whom were artisans and craftsmen. The most recent arrivals were the Americans who set up their homes in a large colony just outside the city: 'Paradise'. It was here that MacLachlan would eventually build his vision of a school: International College.
But at this moment in 1890, MacLachlan was solely preoccupied with Rose Blackler, the daughter of an American businessman who moved to Smyrna in 1844 to open a trading store. She was a teacher at the American Collegiate Institute, a Protestant girls' school in Smyrna. A year later, on 14 February 1891, they married. Rose would later prove to be instrumental in founding IC and supporting her husband through many upcoming trials and tribulations.
While in Smyrna, MacLachlan realized that there was a strong need for a boys' school. He knew he was the man for the job but the decision had to come from the American Mission Board in Boston. The MacLachlans returned to Tarsus to debate their next move. Should they return to the US or wait around in Tarsus for the Board to make this critical decision?
Spring turned into summer and there was still no word from the Board.The couple was now expecting their first child and MacLachlan was getting increasingly worried.The last ship to Smyrna leaves in early October.This would be his last chance. Finally, in an impromptu move and without the formal consent of Boston (unbeknown to MacLachlan, the Board had indeed approved but slow communication delayed the arrival of the message), the couple boarded the last ship. It was already October and the school year was about to start. Barely two weeks after their arrival and armed with only a promise of $1000 (later cut to $500) from the Board to be delivered a few months into the school year, the MacLachlans managed to rent a small building which was previously used as a school.
But "Mrs. Bartlett's Boys' School" and its meager leftover equipment were nowhere near MacLachlan's vision for a school. Still, it would have to do for now. He pulled out the few discarded pine desks and put in an order - on credit - for a supply of textbooks, modern school desks, and a few small maps. Next, MacLachlan put up flyers around the town and along the two railway lines near the school announcing the opening of the "American Boys' School". Aware that Turkish law forbade Turkish children from entering foreign schools, MacLachlan was hoping to attract Armenians and Greeks and so stated very clearly on the flyers - against the Board's instruction to include the word "Protestant" - he added: "This school is Christian but non-Sectarian".This statement would remain on all the school's catalogs and publications for many years to come.
On 15 October 1891, the school opened its doors and five students were registered. All were Armenians, including a boy called Hadji Nourian. It would be years before MacLachlan discovered that the boy was actually a Turk and his parents cleverly added the Armenian patronymic 'ian' to his surname. MacLachlan also cleverly managed to find a way to evade the strong scrutiny of the "Karakol" - Turkish police station - directly opposite the school. The school could be accessed by a back alley which allowed MacLachlan to turn a blind eye to Turkish boys wishing to attend the school. Despite his arduous attempts, MacLachlan could solicit little, if any, help from the US Board. His little school, he realized, was effectively on its own. But the Canadian farmer was not one to succumb to failure. He believed too much in his mission. "To stunt our growth at this point would mean stagnation and failure," he wrote in a 1937 self-published autobiography Potpourri of Sidelights and Shadows from Turkey, of which only a handful of copies are currently in existence. "We had no alternative but to allow the school to continue to develop on its merits, as it already had demonstrated its right to exist and capacity of self-reliance."
Meanwhile, the student body was growing steadily as the school gained a favorable reputation in town. Its success even surprised MacLachlan himself. But there was talk that the owner was willing to sell the place to the first buyer that showed up at his doorstep. The MacLachlans would essentially lose their school if that were to happen. There was only one thing to do: buy it themselves. But the asking price of £3000 was well beyond the school's meager financial capacity. In a goodwill gesture, the owner offered the school a deduction of £1000 if MacLachlan purchased it immediately.
By pure coincidence, on that very evening, another Reverend and his wife were invited to the MacLachlan's home for dinner. By way of conversation, the guests told them that the "London Jewish Mission" was getting ready to buy the school and convert it into a hospital. Shocked, MacLachlan realized he was about to lose his school. Suddenly, the guests excused themselves to another room. When they returned, they gave MacLachlan a startling proposition: they would be prepared to give him £2000 immediately to purchase the building. "Praise the Lord, the building is ours," cried out MacLachlan when he received the approval of the proposal from the US Board. The minister rushed to the owner and made the offer. The Armenian owner, Takvor Spartali, honored his promise and deducted the remaining £1000.
On impulse, MacLachlan delivered a speech about the need to make more space for his students. Other than general repairs, the long stable extension and the carriage building containing the servants' quarters would have to be converted into large classrooms. So would Mr Spartali kindly donate £200?
Spartali did not seem too happy. "Surely having presented you with £1000 to make possible your purchase of the property, you are not serious in asking me to make a further gift?" he said. "If you really mean it seriously, I will refuse to talk further with you."
But MacLachlan only laughed and assured him that yes that was exactly what he was doing. After all, MacLachlan argued, the school was serving the Greek
community in Smyrna was it not? Spartali eyed him curiously for a little while. "I'll give you another £100," he finally said and wrote MacLachlan a check.
MacLachlan walked away on top of the world. The school was finally theirs.
Winter 2012: Part 3
Rosalind MacLachlan entered the world on December 17, 1891 - just two months after her parents, Alexander and Rose, had worked around the clock since their arrival from Tarsus to establish the American School for Boys in Smyrna. Rosalind would soon be followed by Bruce, Grant and Ian. The family had settled well in Smyrna. Reverend Alexander MacLachlan's main concern remained the now thriving American School for Boys. What used to be a five year program became an eight-year rigorous curriculum made up of four preparatory and four collegiate grades.
The reputation of the school began attracting Greek students (previously only Armenians attended), not only from Smyrna but also from Greece proper and Macedonia. To accommodate them, MacLachlan opened a dormitory wing in the three story stone and brick school building. The Armenian preparatory occupied the ground floor, the Greek preparatory was on the first floor and boarding students were housed on the third floor. MacLachlan knew that a large part of the school's success relied on bringing in native English speakers '96 preferably Americans seeing as it's an American school. But bringing in Cambridge graduates from the UK proved to be far less expensive than paying the travel expenses of teachers from the US. (In fact it would be five or six years before American teachers were hired).
Primary grades were eventually dropped and replaced with secondary level courses. The school's name was aptly changed to "The American High School for Boys." By 1892 - just a year after the school's opening - the school boasted 286 students. The first class graduated in 1895, made up of three Armenians and one Englishman. Among the graduates was no other than Hadji Nourian, a Turk (the law forbade Turkish students to attend foreign schools) whose parents disguised his Turkish origins by shrewdly adding the patronymic 'ian' to his surname of Nouri.
But MacLachlan wasn't satisfied. Something was missing. And then it hit him: athletics. He loved sports as a youngster - especially tennis and soccer. He wanted to instill this love of sports and competition in his students. And so much to the surprise of his charges, he excitedly declared a "Field Day Athletics Sports" to be held at a large field in Bournabat, a suburb of Smyrna. Much to the surprise of their headmaster, students showed little reaction. MacLachlan began to think of ways to get them excited about his idea. Perhaps offering prizes would do the trick. He threw himself into the task of
contacting the business offices of British merchants in town and managed to collect more than a hundred dollars. He purchased a variety of prizes and put them on exhibition in a prominent show window in the city with a list of the events to be contested.Those events included marbles, leapfrog, kite flying, jumping, pole vaulting, running, tug-of-war, hurdles, three legged races, sack races, etc.
MacLachlan had worked hard. But it was worth it as such exciting competitions and the prizes were now sure to arouse the enthusiasm of his students. He waited expectantly for his charges to practice for the event. Very few bothered. The minister was dismayed. There were only two weeks left until the Field Day. At this rate, it was sure to be a failure. It was then that he hit upon the idea to open the competition to other schools, state and private. No sooner had he made this announcement, than his students jumped to the challenge. The idea of other people walking away with prizes destined for them was more than they could bear. The boys began practicing zealously.
Excitement of the event spread throughout the city. The "Smyrna and Cassaba Railway Company" pasted posters throughout the city advertising special
excursion trains for the "Field Day Sports of the American Boys School." The press wrote up articles about the upcoming event. MacLachlan even asked
the French Sacre Coeur College to send its brass band to furnish music for the afternoon. The school quickly obliged. The day dawned bright and sunny. An astounded MacLachlan watched as more than four thousand people showed up. The success of the event exceeded all expectations. Very proudly, he noted that the great bulk of the prizes were carried off by his very own students. It was a great moment in the school's short history. The next day, MacLachlan was approached by a deputation of the city's leading schools to congratulate him on the day's success. But they had a request: would MacLachlan help them form a "Smyrna Schools Athletic Association"?
Needless to say, MacLachlan agreed wholeheartedly. For many years to come, an annual interscholastic Field Day was held at the same plot of land in Bournabat, but with an additional twist: a championship cup was awarded to the school with the highest number of points. The competition for this cup alone created an intense frenzy among the schools. Inspired, the Pan-Ionian Association of Smyrna began to hold their own yearly successful sports competitions.
In 1896, just four years after MacLachlan held his Field Day - the first modern Olympics were held in Athens. MacLachlan couldn't help chuckling to himself. "We are not bold enough to publicly proclaim our initiative in the revival of this ancient and world renowned contest," he wrote in his 1937 memoires, Potpourri of Sidelights and Shadows from Turkey. "We will leave it to the research experts of the future to trace back to its original source the modern little spring from which trickled the stimulating life spirit of athletic revival in modern Greece."
MacLachlan now adamantly wanted to establish a rich athletic program in the school's curriculum. But how? The school had no field to speak of. But just beyond the school's wall, there was a large vacant lot, easily accessible from the back alley. This would make an ideal playing field. But as usual, it was same age old question: where could he possibly find the funds to purchase it?
Unbeknown to him, the S.S. Saghalien steamer ship was making its way to the port of Smyrna. A couple was standing on the deck watching the Turkish coastline approaching. They would prove to be some of the greatest friends that IC had ever known.
Spring 2013: Part 4
Mr. and Mrs. John Stewart Kennedy were only supposed to dock in Smyrna for a few hours until the Austrian Lloyd Steamship sets sail again to Constantinople. A millionaire magnate, Kennedy was a staunch Protestant. Childless, the couple donated much of their wealth to many charities - among them educational institutions. They particularly seemed to favor Protestant ones. In fact, they had just arrived from Beirut after visiting the Reverend Daniel Bliss at the Syrian Protestant College (today's AUB). For some reason, their trip to Constantinople was postponed until the next day.
As the couple pondered their next move, MacLachlan received a telegram from his close friend, Reverend Daniel Bliss (founder of AUB) informing him of the couple's trip to Turkey and suggesting that MacLachlan make himself of service to the Kennedy's during their stay in Smyrna. MacLachlan immediately made his way to the quay and boarded the S.S. Saghalien. Would the couple like to stay with the MacLachlans until their ship sets sail? The Kennedy's politely expressed great interest in seeing the school but insisted on staying in a hotel.
It was tourist season and Smyrna with its many archeological remains was a main destination.The city's rather imposing harbor was lined with lavish hotels, brasseries and banks, as dozens of steamboat companies catering for passenger liners arrived almost daily from Europe and other Ottoman ports. Opulent hotels with their ostentatious dining rooms were frequently full. MacLachlan knew that finding a hotel for the Kennedy's at such short notice would be an almost impossible task. Still, it was their request and he obliged.
He led the way to Hucks, the best hotel in the city.
"I've brought you some guests Mr. Hucks," announced MacLachlan. Mr. Hucks, however, informed him that the hotel was full. MacLachlan led the couple to yet another opulent hotel.That hotel proved to be full as well. Finally, and somewhat regrettably, the Reverend turned to the Kennedys and said "So what do you propose we do now?"To that, John Kennedy simply replied "I propose that we accept your generous offer of hospitality!"
Perhaps it was destiny for, as MacLachlan would often recall, "that day the Lord caused a mighty wind to blow and for the next four days no ship of any kind entered or left the port of Smyrna."
In those memorable few days, the Kennedys became staunch supporters of the school and would remain so for the next 37 years. Thanks to the Kennedys and other donors, MacLachlan was able to purchase the vacant lot behind the school '96 reached only by the back alley. He closed off the open end to this back street and waited for any reaction from the city authorities. He got none and students were now able to safely run back and forth through the alley to reach the field.
Still, the playground fell far short of MacLachlan's expectations of an athletics field. Since authorities did not object to his closing off the back street, he ventured yet another bold move. He removed the back walls surrounding the school and the field - finally creating what he was longing for: an area large enough for football practice. It wasn't perfect. He would have liked a much larger campus but it would have to do for the time being. He was itching to have a bigger school and had already envisioned what it would look like. He told himself to be patient and concentrated on his students, who had become his pride and joy. For he had good reason to be proud: The standards of his graduates were so high that American and European universities including the University of Geneva, University of Chicago, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were admitting them without the required official exam. The reputation of the school was such that the name was changed to the "Collegiate Institute."
In 1902, MacLachlan thought it was high time that the College receive a charter from the US and so appealed to the Board in Boston to put in an application to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the school's name. But the Reverend always thought that his school's latest name "Collegiate Institute" sounded rather pretentious.Thus, he and local administrators began brainstorming for new names. The new name couldn't sound too native or too ostentatious. It's not clear whether it was MacLachlan himself or a staff member, but someone finally suggested the name of 'International College'. It sounded perfect '96 exactly what MacLachlan was looking for. It would be the fourth and last name change in the school's short history. In 1903, the application was accepted and 'International College' proudly entered the second decade of its history.
Summer 2013: Part 5
The news couldn't be worse for MacLachlan. Turkish authorities had just informed him to evacuate one of the leased buildings of the school. It appeared that the landlord found a buyer for the property and according to Turkish law, sale of property took precedence over a lease.
This would effectively downsize the school considerably. It would mean that MacLachlan would have to dismiss a large number of students. Not one to take direct orders, the Protestant minister threw himself into researching and finding a loophole in Turkish law. He found it: Turkish law also granted the tenant the right to purchase the property.The price was set at £1200. MacLachlan put in his personal savings which amounted to £500. He appealed to the US Board in Boston for the rest. He was refused. He sent other letters of appeals and received no answer. Just as he was beginning to despair, he received a small note from a friend. "Why not appeal to some of your Presbyterian friends?" it said. "Of course", MacLachlan thought to himself. He had many Protestant friends right here in Smyrna. Among them was a British friend who had been following the progress of International College with great interest.The friend immediately came to the rescue and supplied the needed £700. "I am putting it at your disposal," he told the relieved MacLachlan "to help the College out of this almost impossible situation."
The sale went smoothly enough but the experience left MacLachlan anxious. He couldn't rely on the US board.That had become clear. He had to find his own source of funding.
One day he heard that Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and one of the most important philanthropists of the time, was seeking worthy causes to dispose of his great wealth. MacLachlan felt certain that Carnegie would be sure to choose his humble school in Smyrna. Friends tried to dissuade him. Even John S. Kennedy, now a staunch friend of IC, wrote and discouraged him but nevertheless included an introductory letter to Carnegie. By now, even the Kennedys realized that very little could dissuade MacLachlan once he got hold of an idea. For his part, Carnegie had purchased a 12th century castle, "Skibo", a few years earlier in the Highland county of Sutherland, Scotland. He had just spent over £2m in modernizing the crumbling castle and was immensely proud to take on the new role of a Scottish laird. (Today, the castle is an exclusive £1000 a night members -only hotel and country club). It was to this castle that MacLachlan set his focus. If only Carnegie could hear out MacLachlan, then he was sure Carnegie would bequeath a sizeable donation to IC '96 thus ending all the school's financial woes.
Funding the trip proved to be a challenge. Limited school and personal funds afforded him a third class ticket on a ship heading to Marseille. Not really befitting of a minister but, as MacLachlan put it, "a midsummer travel in the Mediterranean is quite as tolerable on the open deck as it is in a third class cabin below," he wrote in his 1937 memoires,
Potpourri of Sidelights and Shadows from Turkey. A long slow train journey then brought
him to the north-east coast of Scotland '96 still a few miles short of his destination. Since there was no public transportation in sight, MacLachlan doggedly set off on foot to reach the castle. It took him a few hours on the dusty road but he finally arrived.
It was then that he saw it: a grand 100-room baronial castle with imposing towers, turrets and battlements set in the midst of 20,000 acres of gardens, rolling lawns, herbaceous borders, orchards, woodland walks, greenhouses, ponds and a waterfall. It was for Carnegie, his "heaven on earth." The exhausted reverend was welcomed quite cordially to the castle and even invited to stay for a fortnight if he so wished. Guests at Skibo were treated like royalty.They fished for salmon in
Carnegie's streams, swam in his pool, and played golf on the course that Carnegie had carved down by the sea. And each morning at 8:00am, a kilted piper woke everyone up by playing bagpipes under the bedroom windows.The morning meal was served in the breakfast room off the
main entrance hall, accompanied by Bach and Haydn pieces played on the huge pipe organ. On the first visit, each guest would be given a spoon embossed with "Skibo" in silver lettering '96 after finishing their breakfast. Visitors included King Edward VII, British Prime Minister LLoyd George, Booker T. Washington, Kipling, Polish Prime Minister Paderewski, the Rockefellers, and even Helen Keller.
But the Protestant minister had no intention of reveling in this luxurious castle with its silk walls and velvet sofas. His beloved school back home needed him and the funds he had set out for. On his second day at Skibo, he was accorded an interview with Carnegie. It was apparently a long interview (unfortunately, MacLachlan never revealed the details) but the end result was that MacLachlan was refused any financial help. "My visit was barren of any financial gain to the College," he wrote in his memoires in an obviously sad tone.
Deeply disappointed, MacLachlan immediately set off on foot back on the dusty road leading him to the train station. It was a "fool's errand" '96 as he called it. Still, he did manage to get something out of it: the story of his long, lone journey stirred the heart of a Scottish Christian philanthropist who ended up sending the school a generous check of a few hundred dollars.
Winter 2013: Part 6
Reverend Alexander MacLachlan, had a new dilemma: The poor gas lighting at the school was decidedly beginning to irritate him. Some rooms didn't even have any lighting at all. Students had to study by candlelight causing him to keep a continuously wary eye for fires. "He thought it was dangerous for his boys," recalled Howard Reed, MacLachlan's last surviving grandson who lives in the US. "He wanted to power the buildings." But anyone who knew the minister knew quite well that MacLachlan would go to extremes to make sure that his precious International College would have the best.
And thus his dilemma: Turkish authorities strictly forbade the use of all electric equipment, except for door bells. In fact, there wasn't a single electric lighting plant, private or public, in the entire Turkish Empire. So how would he, a simple Protestant minister from Canada, ever be able to convince the authorities otherwise?
Very wisely, he knew that he couldn't. By now, MacLachlan had learned there were ways to get around Turkish authorities and he waited for an opportunity. It came soon enough under the guise of a young Greek electric engineer who had heard of MacLachlan's quest. The engineer was eager to make a name for himself in Smyrna as an expert in this new world of electricity. MacLachlan was only too glad to oblige. After several meetings, the two came up with an agreement: the engineer would bring in and install a complete modern electric lighting system, including storage batteries, while the school assumed all responsibility in dealing with Turkish authorities.
Once again, MacLachlan had taken a risk. If Turkish authorities got wind of the agreement, he and IC could easily find themselves
thrown out of the country. Still, the minister was not one to scare easily. The agreement went into effect immediately. The engineer would be paid once the electricity plant was built. Of course there remained a hitch in the concocted plan: how could they build this
electric plant if Turkish customs officials prohibited any electric equipment from entering the country? With the bold audacity of youth, the engineer had his own plans. And so it was that for a while, customs officials found themselves inspecting strange things in big boxes: large glass jars for the storage batteries - listed as jars for preserving fruit. Boxes filled up with wires, essential in manufacturing the latest fashions of broad-brimmed hats for European ladies living in Smyrna. After all, these hats were the latest in Paris. The Turks wouldn't want Smyrna lagging in fashion would they? And as everyone knows, fire insurance companies have stringent demands so lightning rods had to be brought in big crates (they were actually coils for the dynamo with attached iron rods).
But no manufactured excuse could possibly disguise the heavy and cumbersome leads for batteries. And so one day, a strange boat quietly landed on the coast of Asia Minor opposite the Island of Samos. And very quietly the batteries were loaded onto large wicker
baskets and attached to camels. IC students and teachers were probably the only ones who noted camel caravans arriving onto their
campus during strange hours.
The engineer set to work. It is not certain whether MacLachlan himself helped out in building the plant, but as a hands-on person who reveled in construction projects, he most likely did lend a hand.
Bit by bit, the electricity plant was finally completed. Was it MacLachlan or the engineer who first switched it on? We don't know. But no matter. It worked! IC boys actually had electric lights in their dorms and classes. Essentially, MacLachlan had built the first electricity plant in Turkey. Unfortunately, the name of the Greek engineer was never revealed.
About a month after his plant was built, MacLachlan got wind of the news that the Turkish government had heard rumors about electricity in the school and was sending a delegation over. The source even informed him of the exact day and hour. MacLachlan got ready. He instructed all school personnel to greet them warmly and to escort them graciously to his office. The cook was told to wait for MacLachlan's signal and enter the room carrying a wide array of refreshments. No sooner had the Turkish group arrived than they were whisked off to MacLachlan's office. The Protestant minister enthusiastically performed the needed oriental formalities and then '96 as he saw the deputies about to state their business '96 jumped in with his own announcement: IC has its own electricity! He proceeded to switch on and off the light in his office '96 an obvious signal for the cook to enter. The Turkish group found themselves
munching on refreshments as they watched the lights flicker. Their frowns slowly gave way to wonder and MacLachlan (who under-
stood Turkish by then) heard them murmur to each other "Why can't we have these things in our homes?" and "Imagine foreigners in
our country having such things and yet we can't have them."
But MacLaclan didn't stop there. He quickly ushered them to the plant itself and showed off the dynamics of the plant. "Much time was spent in the engine room answering questions and showing further demonstrations," wrote MacLachlan in his 1937 diary "Potpourri of Sidelights and Shadows from Turkey."
The group was then ushered back to the office and served yet another array of exquisite refreshments. Deftly, MacLachlan bid
them farewell thanking them profusely for their lovely 'unannounced' visit. Turkish authorities never mentioned the electric plant again. And IC, now all lit up, continued to thrive
Spring 2014: Part 7
Alexander MacLachlan eyed his precious school buildings with a critical eye. Meles Street, where IC is located, is the widest street in the city. It was originally built as an upper class residential quarter. A stream, confined between walls, ran down the middle of it. Historically, the stream was the ancient River Meles on the banks of which Homer (the author of two of ancient Greece's literary works, the Iliad and the Odyssey) was said to be born. But by the early 20th century, the river had become more or less an open sewer and a menace to the health of MacLachlan's boys and neighborhood.
Nothing would please him more than to build an arch over the stream and repave Meles street with small cube granite blocks. In addition, an engineer reported that two sewers would have to be added on as well. It was an expensive project. The Municipality would only pay 60 % of the costs. The rest was up to MacLachlan and his neighbors. Not only that, but the governor promptly placed the entire responsibility of the general oversight of the job, including hiring the workmen and suppliers, on MacLachlan himself.
It was the last thing the Protestant Minister, with his heavy school schedule, needed.
By early 1907, International College was enjoying its highest enrolment yet. The school boasted more than 400 students, day and boarding, with Greek students outnumbering Armenians. MacLachlan himself was overburdened with a heavy program not to mention running the entire administrative and accounting side of the school. But "the future wellbeing of the college and the general material interest of the neighborhood weighed so heavily on me that rather than see the plan fail, I finally agreed to the conditions," he wrote in his 1937 diary, Potpourri of Sidelights and Shadows from Turkey.
He began by inviting all of IC's neighbors to discuss the situation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most were reluctant to help finance the project. After many months of negotiations, they finally agreed.
By now it was 1908. The Ottoman Empire was stirring uncontrollably. Asia Minor was on the point of major changes. The autocratic regime was facing many gripes mostly from young Turks who ached to see more liberal policies in their government. The end result was a revolt headed by Enver Pasha. The Young Turks assumed power, restored the defunct 1876 constitution (which under Abdulhamid II guaranteed freedom of religion and the press) and installed Mehmed V on the throne. Indeed, the public were astonished the next day when newspapers declared strange terms such as 'freedom','nation' and 'parliament'. Under the slogan of "huriet" (liberty), all barriers of race, community and religion had seemingly melted away. It was a period of both social and economic liberalism. Women even began to appear unveiled in public.
At that moment, however, MacLachlan was preoccupied in this rather self-imposed project of Meles street. A month had barely past when workmen threw down their picks and shovels. "It was a time of wild rejoicing," wrote MacLahlan in his diary. Unfortunately, property owners translated 'huriet" as being absolved from paying for the renovation of Meles street and it would be another eight months before MacLachlan convinced them that they still had to bear up to their responsibilities. "In due course the work was completed and again Meles street became the finest street in the whole city of Smyrna," he wrote proudly.
For IC, the 1908 Turkish revolt meant that Muslims could now freely attend the school. Turkish students began to flock to the school. (Indeed, by 1914 they represented a quarter of the students). With the influx of Turkish students rapidly increasing the already large and growing student population, the school was practically bursting at the seams. MacLachlan had to rent additional properties on the opposite side of Meles street. Eventually, however, there were no more properties to rent. Unable to accommodate any more boarders inside the school, a large number of students boarded in restaurants and lodging houses "exposing them to dangers and temptations of the city," wrote MacLachlan in the 1908 Annual Report of the school. "We must emphasize the imperative necessity of providing additional accommodations at the earliest possible dates."
The Protestant Minister began to envision a bigger campus. Perhaps on a land a bit further away. Somewhere where he could finally live out his dream: a large campus with ample playing fields, a large gym area, theatre, and perhaps even a farm where students can learn agriculture and tend to animals.
He began to get excited about his idea. By now, he knew quite well that where there's a will then there's a way. Unbeknown to him, it was an idea that would ultimately save IC from being completely destroyed only 12 years later.
Summer 2014: Part 8
With great shock, Reverend MacLachlan learned of the death of his friend, John S. Kennedy in 1909. He and his wife, Emma, had been staunch supporters of IC since the couple sailed into Smyrna 17 years ago on their way to Constantinople. They were supposed to stay for only a few hours. But when their departure was suddenly postponed for a few days, the Kennedys found themselves guests at the MacLachlans. Over the next few days, the two families became great friends. Since then, the Kennedys often came through as loyal supporters of the school. The Reverend was even more shocked
when a letter arrived from the US soon after. A document accompanying the letter tumbled out of the envelope. MacLachlan slowly unfolded it and found himself staring at John S. Kennedy's last Will and Testament. In it, Kennedy had bequeathed to the school the hefty sum of $20,000.
The minister stared at the paper unbelievingly. "God never closes one door without opening another," he whispered to himself. The fund for a new school had effectively begun.
A year later, MacLachlan took a furlough leave of absence and travelled to the US. All appeals to the Boston Board to increase the new fund had been refused. Accompanied by his daughter, Rosalind, now 19, MacLachan accepted an invitation to stay at the Kennedy family home in New York on the prestigious 57th street. One day, he received an invitation from Helen Gould, the daughter of a wealthy railroad tycoon to visit her for a few days in
her summer home of Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY (Gould was also a member of the Russell Sage Foundation which would later donate funds to build today's Sage Hall in the Ras Beirut campus). On the day they were to return home, Gould took MacLachlan and his daughter for a long drive up the banks of the Hudson. As she dropped them off at the
railway station, she handed the Protestant minister an envelope. "This is just a small gift for the College," she said. "Someday I hope to do something worthwhile for it."
In it was a check for $5000. The minister was in "seventh heaven" as he wrote in his 1937 diary
Potpourri of Sidelights and Shadows from Turkey, "in those days five thousand dollars seemed very much worthwhile."
Back at the Kennedy residence, he found Emma Kennedy talking with an old school friend in the morning room. "Tell me about your visit with Miss Gould," she said almost excitedly. Obligingly, MacLachlan told her about his days at Lyndhurst and ended with his joy of discovering the generous check in the envelope. Scarcely had he finished when Kennedy promptly announced: "I am giving you Fifty Thousand Dollars."
Dumfounded, MacLachlan stared at his hostess. Surely he had heard wrong. Slowly the words sunk in and he managed to recover his senses. "My dear Mrs. Kennedy, do you really want to commit yourself to such a large gift just at this time? I know the estate is not yet settled, and I am for the present quite satisfied to know of your keen interest in the
college and its work."
"Oh, I'm quite sure it's all right," promptly answered Kennedy. "Stephen (a relative) was in here this morning and told me that I could begin to give away money and I want my first gift to go to your College."
MacLachlan remained motionless. From the corner of his eye, he saw Kennedy's guest dabbing her handkerchief to her eyes. With shock, he realized that his own tears were silently flowing.
The date was October 25th 1910. "I began to clearly comprehend the significance in the life history of the College of two such splendid and unexpected gifts in a single day," he wrote in his diary, "this is surely 'Founders' Day' for International College."
Henceforth, Founders' Day at IC in Smyrna was officially commemorated on October 25th every year.
With the annual fund boasting $75,000, MacLachlan finally had enough capital to build his dream: a sprawling IC campus with state of the art facilities. He couldn't wait to return to Turkey.
But first, MacLachlan \endash now just over 50 \endash wanted to find a suitable man to teach and assist him and eventually take his place. Being a Protestant minister, he naturally headed towards the Union Theological Seminary (in NY) and found himself seated across a young seminary graduate, Cass Arthur Reed. Little did he know that he was looking at the man who would eventually not only become his son-in-law but the person who would play a
pivotal role in moving IC to Beirut twenty six years later…
Extract from "The New York Times" dated 9 September 1940
Kingston, Ont., Sept. 8. -- The Rev. Alexander MacLachlan, D.D., founder of the International College at Smyrna, Turkey, died suddenly in his home here today. In ten days he would have been 82 years old.
Article Preview: Rev. A. MacLachlan, Educator, is dead; he studied earthquakes; built, equipped laboratory in the Near East; wounded by brigands in 1922 disaster.
Alexander married Lizzie H. STEPHENS on 19 Oct 1887 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada. (Lizzie H. STEPHENS was born in 1860 and died in 1889 in Tarsus, Turkey.)
Alexander next married Rosalind Hooper BLACKLER, daughter of Francis Chipman BLACKLER and Annie Sophia Boucher ROUTH, on 14 Feb 1891 in All Saints Church, Boudja, Smyrna, Turkey. (Rosalind Hooper BLACKLER was born on 23 Mar 1866 in Smyrna, Turkey, christened on 21 Oct 1866 in New English Church, Boudja, Smyrna, Turkey, died on 20 Mar 1954 in Ontario, Canada and was buried in Melville White Church Cemetery, Caledon, Peel Regional Municipality, Ontario, Canada.)