Books

Sir Thomas Lipton

James Mackay

Thomas Lipton burst onto the national scene in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The Princess of Wales had launched a £30,000 fund to provide a Jublilee dinner for the poor, but, with only weeks to go, no more than £5,000 had been subscribed. Lipton saved the day by writing a cheque for £25,000. The annonymous gift created massive press speculation and even greater publicity when the identity of the donor leaked out two days later. Lipton's generosity earned him a knighthood and propelled him into society at the highest level, a personal friend of the future King and Queen.

Many of the myths that surrounded Lipton in the latter part of his life were created at this time and would be fixed for ever in his autobiography, published shortly after his death in 1931. Until now, what we know of Sir Thomas Lipton, grocery millionaire and yachtsman, is what he chose to tell the world about himself. Now literally detective James Mackay has uncovered the true story of one of the turn of the century's most extrordinary, larger-than-life characters, a story which is indefinitely more dramatic than the accepted version.

Virtually everything Lipton tells us about himself is now shown to be untrue - even the origins of his family, his name, his date of birth and the place where he was born. The man who was hailed as the world's most eligible bachelor (his name was linked romantically with Rose Fitzgerald, the future mother of John F. Kennedy) had at least two skeletons in the closet - a youthful indescretion which led to a forced marriage, and a homosexual affair which lasted for thirty years.

As a self-publicist he was a genius, and this was the key to his remarkable success. Beginning with a small shop in Glasgoe in 1871 he created a nationwide grocery chain second to none. In the process, he revolutionised the grocery retail trade, dealing direct with producers and eventually controlling production himself, with tea estates in Ceylon and meat-packing plants in Chicago. He combined a flair for organisation with superb showmanship, with stunts such as five-ton cheeses stuffed with gold sovereigns. In 1898 his company went public in one of the most successful share issues in stockmarket history.

Lipton developed an interest in yachting which he pursued with the same single-mindedness as his business ventures. Between 1898 and 1930 he challenged for the America's Cup with a succession of yachts called Shamrock, but the rules of the race were heavily weighted in favour of the American defenders. The saga of his challenges, his near triumphs and the disappointments that would have destroyed a less heroic figure has become the most stirring in the annals of sport, and provides a fitting conclusion to the life of a maverick and outsider who was also one of the most colourful and flamboyant tycoons of all time.

Michael Collins

James Mackay

The most charismatic figure to emerge during the struggles for the independence of Ireland was undoubtedly Michael Collins. This remarkable biography, which draws on much hitherto unpublished material, charts the dramatic rise of the country boy who became head of the Free State and the commander-in-chief of the army.

Mary Queen of Scots

James Mackay

In My End Is My Beginning is the story of Mary Queen of Scots (1542–87), the tragic heroine par excellence. Queen of an unfamiliar and troubled nation when she was a week old, it was her misfortune to be a pawn in the game of international politics throughout her life. Even in the brief period from 1561 to 1567 when she was ruler of Scotland in fact as well as in name, she was beset with problems that would have defeated a much stronger, more experienced monarch. A talented poet and a charismatic leader, she contended with a treacherous, self-serving nobility, the religious ferment of the Reformation, and the political ambitions of larger and more powerful neighbours.

With little real authority and few resources, Mary’s reign was successful, until her disastrous marriage to the dissolute Darnley set in motion the events that brought about her downfall. For the last 20 years of her life she was a prisoner in the hands of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England, and the subject of treacherous plots and conspiracies. A hostage to fortune, she represented a threat and a rallying-point for English Catholics. Her tragic end was inevitable. Yet her life, with all its adventurous, failures and disasters, produced the son – James – who ultimately brought about the union of Scotland and England.

In the End Is My Beginning uncovers the true facts of Mary’s life in the context of Anglo-Scottish relations and shows why, after more than 400 years, she remains arguably the greatest character in popular Scottish history.

Andrew Carnegie

James Mackay

Andrew Carnegie (1835–1922) was a mass of contradictions: a radical Chartist who became a rabid capitalist, an idealist who was also a profound cynic, a committed pacifist who also played a crucial role in the opening part of the American Civil War, and a ladies’ man who had to wait until his fifties (after his domineering mother died) before forming a meaningful relationship with a woman.

From bobbin boy in a Pittsburgh factory he progressed to messenger boy, telegraphist and railway superintendent. His meteoric rise owed much to his boss, Thomas Scott, who also cut the young Carnegie in on his first lucrative share deal. The youth who earned thirty-five dollars a month was on the road to his first million within a year or two, and he never looked back. Speculation in rolling-stock and railways, the nascent oil industry, iron and, above all, steel made Carnegie the richest man in the world. Along the way he created fortunes for many others, but trampled on friend and foe alike in his relentless pursuit of money.

Then, the man who amassed the largest fortune in the world proceeded to give most of it away. From free libraries to world peace, the Carnegie millions were pumped into a host of worthy causes. The Peace Palace at the Hague is the lasting legacy of this global philanthropy; but Carnegie’s faith in the Kaiser to achieve world peace was shattered by the outbreak of the First World War, and it was a setback from which he never recovered.

This candid and penetrating biography follows Carnegie from his humble birthplace in Dunfermline to the squalor of Allegheny City and Pittsburgh in the 1840s, and charts his dramatic rise to fame and fortune. Set against the contrasting backdrops of radical Scotland and America during the most turbulent phase of its development, Little Boss is the definitive story of one of the world’s greatest captains of industry.

Sounds Out of Silence

James Mackay

Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922) was the son of Melville Bell, inventor of the Visible Speech which revolutionised phonetics and linguistics. He was inspired by his deaf mother to try to communicate with deaf-mutes and teach them to speak. While exploring the mechanism of speech, sound and hearing, he discovered the principles of the telephone, arguably the most important invention of all time, without which the gramophone, radio, television and videophone could not have been possible.

The telephone made him wealthy, but Bell went on to invent the iron lung, pioneer aircraft, improve the breeding of sheep and co-found the National Geographic Society.

This superb biography follows Bell from his birthplace in Edinburgh to his studies and teaching in London and Europe and thence to riches and fame in the United States of Canada. Set against the colourful backdrop of Victorian Britain and the exhilaration of the New World, Sounds Out of Silence is the definitive story of one of the world’s greatest inventors.

William Wallace

James Mackay

Sir William Wallace of Ellerslie is one of history's greatest heroes, but also one of its greatest enigmas - a shadowy figure whose edges have been blurred by myth and legend. Even the date and place of his birth have been mis-stated - until now. James Mackay uses all his skills as a historical detective to produce this definitive biography, telling the incredible story of a man who, without wealth or noble birth, rose to become Guardian of Scotland. William Wallace, with superb generalship and tactical genius, led a country with no previous warlike tradition to triumph gloriously over the much larger, better-armed and better-trained English forces. Seven hundred years later, the heroism and betrayal, the valiant deeds and the dark atrocities, and the struggle of a small nation against a brutal and powerful empire, still create a compelling tale.

Biography

Dr James Mackay is an award-winning author and historian, and is widely regarded as the world's greatest authority on the life and works of Robert Burns. As well as his definitive biography, Burns, winner of the Saltire Award for Scottish Book of the Year, he has published accounts of the lives of the great Scottish patriot William Wallace and the Irish statesman Michael Collins. He is also the author of biographies of the celebrated detective Allan Pinkerton (The Eye Who Never Slept), the poet Robert Service (Vagabond of Verse) and Alexander Graham Bell (Sounds Out of Silence).