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Isabella Mackenzie was born in Gobernuisgach between Lairg and Durness on 17 Mar 1885 to John McKenzie, a forester, and Henrietta Munro; who had married 5 March 1875 at Tongue.In the 1881 Census the family were living at "Forester's House, in Durness" this may well be Goberneisgach.* (See information below) Isabella was a nurse before the outbreak of the First World War, joining up to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps to help treat the wounded.

The Royal Army Medical Corps and the Imperial Nursing Service were involved in dealing with the wounded from all the fronts of the Great War. They manned the casualty clearing stations, field hospitals and base hospitals in the United Kingdom treating the wounded soldiers.

Wounded soldiers arrived at the hospitals behind the lines suffering from gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds and the effects of poison gas. They were taken to the casualty clearing stations by the unit stretcher -bearers and then on by ambulance to the Field Hospitals. The wounded were usually in a pitiful state, filthy and covered in mud from the trenches, when the nurses removed the men’s uniforms they found the wounded were covered in body lice due to months of not having chance to bathe themselves.

In the base hospitals in the United Kingdom they treated the soldiers who were severely wounded in the terrible fighting taking place in France. Some of the nurses treated the soldiers suffering from shell shock and other psychological effects of what they had witnessed during the fighting. Many of the soldiers had cracked under the strain and were driven insane by the whole experience of warfare; this was probably the worst illness that the medical services had to deal with. Isabella Mackenzie served in Salonika, Greece in 1917, as a nurse for the Serbian Army at a base hospital forty miles behind the front.

The hospital came under two heavy bomber raids in January and February 1917, the nurse’s leader Mrs Katherine Mary Harley, Croix De Geurre, who was the sister of the B.E.F Commander General French was killed. Isabella died in England at Eastbourne Military Hospital on the 2 of November 1918 from complications caused by measles.

She was the final member of the Mackenzie family to die in World War One, her name appears on both the Melness and Lairg War Memorials alongside her three brothers James, Joseph and Sinclair who had all been killed in action.     

SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE Mackenzie Isabella QueenAlexandria Imperial Military Nursing Service.

COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION Nurse Isabella Mackenzie. 2/RES/M/1473. Imperial Military Nursing Service. 2 Nov 1918.

Nurse (her rank on Lairg War Memorial is shown as Sister) Isabella Mackenzie is buried in Melness Cemetery.

*Information from Mary Young in Edinburgh 

The father, John Mackenzie, died in 1897 and Henny and children moved to Argyllshire.

The next family in Goberneisgsach were Henny's brother, JAMES MUNRO (wife Georgina Mackenzie). That is the couple who both died tragically in 1903, leaving 6 young children. Three of them were adopted by James's widowed sister, Henny.

GEORGINA MCKENZIE was born 22 Apr 1867 in Tongue, Sutherland. She married JAMES MUNRO at Altnaharra, parish of Farr on 08 Nov 1895. He was a forester, aged 32, the son of Robert Munro, ferryman, and Janet McKay of Achulvadrach, Tongue. They were married by Alex Sutherland, the Free Church Minister, and the witnesses were Alexander Munro and Josephine Munro.

She died 29 Sep 1903 at Gobernuisgach in the parish of Durness, Sutherland nine days after giving birth to twins. Her husband died at 4pm on 10 Oct 1903, aged 40, near the end of the Polla Road from asphyxia or choking.

The Northern Times of October 16 1903 reported the sad double bereavement at Tongue - Death has been very busy in our midst for some time past, and some sad cases have occurred - weak families bereft of their breadwinners and others of their mothers' love. The saddest case of all was that of the deaths, within a week of each other, of Mr and Mrs James Munro, Gobernuisgach, names known and highly respected throughout a wide district. Mrs Munro, after giving birth to twins, passed away leaving behind her six children, all too young to realise the loss they had sustained. Her devoted husband followed her remains to the churchyard of Melness, and afterwards returned broken-hearted to his lonely home. On Friday he drove to the registrar's office at Durness to perform the melancholy duty of registering the birth of his children and the death of his wife. On Saturday Mr Munro returned, but while rounding the head of Loch Eriboll, amid the solitude of rock and sea, his spirit passed away, and his remains were found placidly seated in his conveyance, while his faithful pony as if conscious of what had happened, waited for the first passer by. Nor had it long to wait for not more than ten minutes elapsed after two friends had parted with Mr Munro, then apparently in his usual health, when another friend coming in the opposite direction found that life was extinct. The cause of death was failure of the heart. The sad event has cast a gloom over the whole district, rendered deeper by the presence of the six fatherless and motherless children, who were feelingly referred to by one of the pastors who took part in the service at the grave as "the little children who were now at play, unconscious of their loss" In earnest prayers they were committed to the care and keeping of the Orphan's Almighty Stay. On Wednesday the remains were placed in the same grave into which a week before he looked through tears upon the coffin of her who was the --.

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