Robert McKenzie Campbell was born Robert Campbell on 27th August 1857 in Durness, Sutherland, Scotland. His uncle was one Hugh McKenzie, so at some point after 1881 he called himself Robert McKenzie Campbell. As far as training is concerned, in 1881 he was living in Govan, Glasgow, and working as a house joiner, so he may have studied at Glasgow.
He worked in Pretoria and Johannesburg around 1888. Plans dated June 1889 for the Hatherley Distillery near Silverton are signed 'CAMPBELL & DIXON'. He entered into partnership with Frank EMLEY (cf. CAMPBELL & EMLEY) in Pretoria in about 1888, the practice lasted until 1891. GAH DICKSON also seems to have been a partner in the firm (cf. CAMPBELL, EMLEY & DICKSON). By 1899 Campbell was living in Parktown, Johannesburg; he left for Cape Town on the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. On 30 December 1901 he was present in Cape Town at a meeting of the proposed 'South African Society of Architects'. Campbell indignantly opposed the formation of the society under this name, explaining that 'he was a Johannesburg architect, and was at the present a refugee, and pointed out there was good reason to suppose that Johannesburg in the near future would be a very important city, probably a greater one architecturally than Cape Town. He thought it unfair for Cape Town to take advantage of the present state of Johannesburg to form a Society aspiring to be representative of South African Architects. John PARKER counter-proposed that the society be renamed the Cape Institute of Architects, the name which was adopted. (CA A1659 vol 1/1:152). Campbell returned to Johannesburg after the war and appears to have died a year later. A death certificate for one Robert Mackenzie Campbell, who died in Parktown, Johannesburg in 1902, probably refers to him, although his occupation was not given on the certificate. The deceased estate papers mention that Robert Mackenzie Campbell had shares in the Pretoria Club (designed by RM Campbell) and indeed, he left a very considerable estate. He is buried in Maitland Cemetery, Cape Town, where his gravestone identifies him as an architect from Durness. There he had built during the 1890s two almost identical stone two-storey L-shaped four bedroom family homes in Durine, Durness; one (Brivard) occupied by the widow and children of his eldest brother Angus Campbell (1843-78), the other (Transvaal) occupied by his second brother also Angus (1845-1935) his sister Henrietta MacKenzie, her husband Hugh and their children. He may have provided sketch plans for theses houses but he almost certainly funded their construction.
He may not have returned to Johannesburg, although he left his estate in the Transvaal.
(Argus Annual & SA Dir 1889; Barnes Tvl almnc & dir 1889; CAD A1659/1/1; TAD MHG 1902/N179)
Additional information received from Douglas Thomson, great-grandson of RM Campbell's brother, was added to this record - 2013 04 02.
There is also an entry in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects.
All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.