News Release

Scottish Pioneers - Lou Leece

Sister Lou Leece of the Dundee Bingham Ward, Dundee Scotland Stake is proud to be a fourth generation Latter Day Saint.  That may not sound like much of an achievement – until you realise that Sister Leece is in her 80s.  Sister Leece remembers President David O MacKay coming to Scotland in the sixties and telling the Saints that they should stay and build up Zion here in Scotland or wherever you were. The story of how her family came to stay in Scotland is very interesting and deserves to be told.

James Campbell, her great grandfather was baptized on December 18, 1875, in Glasgow by Elder Alexander Rankin and confirmed by Elder David McKenzie, both from the United States.  His daughter, Margaret, was also baptized.  After his wife died in 1879, James, with the financial help from the Church’s Perpetual Immigration Fund travelled to Utah in 1880.  It is thought that he wanted to do the temple work for himself and his wife and also to see if he wanted to move his family to Utah.  He was travelling back to Scotland but died on the train while still in the USA and was buried in Omaha, Nebraska.  The family, in particular Margaret, did not have the opportunity to go to Utah.

Margaret had married but shortly after her father died, her husband and baby passed away.  She walked to Dundee from Glasgow and there re-married and had six more children, two of whom died in infancy.  Of the four remaining, two eventually went to Utah and one to Canada. Her son, Joseph Smith Wilson, after going to Salt Lake City, married and then went to San Diego, California, USA, and has a large posterity in the church.  When Lou was told by an American visitor that she knew a Joe Wilson in San Diego who knew the Book of Mormon backwards, she was able to say “That’s my uncle!”

Margaret’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie), was baptized December 21, 1907 and stayed in Dundee and took care of her mother.  She stayed true to the church all her life.  She married James McKenzie and had five children. James MacKenzie was a kind man.  As a leading mason he was always making up parcels to distribute to poor widows and he never interfered with his wife’s religion.  However his relatives would have nothing to with her and she was never invited to their home or family events. 

When the missionaries left Dundee in 1938, life for the family who stayed in Scotland was not easy. There was much prejudice against the Church, and the family learned to keep quiet regarding their membership.  Lou, Lizzie’s daughter, recalls that as a child in primary school, when asked who the first apostle was, she answered,” Joseph Smith”.  She was kept after school by the head mistress and told that if she mentioned his name again her mouth would be washed out with carbolic soap. 

However, things improved after World War II when the missionaries returned in 1947 after a nine year absence. It was Lizzie who had kept the Church going during this long absence and she became known affectionately as Grannie McKenzie.  Because of the war and without missionaries the only contact the family had with the Church was the Relief Society Magazine, which was sent to them from America by Lizzie’s brother, Joseph Smith Wilson. 

In 1947, Lizzie, whose husband had died the previous year, was at her usual matinee cinema outing when something told her to leave the cinema.  Across the street she saw two young men who she recognised as missionaries.   They were trying to find members of the Church in Scotland.  She went over to them and asked if they were looking for her which they were.  Meetings of the LDS Church were again held in Dundee in her home.  Eventually Missionaries were sent on a permanent basis and boarded in Dundee.

Meetings were held in various halls and eventually a large house was purchased at 53 Old Glamis Road and remodelled.  Here the Church began to grow as members did not leave for Zion and they now had a place of their own to meet in.  Many who joined at this time and their descendants are still to be found in the Church in Scotland.

In 1948 Lizzie fulfilled her dream and with her daughter, Margaret, went to America and there she was sealed to her husband.  Margaret married a U.S. Navy Senior Chief and remained in the USA. Lizzie’s other daughter, Lou, stayed in Dundee, married Joseph Leece and had two children.

The Mission President, Pres Brockbank, was looking for a site to build a Church and found one in an old quarry in Bingham Terrace.  It was declared useless for building so he got the site cheap and this is now the Dundee Stake Centre.  The saints were amazed at the size but now the Ward has an attendance of 180+ and Stake Conference attendances of almost 750, and there is also a second building in Dundee.

Lou’s two children have stayed strong in the Church.  Her son, Joseph, resides in Leyland, England with his wife, Lyn, and they currently serve on the Preston Temple Presidency.  Her daughter, Sandra, lives in Provo, Utah with her husband, Larry Shumway.

All of Lizzie’s posterity in the Church owe their testimonies to her diligence in keeping the laws and ordinances of the gospel.  She died in 1992, having returned to Scotland at the of age 93. Her daughter Lou still attends her meetings and has been as much of an inspiration to family and friends as her famous mother.

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