Don "Juan" McKenna

‘Each person’s intimate homeland is where the tomb of his ancestors lie.’ Benjamin Vicuna MacKenna, Grandson of Don "Juan" McKenna'Higgins -

John (Juan) MacKenna (1771 - 1814) was born at Clogher, County Tyrone. His great-great-grandfather, John, a Jacobite High Sheriff in County Monaghan, had been killed by the Williamites shortly before the battle of the Boyne. A kinsman Alexander O Reilly, a general in the Spanish army who had been Governor of Louisiana from 1767 to 1769, took the young John MacKenna to Spain in 1784 and had him enrolled in the Royal Academy of Mathematics at Barcelona. From there he graduated to the Irish corps of engineers in the Spanish army where he served under Alexander O Reilly. Promotion was not fast enough for him and, in 1796, John MacKenna set sail for Peru with an introduction to a fellow Irishman, the Viceroy Ambrosio O Higgins. His engineering training had been thorough, and was of great benefit to Chile, where he became Governor of Osorno. A most skilled engineer, he was given the job of building fortifications along the coast when an invasion from France was threatened. In 1810 he joined the revolutionary party led by Carrera, but they soon fell out and MacKenna was banished, only to be recalled and promoted to brigadier-general in order to fight the Spanish. When Bernardo, son of Ambrosio O Higgins supplanted Carrera, MacKenna joined him. He became caught up in the power struggle between these two rival dictators and, in a duel in Buenos Aires, was killed by Carrera's brother. He had married a Chilean lady whose name was Vicuna, and his son, Benjamina Vicuna MacKenna (1831 - 86), far from following in the family military career, became a very distinguished Chilean writer and historian.