Macfie was born on 4 October 1811 at Leith, and died at Dreghorn near Edinburgh on 16 February 1893. He was the son of John Macfie and his wife, Alison Thorburn. Macfie was educated at both Leith and Edinburgh High Schools and then went on to Edinburgh University. On leaving university, he joined the family business in 1827. The Macfies were a powerful merchant family with considerable interests in the sugar-refining industry, and Macfie set up a Liverpool branch of the company. While in Liverpool, he also worked with Leone Levi to establish a chamber of commerce. He was elected as a member of the Liverpool Exchange.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.