Born in Tonbridge, Kent, George Mackley was educated at the Judd School, Tonbridge. He trained as a teacher of art at the Goldsmiths' College, London, specialising particularly in engraving and etching. However, it was not until the 1930's that George Mackley began to focus on wood engraving as his preferred technique.
A true master of his craft, George Mackley produced some of the finest examples of white-line wood engraving of the post-war era and his book on the practical aspects of the subject (published 1948) is still one of the leading manuals on technique. He made his final wood engraving, The Bridge of St. Boniface in 1968, after which a stroke made it impossible for him to continue engraving.