David Mackay VC

b. 23/11/1831 Caithness, Scotland. d. 18/11/1880 Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

David Mackay (1831-1880) was born in Caithness, Scotland on the 23rd November 1831, the second of thirteen children born to farm labourer Angus Mackay and his wife, Christina. At the age of 19, David enlisted on 23rd December 1850 in the 93rd Regiment of Foot (later Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) and was one of the immortal “Thin Red Line” at the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War. When the Second China War broke out, the 93rd set sail for the Far East in June 1857. During the sea voyage, Mackay was promoted to Corporal. When they reached Simons Bay near Cape Town on 9th August, they learned that they were being diverted to India to help put down the Mutiny by the Bengal sepoys.

Victoria Cross

On 16th November 1857, the 93rd advanced through the gardens of the Secundra Bagh, and they raced the 4th Punjabis to be the first through the narrow gap that had been made by the fire of the heavy guns of Captain Peel’s Naval Brigade. The first few to enter were all killed or wounded but finally the weight of numbers pushed aside the opposition. It was during this phase of the battle in the grounds that Mackay performed his act of gallantry. Spotting an enemy banner of the 2nd Ludhiana Regiment, he attacked and killed the sepoy ensign before carrying the trophy away.

During the next phase of the battle, he was wounded in the lung during the assault of Shah Najaf. Elected by his comrades, he received his VC from the Queen on 8th June 1858 at Buckingham Palace. Despite his wound, he was retained and promoted to recruiting sergeant in the Aberdeen area before being finally discharged as medically unfit. Mackay had various menial jobs but his health issues caused him to become poor, and he was forced to sell his medals to pay for food for his family of a wife and 5 children. He died aged just 48 on 18th November 1880 in Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire. He was buried in a pauper’s grave in Lesmahagow Cemetery, though in 1998 a headstone was placed to mark his burial spot. His medals are not publicly held.