b. 06/06/1873 Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 09/01/1930 Nice, France.
John Frederick MacKay (1873-1930) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 6th June 1873. After a private education, he attended the University of Edinburgh, before enlisting with the 1st Gordon Highlanders. He served with the 1st Battalion in the campaign on the North West Frontier, India and with the Tirah Expeditionary Force in 1897-1898, taking part in all the principal engagements, including the Dargai Heights, Tirah Maidan, Warran Valley, Bara River and the operations in Dwatoi country. For these services he was awarded the Tirah Medal and the Punjab Medal with two clasps.
On the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, he was posted out there with the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, but then transferred into the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. He was present in the advance on Kimberley in 1899, including the action at Magersfontein; the operations in the Orange Free State, including Paardeburg and Zand River; the operations in the Transvaal, including Johannesburg, Pretoria and Belfast in 1900.
For these actions, he received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five clasps, the King’s Medal with two clasps, was twice mentioned in despatches, and was awarded the Victoria Cross in connection with the action at Doornkop, near Johannesburg on 28th May 1900, and was recorded in the London Gazette on 10th August 1900.
On the 29th May, 1900, during the action on Crow’s Nest Hill, near Johannesburg, Corporal McKay repeatedly rushed forward, under a withering fire at short ranges, to attend to wounded comrades, dressing their wounds whilst he himself was without shelter, and in one instance carrying a wounded man from the open, under a heavy fire, to the shelter of a boulder.
He was presented with the Victoria Cross on 25th October 1900 by the Commander in Chief, South Africa, Lord Roberts VC at Pretoria. In May 1903, he was seconded to the Southern Nigerian Regiment. He accompanied the expeditions to the Ime River, Cross River and Ibibio Country in 1904-1905. He accompanied the Bende Hinterland Expedition in 1905-1906. He also served with the Northern Nigeria Regiment in 1907, in command of the Ogumi Patrol. He received the West African General Service Medal with four clasps, and was mentioned in despatches twice. He was transferred on promotion in 1907 from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
In the Great War, he served in France in 1915 and 1916. Returning in 1916, he was promoted to the command of the 2nd/6th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, an appointment he held until it was disbanded. Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, commanded the 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Bangalore, India in 1919.
Following his retirement as a Lieutenant-Colonel, he moved to the South of France, where he lived the rest of his life. He died at his home, 31 Rue Villers, Nice on 9th January 1930 aged 56. He was buried in the Cimetiere de Caucade, Nice. His medals are held and displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GORDON HIGHLANDERS MUSEUM, ABERDEEN.
BURIAL PLACE: CIMITIERE DE CAUCADE, NICE, FRANCE. PLOT 42.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Mackay VC medal group at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.