THE MACKY FAMILY IN NEW ZEALAND
1845 - 1994
Neil Lloyd Macky (1891-1981)
The following account of the origin of the
Macky family, and probable causes of migration, was written by Neil
Lloyd (Polly) Macky in 1939. The content is based on information he
had to hand and expanded, greatly aided by a collection of old letters
in his possession. It was originally published in 1969 for the first
family reunion. The organising committee for the 1994 reunion is greatly
appreciative of his marvellous effort and proud to include the first part
of the history and the letters in this updated family tree.
The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname
According to the Venerable Bede, the Father of
English History who was born in 673, the Pictish race, one of the founding
races of the British Isles, arrived in Scotland from Brittany about the
15th century BC. From France the Picts had sailed northward to Ireland.
The ancient Monarchs of Ireland refused them permission to land but they
were allowed to locate themselves in the eastern part of Scotland on
condition that all their kings marry an Irish princess. This established a
matriarchal hierarchy, first in the annals of British history.
The family name MacKy is believed to be descended
from this source.
Nechtan was the first recorded Pictish king about
724AD, although according to Roman history, many Pictish
kings before him had fought gallantly at Hadrian's Wall against the Roman
invasion many centuries before. From the north, after the year 900,
the Picts were invaded by the Orcadian Vikings who penetrated as far
south as Caithness, and they were left with a territory on the eastern
coast of Scotland from Aberdeen,
south to Edinburgh.
From some of the many early records researchers
examined such records as the Inquisito, 1120AD, the Black Book of the Exchequer,
the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland,
the Ragman Rolls,
the Chronicles of the Picts and Scots,
and various other cartularies of
parishes in Scotland. From these archives they produced the early records
of the name in Sutherland where they were seated from very ancient times,
some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of
Duke William at Hastings in 1066AD.
The surname MacKy was found in many different
forms and spellings. From time to time the surname was spelt MacKay,
MacCay, MacQuey, MacQuoid, Mackie, MacKaw, MacKy, MacKye, and some of
these versions are still used today. These changes in spelling
frequently occurred, even between father and son. One clanswoman on
record was born with one spelling of her name, married with another
and died with yet another. Scribes and church people frequently selected
their own versions of what they thought the spelling should be.
The family name MacKy emerged as a Scottish clan,
or family, in this territory. More specifically they developed from
their original territories of Sutherland where they were recorded as
a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that
They were descended from the great and ancient Clan Morgunn [Morgan]. They
formed a branch of Clan Chattan. They became involved in Donald, Lord
of the Isles' claim for the Earldom of Ross
in the Battle of Harlaw
in 1411. Angus, Chief of the MacKays was taken prisoner and later married
his captor's daughter and was killed at the Battle of Drumnacoub in 1429.
The MacKays were constantly at feud with the Gunns and Sinclairs to the
north. They also had branched in early times to Kintyre
and to Galloway.
They were hereditary pipers of the Mackenzies and the MacDonalds of
In the 17th century they were involved in many European wars, hence the
name can be found in Holland, Sweden and even Poland. The prime minister
of Holland was once a MacKay.
The Barons Rea were the chiefly line of
the clan. Notable amongst the clan at this time was Barons Rea.
Scotland, during the 16th, 17th and 18th
centuries, was ravaged by religious conflict. The newly found passionate
fervour of Presbyterianism and the Church of Scotland rejected all who
could not pass 'The Test' of taking an oath of belief in the church.
Those failing the 'Test' were sometimes burnt at the stake or, more
kindly, banished to Australia, the Carolinas or the West Indies.
Many clansmen were freely 'encouraged' to
migrate to Ireland. Families migrated from Scotland to Ireland with
promises of cheap Irish soil. They became known as the Scotch/Irish.
Sixty-four families of MacKay settled in Antrim,
and 96 by the name of MacKee settled in Antrim,
The migration, or banishment, to the New World
also continued, some voluntarily from Ireland, but most directly from
Scotland, their home territories. Some even moved to the European
continent. They sailed to the New World across the stormy Atlantic aboard
the small sailing ships known as the White Sails, ships such as the
Hector, the Rambler and the Dove. These overcrowded
ships, sometimes spending two months at sea, were racked with disease,
sometimes landing with only 60 per cent of their original passenger
In North America, some of the first migrants
which could be considered kinsmen of the surname MacKy, or having a
variation of the family surname spelling, were Agnes, Angus, Alexander,
Anna, Catherine, Daniel, George, James, John, Margaret, Neil, Samuel
and William MacKay all arrived in Pennsylvania in 1772.
- George McKay settled in Wilmington with his wife and children in 1774
- Alexander, Andrew, Bernard, David, George, Henry, James, John, Nancy,
Patrick, Robert, Samuel, Thomas and William McKee all arrived in Philadelphia
between 1820 and 1870
- In Newfoundland, MacKay from Kilkenny, Ireland, settled at Bar Haven
in the 17th century; John McKay was a soldier of St John's in 1780
- Edward Mackey settled in Chapels Cove in 1785
- Mary in Brigus in 1801
- Thomas from Faha, Waterford, was married in Bovavista in 1803
- And many, many more, up to 1871.
From the original ports of entry the immigrants
moved westward, some to the middle west, some across the prairies to the
west coast. During the American War of Independence some remained loyal
to the cause, whilst others became United Empire Loyalists and moved
north to Canada.
Many prominent people were a part of this notable
- Lieutenant Governor Keller MacKay, Canada
- Alan McKay, American chief executive officer
- Donald McKay, New Zealand politician
- Maxwell MacKay, Australian mathematician
- Orville McKay, American clergyman
- Robert McKay, American professor of law
Sims's 1862 The Origin & Signification of Scottish Surnames says:
"MACKAY. The son of the champion. They claim to be descended
from Ymore, son of Donald of Strathnavern, a descendant of Achonacher
(claimed as an ancestor of the family of Forbes), who came from Ireland
about the end of the twelfth century."
The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms was blue with a silver
chevron on which there are two daggers pointing at a buck's head, all
between three silver bears' heads:
"Mackay, Scotland, a dexter cubit arm
erect holding in the hand a dagger in pale,
all ppr.¹, hilt and pommel or.²"
—Fairbairn's Book of Crests
¹ppr. = proper, i.e. natural color; ²or. = gold.
The ancient family motto for this distinguished name is:
(With a Strong Hand)
Many Mackys attended New Zealand University.
This table of graduates is from Wendy Leahy's
Shadows of Time:
||Degree and year
|James Henderson Macky
||B.E. [Civil] 1938
|Joseph Cecil Douglas Macky
||M.B. Ch.B. 1926
|Marjorie Ethel Macky
|Mary Kathleen Macky née Newland
||2nd Class Honours
|Neil Lloyd Macky
||3rd Class Honours
|Olive Jessie Macky née Gruar
|Robert Graham Macky
||B.E. [Civil] 1951
||Honours in Engineering
|Robert Lloyd Macky
|Ruth Mary Macky
1st Class Honours
|Wallace Armstrong Macky
|1851 Exhibition Science Scholar
2nd Class Honours
|William Graham Macky