History | Origin | Letters | Tables | Journal | MMMM | Research | Deltas | Gallery | What's New | About
Next: Origin

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 shire. 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 Islay. 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, Down and Armagh.

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 lists.

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 name—

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.
Macky Family Coat of Arms Macky Family Crest, an arm holding a dagger, motto Manu Forti

The ancient family motto for this distinguished name is:
Manu Forti
(With a Strong Hand)

Many Mackys attended New Zealand University.
This table of graduates is from Wendy Leahy's Shadows of Time:

Name University Degree and year Notes
James Henderson Macky Canterbury B.E. [Civil] 1938
John Macky Glasgow M.A. 1879
Joseph Cecil Douglas Macky Otago M.B. Ch.B. 1926
Marjorie Ethel Macky Auckland B.Sc 1929
Mary Kathleen Macky née Newland Auckland M.A. 1923 2nd Class Honours
Neil Lloyd Macky Auckland LL.B. 1949
Nora Macky Auckland M.A. 1915 3rd Class Honours
Olive Jessie Macky née Gruar Auckland B.A. 1913 See interview
Robert Graham Macky Auckland B.E. [Civil] 1951 Honours in Engineering
Robert Lloyd Macky Auckland LL.B. 1954
Ruth Mary Macky Auckland M.A. 1934 Senior Scholar
Entrance Scholar
1st Class Honours
Wallace Armstrong Macky Auckland M.Sc 1926
Ph.D 1929
1851 Exhibition Science Scholar
Senior Scholar
Entrance Scholar
2nd Class Honours
William Graham Macky Auckland B.Sc 1924