Sunday, March 22, 2015

Captain William Mackay. Article VI, 16/10/1879 – Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part B

Article VI written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 16 Oct 1879 - Part B

"Another native of Auchencraig, of whom his acquaintances and friends might well be proud, was Captain Wm. Mackay, 91st regiment, whose remains lie in Berriedale burying ground, within a few hundred yards of the house his father occupied after leaving Auchencraig. John Mackay, the Captain’s father lived next door to William Ross, in Auchencraig, where all his family were born. William was but young when his father was put out of Auchencraig, and settled down on a piece of ground adjoining the Gribe, at Berriedale, and as I have already said within a few hundred yards of the burying ground there. William Mackay completed his education in the Society’s School under my esteemed friend, Murdoch Mackay. The writer of these lines was a classmate of his, and many a hard struggle we used to have trying who should stand highest in the class. 

When William was a young man, about seventeen years of age, he engaged as “little man” with Mrs Mackay, then of Kilmote, Loth. The writer was also engaged there as shepherd, but was Mackay’s junior by a year. Mackay was sent on some business to Brora market, and there took the shilling. Friends strove with him, and advised him the pay the “smart” and be free, but he would not listen to them, and entered the service; and after serving for a period of about thirty years retired with the rank and pension of captain – a rank which he held long before he left the service. 

Old Berriedale Cemetery
He settled down in Helmsdale where he died, and his remains lie in the ancient burying ground of Berriedale with a stone erected on his grave, with a suitable inscription. He lived an exemplary and godly life, and was much respected by all who knew him. It is not position or birth or influence that makes a man great. Captain Mackay had none of these advantages. All his surroundings were adverse to his rising to fame; yet a good early training, with a pushing and persevering spirit, overcame the disadvantages he laboured under, and he attained a position which is rarely reached except where wealth and influence gain it for its possessor."

Death record of William Mackay
My Comments:
  • William Mackay was presented for baptism by his father John on 12 September 1819.
  • When William was about 17 years old he ‘took the shilling’. To ‘take the shilling’ was to agree to serve as a soldier in the British Army. Sometimes the payment of a shilling was offered to tempt lowly paid workers to sign up for the army. Once the shilling had been accepted it was almost impossible to leave the army.  
  • William probably married twice. He had one son - William, whose mother I have not traced. Captain William Mackay married Margaret Mackay in 1868. She predeceased him without issue from that marriage.
  • William died in Helmsdale on 5th October 1872 aged 53 of stomach problems (probably cancer – death certificate hard to read).
  • I have found his will which gives further insights into Captain William Mackay. The will was first signed on 16th June 1872 on the Island of Jersey and witnessed by R. Roney Dougal, Lt Col & Major of Jersey and Pat Campbell the retired Collector of her Majesty’s Customs. William was dead within a few months so I suspect he knew he was sick, retired to Helmsdale, and arranged his affairs accordingly.
  • William was a Quartermaster in the 2nd Depot Battalion, Chatham and later a Captain in the Army. At the time of his death William was on half pay of 10 shillings per day.
  • William had a Life Insurance policy with the Scottish National Insurance company worth about £325 and a watch worth £5. No other effects are listed in his will.
  • William’s will ordered that his funeral was to be the plainest and most economical possible. The remainder of his estate was left absolutely to his son William and was to be invested for his education and later settlement into a profession or business. The will mentions a brother John, and sisters Mary, Jane, Chathrine and Annie. The executors were Rev P Clarke Parish of Kildonan, Miss Georgina Mackay and Miss Henrietta Mackay of Helmsdale.

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