Introduction

The history of the McKay family became an absorbing interest for me in the last fifteen or so years, ever since my brother Norman showed me a section of the McKay family "Tree" showing the older parts of the family on both the Father's and Mother's sides leading down to the family of Nathaniel McKay of Drummartin and his wife Mary. One of their sons was my father, George McKay.

Cecil McKay, son of Hugh Victor of Sunshine Harvester fame, had given Norman this "Tree" and asked for in­formation on our side of the family. He had sent similar copies to other branches, but response was slow in coming from some sections and he died early in 1968 without being able to proceed much further. I already had a fair know­ledge of the family and decided to see if I could go on from where Cecil had left off, and complete the "Tree". I prob­ably approached different members of the family from Cecil — mainly the wives — and received the utmost assist­ance. Each family expressed interest in the project and with their help a pretty complete list of names was gathered. The task of getting all these names on to one large sheet of paper took a considerable time and much trial and error. In fact, I spent many evenings on the floor of our rented flat at Coolangatta in Queensland one winter, with sheets of paper spread out trying again and again to make the names fit in. As there were between 300 and 400 names, this was most difficult to organize. However, eventually success was achieved and a copy made on tracing paper to enable prints to be taken off to send out to the family about Easter in 1969. Once the various members of the family saw the com­pleted "Tree", letters came in telling me of omissions, mainly of children who had died many years ago and of whom I had not heard. These names were added, and since then of course, several children have been born and their names added to the "Master Sheet".

As time passed, I became much more interested in the family as a whole and started collecting all the information available to me. Old photographs took on a new signifi­cance and old newspaper cuttings were keenly sought. Some short biographies were lent to me along with a most interest­ing diary written by Molly McKay at Drummartin for part of the years 1898 and 1899. Alice also had written diaries at times and recorded her impressions of some events and these threw new light on the life lived at Drummartin when the children were growing up. Alice had also kept some old letters and then Ron McKay's family found a packet of old letters in the loft at the old home. These letters were written to Grandma McKay by her sisters in Northern Ireland and in New York way back in the eighties and nineties. They were yellowed and tattered in parts but a fair proportion are still decipherable. How eagerly these letters must have been received in days when ships took long months to reach Australia and contact had been lost with many members of families left behind in the old land.

My brother Norman used to have a collection of old family photos on the walls of the billiard room at our home at Sunshine, describing them as his "Rogues Gallery". Just for fun he added a large picture of Sabrina in a suitable frame and labelled her "Aunt Agatha". When he died in 1968, those photos which were of interest were kept. (I didn't bother about Sabrina, but have an idea that she went to the Sunshine Club where Norman had been a member; the billiard table and seats went there, too.)

I felt I should write down the substance of the material gathered for my children and for any others in the family who may be interested in their forebears. It is a pity that one only really becomes interested in the past later in one's life when most of the folk who could have answered the contin­uous stream of questions have gone on. How vain is the wish now that more use had been made of the time spent with Aunt Hannah, who knew so much, and with Aunt Alice.

Many members of the family have helped me and to them I owe a considerable debt of gratitude for their interest and patience in trying to recall the past. Without their help this story could not have been written; as you will see, in many parts it is a cooperative effort. My thanks also go to Mr. F. J. Kendall, now Director of the Science Museum of Victoria, who has so willingly granted me access to the H. V. McKay Archives which are housed there. Mr. Kendall is most interested in the life and work of H. V. McKay and recently visited Drummartin to meet the McKays who live in the district and to view the old property. My husband and also my lifelong friend and Sunshine neighbour, Joan Haughton (nee Ferguson), are responsible for insisting that I write this story and have given me every encouragement in carrying out the task. Joan's father, David B. Ferguson, was associated with the McKays in the Harvester business from their Ballarat days early in the century until his death in 1947. He directed the business in the Argentine for three years in its early stages, returning to Sunshine in the Sales Department where he built up a most efficient organisation. He became General Manager of the Company in 1929 and in 1932 succeeded the late Samuel McKay as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director.

 

Dorothy McNeill
Blackburn
1974 and again 1983