THE ANDREW CURSE

by Alan Craig (with thanks to Kay McMeekin & Bill McKay for some valuable research)

Not long after we announced that Robyn was expecting our first child, my mother (Pat McKay) visited us with an anxious warning: should our first-born be a boy, she implored us, “Please don’t name him Andrew — it’s a very unlucky name for the McKay family!”

That was not the first time I had heard my mother speak about this; I remember the subject coming up on occasion when I was younger. However, I have never been sure whether my mum knew the exact details as to why this name bore such opprobrium. I knew that my great-grandfather was an Andrew McKay, and understood that neither my grandfather George, nor my great-uncle Buddy (Robert), had much love for their father: he was known to be a drinker, and often beat his boys in a drunken rage when they were young — little wonder most of his children emigrated when they had the chance! This, I had supposed, was the main reason we descendants of the McKay line should eschew the name ‘Andrew’.

However, there was another story I often heard my mother recount and, as a boy, I had erroneously conflated it with the ‘Andrew curse’. We sailed out of London for Australia in June 1950, when I was just six months old, and had travelled from Glasgow to London by train. The story had always been that a favourite uncle of my mother’s had been at Central Station in Glasgow to see us off and, with tears in his eyes, had wished he was coming with us. We arrived in Australia to the news that this uncle committed suicide. For most of my life, I had always thought this uncle must be one of the bad-luck ‘Andrews’ of the McKay family — but this turned out not to be so.

So, it was only mildly surprising when visiting my cousin Glyn McKay in 2016, that he should casually mention that his father (Buddy) had always warned him against naming any offspring with the accursed Andrew name. Glyn, now sadly passed, was my mother’s first cousin (so, my first cousin once removed), and our families had always been close since we arrived in Australia in 1950. Glyn and I talked about the ‘curse’, and we both agreed that since both my mum and his dad were emphatic about it, the story must have had some provenance. Being the family history researcher, I promised I would investigate the ‘Andrew curse’.

Imagine, then, my confusion when I was unable to locate the death of mum’s favourite uncle, ‘Andrew McKay’, in June or July 1950 in the Scottish records. I knew the name; I knew the time of his demise; I even knew the cause of death! So, where was the record!? Confounded, I wrote to the National Records of Scotland office (aka ScotlandsPeople) asking if there was some reason that a suicide might not be recorded — and, very kindly, the clerk did a quick search for me. It wasn’t ‘Andrew McKay’ who had died in 1950: it was Alexander McKay, my grandfather’s older brother, and father of Desmond McKay who lived in Dumfries. I had visited Desmond on a couple of occasions over the years, but had never worked out that it was his dad who had seen us off from Glasgow Central all those years ago. Desmond and my mum had always been very close, and I have a picture of me on Desmond’s shoulder, in Glasgow, when I was very tiny (I also have one of baby me on Glyn’s shoulders too — must be a McKay thing!).

So, where did this leave ‘The Curse’? I knew my grandfather and Uncle Buddy had a younger brother named Andrew, and free from my misconceptions about his date of death, I quickly found he had died of epilepsy just before Christmas in 1928 — in Hartwood Asylum at Shotts! He was aged only 23; my mother had not yet been born, but my granddad was the informant on the death certificate. Surely, at last, I had some evidence of tragedy that would justify the superstitions around the ‘Andrew’ name.

Later in 2016, Robyn and I were in Scotland on holidays, so we looked up Alastair McKay (my second cousin, and son of Desmond) in Dumfries. I had met Alastair a couple of times before, the last being at my mother’s funeral at Falkirk in 1992. Alastair and his lovely wife Margaret put us up for the night, and we talked about the McKay family and the old times, as one does. So, it came with more than a mild surprise to me when Alastair mentioned in passing that his father, Desmond, had always warned him not to name any boy ‘Andrew’. Well, blow me down! This was obviously a family-wide prohibition — and I figured that there must be much more to this story.

Over the following months, my research uncovered more family ‘Andrew’ tragedies, and not all of them with the McKay surname: some involved our McMeekin forbears who married into the McKay family and lived and worked with them. Together, these represent a compelling explanation for the superstition around the name ‘Andrew’, and their individual stories follow the chart below — but here’s the list in chronological order with their relationships to my mother, Glyn and Desmond:

  1. Andrew McMeekin, granduncle — killed in 1864 in a mining accident,  aged 25
  2. Andrew McKay, uncle — died in 1899 of diphtheria, aged 1
  3. Andrew Ross McMeekin, 1st cousin-1R — killed in 1916 in a mining accident, aged 18
  4. Andrew McKay, 1st cousin — crushed by a mine bogie in 1919,  aged 5
  5. Andrew McKay, uncle — died of epilepsy in an asylum in 1928,  aged 23
  6. Andrew McKay, grandfather/granduncle — died of pneumonia in 1932,  aged 69

 

These pictures show me with two of my mother’s first cousins in 1950: to the left, Desmond McKay in Glasgow, Scotland; to the right, with Glyn McKay at Blackstone, Ipswich, Queensland. Desmond’s dad, Alexander, saw us off at Glasgow Central Station in June, and Glyn’s father, Buddy, welcomed us when we arrived at Blackstone in July.

 

The ‘Andrew’ Stories

1. Andrew McMeekin (1838–1864)

This Andrew’s death was likely to be the first tragedy that eventually led to the ‘Andrew Curse’. Born in 1838, he was a brother to Elizabeth McMeekin, who married John McKay in 1863.1Source: McMeekine, Andrew; 1838 Scotland O.P.R. Births; 895/ 20 128; Penninghame, Wigtownshire. Elizabeth and John are my great-great-grandparents, and parents of my great-grandfather, Andrew McKay — and these two Andrews were, therefore, uncle and nephew.

By 1861, Andrew McMeekin was working as an “Iron Ore Miner” in Cleator Moss, near Whitehaven in Cumberland (close by the Lake District), where he was lodging with an Irish family.2Source: Meekin, Andrew; 1861 England Census; RG 9-3951/70 p. 27; roll: 543212; Whitehaven, Cumberland Then, around March 1862, he married Mary Sparks at Hensingham 3Source: McMeekin, Andrew; 1862 England Civil Marriage Index; 10b-675; Whitehaven, Cumberland. and, by 1864, he had taken her back to the family home in Cumnock, Ayrshire. Andrew and Mary had a girl, Mary Elizabeth, in May 1864,4Source: McMeckin, Mary Elizabeth; 1864 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/ 54; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. but the child died less than a month later.5Source: McMeckin, Mary Elizabeth; 1864 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 610/ 56; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. Tragedy had struck!

But worse was to come when Andrew died 29 days later at Townfoot, Cumnock. His death certificate says the cause was “Injuries resulting from a fall of stone from the roof of an iron-stone pit, 12 days”,6Source: McMekin, Andrew; 1864 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 610/ 63; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. but two reports in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald fill out the details:

❝ Accident.—A serious accident took place in No. 5 pit, Rodenhead, belonging to the Eglinton Iron Company, on the morning of Monday last, the 4th inst., by which two drawers, Andrew M‘Micken, and William Lorimer, were nearly deprived of life, by a large stone falling on them from the roof.  M‘Micken’s life is despaired of, as he is severely injured about the spine, but Lorimer is in a fair way of recovery.  We learn that it had been purely accidental, that no blame can be attached to the Roadsman, who is very attentive to his business. (Saturday, 9th July 1864)

Accident.—We understand that Mr Meekan who we stated in our last was dangerously hurt in No. 5 Pit, Rodenhead, by a stone falling from the roof, died of the effects of his injuries on the morning of Sabbath last.  He leaves a widow and one child. (Saturday, 23rd July 1864)❞

“Rodenhead” is actually the ironstone pit at Roadinghead, about 1.6 km (1 mile) northeast of Cumnock. Having lost a child and a husband within a month, Mary Ann Sparks was left a childless widow (despite the newspaper report), and she seems to have disappeared from the record after that. Tragic indeed.

2. Andrew (i) McKay (1897–1899)

This particular Andrew is the one that nearly got away — proving that, in genealogy, it always pays to re-check all your information as you develop your tree. Census records for the McKay family had only ever shown eight children in my great-grandparents’ home, and only seven of those were the offspring of Lizzie Brown: the eighth was Jessie Logan, an ‘adopted’ child who may have been fathered by my great-grandfather, Andrew McKay (see number 6 below). [!! a recent DNA match with Jessie’s grandson confirms she was !!]  You can read Jessie’s story here. The other children in the family were: Mary, John, Thomas, Alexander, George (my granddad), Robert … and Andrew (see number 5 below).

I had, in fact, completed this article about the ‘Andrew Curse’, and thought I would tidy away all the documents I had opened on my screen before posting it to our family history website. One open document was the family’s 1911 census report,7Source: 1911 Scotland Census; 593/ 7/ 14; Galston, Ayrshire. and my eye casually wandered over it for a brief moment. In 1911, the authorities had added three columns specifically for married women: ‘duration of marriage’; ‘children born alive’; and ‘children still living’ — to which Lizzie had answered 22, 8, and 7. My eye immediately settled on the “8”. Lizzie, I positively, absolutely knew, had only ever had seven children. Didn’t she? Um …?

A quick look at the birth dates of Lizzie’s ‘known’ children showed a five-year gap between Alexander and George, and for an era without contraception, that should always have been a flashing light to me. It took me only ten minutes to find a child who had been born and died between the censuses; a child who had ‘fallen through the cracks’, so to speak — and this child was, you guessed it, another Andrew McKay. He was born at 39 Single Row, Eglinton Iron Works, Kilwinning, just before Christmas in 1897,8Source: McKay Andrew; 1898 (for 1897) Scotland Statutory Births; 599/ 11; Kilwinning, Ayrshire. but died nearly 17 months later on 21 May 1899 at Bothwell Park Rows in Bellshill, Lanarkshire.9Source: McKay, Andrew; 1899 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 625/3 104; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. The poor wee soul had tragically died of diphtheria, and another seed was sown in the garden of McKay folklore.

3. Andrew Ross McMeekin (1898–1916)

Before Elizabeth McMeekin married John McKay in March 1863,10Source: McKay, John & McMeekin, Elizabeth; 1863 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 610/ 12; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. she had given birth to an illegitimate child, John McMeekin, in 1861 11Source: McMekin, John; 1861 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/ 88; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. — and, until he married Anne Murdoch in 1890,12Source: McMeekin, John & Murdoch, Annie Gibson; 1890 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 607/ 26; Muirkirk, Ayrshire. John lived with the McKay family. He was an older half-brother to my great-grandfather, Andrew McKay (b. 18 Nov 1861).

John McMeekin and Anne had 8 children between 1888 and 1904, their sixth child being Andrew Ross McMeekin, born 25 Mar 1898.13Source: McMeekin, Andrew Ross; 1898 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/A 35; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. This family mostly lived at Glengyron Row, right next door to the McKays (Kay McMeekin has written about Glengyron Row). On 8 Aug 1916, about 8:00 am, Andrew was working underground at the Garrallan Pit when a roof collapse killed him outright; he was only 18 years old.14Source: McMeekin, Andrew; 1916 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 610/A 55; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. The report in the Daily Record and Mail tells the story:

Colliery Accident.—While some young drawers were leaving the bottom of Garrallan New Pit, Cumnock, belonging to the Carriden Coal Company, with their empty hutches, several tons of earth fell from the roof and buried three of them. Andrew McMeekin was instantly killed, while John Gilmour had his arm broken, and Robert Black had his foot badly crushed. The two last-mentioned men escaped death through their hutches causing the fall to cave over them. The news of the accident caused uneasiness in the district, and much sympathy is expressed for the relatives of the deceased lad. (Wednesday, August 9, 1916)

Relative to the village of Old Cumnock, Garrallan Pit is diagonally opposite the Roadinghead Pit, lying 2.6 km (1.6 miles) southwest of the town. Like his great-uncle, this Andrew was the only person to die in the accident, but at least did not leave a widow and children. A third young  ‘Andrew’ had died in a tragic accident — but it was not to be long before the tally climbed higher.

Andrew McMeekin

There is a footnote to the story of  “Andrew Ross McMeekin”: He had an older brother called John Murdoch McMeekin, who married Elizabeth McHoull and had five children. The third one of those was also an “Andrew”, and he was born in Cumnock on 19 Jan 1920, and didn’t die till 23 Oct 2008. His father, John, had prevented this Andrew from enlisting in the Second World War, and he was, thereby, spared a possible early death in that conflagration. He married Christine MacLeod in 1950 and had three children (none of them called ‘Andrew’), and went on to live a long life (88 years).  This ‘Andrew’ is, then, the lucky one — and the exception that proves the rule!

4. Andrew McKay (1914–1919)

Andrew McKay with his grandmother Mary Lundie and mother, Ellen Muir Neil. The photo was taken at Kilmarnock in about 1916, when his father, John McKay, was in the army.

My great-grandfather, Andrew McKay, married a Northern Irish lass, Lizzie Brown,15Source: McKay, Andrew & Brown, Elizabeth; 1889 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 610/ A 8; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. in 1889 — and they had eight children between 1889 and 1905. It now seems certain that Andrew had fathered another child, Jessie Logan, in 1889;16Source: Logan, Jessie; 1889 Scotland Statutory Births; 888/ 12; Kirkcowan, Wigtownshire. and wee Jessie was brought up from birth with the McKay family. Lizzie Brown’s second child was John McKay, born in 1891,17Source: McKay, John; 1891 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/A 159, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. and he married Ellen Muir Neil at Galston in 1913 18Source: McKay, John & Neill, Ellen Muir; 1913 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 593/ 50; Galston, Ayrshire. — they had two children: Andrew in 1914 (ominously!);19Source: McKay, Andrew; 1914 Scotland Statutory Births; 593/ 21; Galston, Ayrshire. and William in 1920.20Source: McKay, William; 1920 Scotland Statutory Births; 593/ 37; Galston, Ayrshire.

As you might by now suspect, this wee Andrew was to meet a miserable end, and he accomplished that feat at the tender age of five-and-a-half years. In September 1919, John and Ellen were living in Galston when the boy was crushed by a bogie (an undercarriage of a railway vehicle).21Source: McKay, Andrew; 1919 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 597/ 421; Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. According to my second-cousin Bill McKay of Virginia, USA (Bill is this Andrew’s nephew, and supplied the photo to the left): “Andrew was on his way home from school in Galston, [and] a nice working man offered the little boy a ride on a steamroller. When it started forward, poor Andrew lurched over the front and was crushed and killed. He was still alive when they pulled him into one of the two bars in Galston, and he died on a table there.”  The boy died from a compound fracture of the left femur and shock, and a Record of  Corrected Entries provides the details:

Injuries received by accidentally falling off a portable pan mill fixed on a bogie drawn by a steam motor lorry, and being run over by the said bogie.22Source: McKay, Andrew; 1919 Scotland Record of Corrected Entries; 597/ 10 119; Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

In 1922, John, Ellen and William emigrated to Gary, Indiana, to join John’s half-sister, Jessie. They all became US citizens, but John and Ellen returned to Scotland in 1950 to live out their lives in Galston. William became a lieutenant-colonel in the US Army and died in 2009, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia — but Andrew’s death in 1919 was not forgotten: he was the fourth young ‘Andrew’ to die in tragic circumstances — and, probably, the word ‘curse’ had by now entered the McKay dinner-time discourses.

5. Andrew (ii) McKay (1905–1928)

The next ‘Andrew’ was the last child of eight to my great-grandparents, Andrew McKay and Lizzie Brown, and the second to bear that name (see number 2 above). Very little is known of his life, but he was born in February 1905 at High Gauchalland near Galston, where his father was working as a coal miner.23Source: McKay, Andrew; 1905 Scotland Statutory Births; 593/ 23; Galston, Ayrshire. The family had moved about a fair bit up to Andrew’s birth: Cumnock, Kilwinning, Bellshill, and Galston. During the 1920s, five of his siblings emigrated to either Indiana or Queensland, but the remaining family were back in Bellshill by 1924 when Lizzie Brown died at Bothwell Park Rows, aged 60.24Source: McKay (Brown), Elizabeth; 1924 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 644/ 4 1046; Dennistoun, Glasgow. However, by 1926, this young Andrew and my grandfather, George, were living at 408 Allison Street in Glasgow. Another brother, Thomas, had been living at Reid Street, Bellshill, when in May 1927 he became the second of my grandfather’s siblings to die.25Source: McKay, Thomas Brown; 1927 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 644/4 657; Dennistoun, Glasgow.

Hartwood Psychiatric Hospital, Shotts. It opened in 1895 as the Lanark District Asylum and closed in 1998.

It’s not clear when young Andrew was admitted to Hartwood Psychiatric Asylum at Shotts, but his death certificate says he died there in December 1928 of epilepsy and lobar pneumonia.26Source: McKay, Andrew; 1928 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 655/ 1 135; Shotts, Lanarkshire. He was single and had “no occupation”, which seems to indicate he may have been unwell for most of his adult life. He was only 23. That a person with epilepsy was in an asylum seems harsh to us today, though Hartwood was considered reasonably enlightened for the times. No doubt, when this Andrew died, the family superstition around the name would have been firmly cemented; no other family members of our McKay line have named a boy ‘Andrew’ in the years since — but there was one more ‘Andrew’ yet to face the Grim Reaper.

6. Andrew McKay (1863–1932)

The death of the last surviving ‘Andrew’ was, in itself, less tragic than the ones before. Indeed, he survived to very nearly 69, which is quite old for a coal miner in those days. He had been a widower for eight years, living alone, and still working as a ‘hewer’ when he contracted bronchial pneumonia and died in his home in Bothwell Park Rows, Bellshill — one day short of his birthday.27Source: McKay, Andrew; 1932 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 625/ 3 243; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. This Andrew is my great-grandfather, and we share a birthday — he was born 18 Nov 1863 at Townfoot, Cumnock, one of seven children to John McKay and Elizabeth McMeekin.28Source: McKay, Andrew; 1863 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/ 112; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. The early years saw Andrew’s family move to Barrhill Rows (a 15-minute walk northeast of Townfoot), then back to Townfoot. When he was six, the family had moved a short way down the hill to Green Ark, near where the Glaisnock Water meets the River Lugar; but, in less than a year, they were back up the hill at Townfoot.

The most significant move, though, happened in 1874 when the family took up residence at Glengyron Row, a little over a kilometre (750 yards) southwest of the village, next to the old Ayr-Edinburgh Railway. Andrew lived here and worked at the local mine till at least 1881, but was back at Barrhill Road when he married Lizzie Brown in 1889 — however, they promptly moved back to Glengyron Row. This newly married couple immediately adopted an illegitimate daughter, Jessie Logan 29Source: Logan, Jessie; 1889 Scotland Statutory Births; 888/ 12; Kirkcowan, Wigtownshire. — it was always quite plausible that Andrew was the natural father, as the mother was known to the McKay family from at least 1888 when she was a witness at the marriage of one of Andrew’s sisters, but my DNA connection to Jessie’s grandson seems to resolve the doubt. Three more children followed while at Glengyron Row: Mary (1889);30Source: McKay, Mary McCulloch; 1889 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/A 151, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. John (1891);31Source: McKay, John; 1891 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/A 159; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. and Thomas (1893).32Source: McKay, Thomas; 1893 Scotland Statutory Births; 610/A 28; Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

The Double Row (left) and Single Row (right) at the Eglinton Iron Works, Kilwinning, Ayrshire. Alexander (1895) and the first Andrew (1897) were born in Single Row. Lizzie Brown’s parents lived at Double Row.

After having lived for 32 years in Cumnock (a third of that at Glengyron Row), Andrew and Lizzie moved with their four children to the Eglinton Ironworks at Kilwinning in North Ayrshire, where Alexander was born in 1895,33Source: McKay, Alexander Brown; 1895 Scotland Statutory Births; 599/ 143; Kilwinning, Ayrshire. and Andrew (i) at the end of 1897.34Source: McKay Andrew; 1898 (for 1897) Scotland Statutory Births; 599/ 11; Kilwinning, Ayrshire.  By the turn of the century, however, we know they were at Bothwell Park Row in Bellshill,  Lanarkshire, because their fifth born, young Andrew (i) (see number 2 above), died there in 1899.35Source: McKay, Andrew; 1899 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 625/3 104; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. He was soon replaced, however, by George (1900)36Source: McKay, George Brown; 1900 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/3 227; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. and Robert (1902),37Source: McKay, Robert; 1902 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/3 198; Bellshill, Lanarkshire. both born at Bothwell Park Rows. Moving, though, was not yet done: from at least 1905 to 1911, the family lived in and around Galston, where the last of their children, a second Andrew (see number 5 above) was born in 1905. It was here that the oldest child, Jessie, left the family home in 1910 to marry William Hunter.38Source: McKay, Jessie & Hunter, William; 1910 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 593/ 15; Galston, Ayrshire. William was killed in action in 1917 at the Battle of Doiran in Macedonia, but left his widow with two children (Annie and Thomas). A younger sister, Mary, married Bill Wyper in 1915,39Source: MacKay, Mary & Wyper, William; 1915 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 593/ 36; Galston, Ayrshire. and had two sons: Robert in 1916,40Source: Wyper, Robert; 1916 Scotland Statutory Births; 593/ 129, Galston, Ayrshire. and Eric in 1920.41Source: Wyper, Eric; 1920 Scotland Statutory Births; 593/ 118; Galston, Ayrshire.

Jessie was still in Galston when she married her second husband, Andrew Orr, in December 1918;42Source: Hunter (McKay), Jessie & Orr, Andrew; 1918 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 644/10 2520; Blythswood, Glasgow. she bore him a son, James, in 1921.43Source: Orr, James; 1921 Scotland Statutory Births; 593/ 32; Galston, Ayrshire. In 1922–23, Jessie and Andrew Orr, with their children, migrated to Gary, Indiana,44Source: Orr, Jessie; 1923 Passenger Arrivals at St. Albans, Victoria; 85 / M1464 / 64; “Montcalm”. followed soon after by brothers John and Alexander.45Source: McKay, John & Alexander Brown; 1922 N.Y Passenger Lists; T715, roll 3118 / 20; p. 122; “Cameronia”. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, left with her family for Townsville in Queensland, Australia,46Source: Wyper, Mary & William; 1922 New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists; “Baradine”. and was followed to the Antipodes by young Robert (always known as “Buddy”) in 1924.47Source: McKay, Robert; 1924 Aberdeen Line Departures, London; “Demosthenes”. For now, this left just Thomas, Andrew (ii), and my Grandad George — and, as we saw above, Thomas died in 1927, and Andrew (ii) in 1928.

So, what’s to say about Andrew McKay that adds him to the ‘tragic list’ of ‘Andrew’ deaths? I know, and my cousin Glyn confirmed, that both Buddy and George had no love for their father. He was a drunkard, and bullied the boys when they were young. One story I heard several times in my youth was how old Andrew came home one Friday evening after work, via the pub, and fell into a drunken stupor in front of the fire. Friday night was fish-supper night in the McKay home, and my granddad was responsible for bringing home his father’s supper from the chippie — except, this evening, he forgot!

Panic filled the air, and Lizzie Brown was wringing her hands in fear at the thought of what the Old Man would do if he awoke and found he had no supper. But George, always a thinker and of a calm disposition, had the idea of sprinkling old Andrew‘s beard with the crumbs from his own fish supper, and pretending to him he had already eaten it — and this is exactly what happened. When old Andrew awoke demanding his fish supper, Lizzie said, “Och, ye daft eejit, Andy! Ye’ve already had yer dinner afore ye fell asleep in the chair! Ye’ve still got the crumbs all doon yer beard!” The Old Man looked down at his great long beard and saw the flecks of salt and fish batter. “Aye,” he mumbled grimly, “so I have!” — and promptly fell asleep again in his chair. The boys were spared another beating.

So, the last “Andrew McKay” may not have died a tragic death, but his mean temperament fitted the family’s view of gloom and calamity that shadowed the name ‘Andrew’, and no doubt fortified our innate aversion to it. Old Andrew himself had lost an uncle, a nephew, a grandson and two sons to the Andrew Curse, and probably understood and feared its foreboding influence more than most. Of course, there is no ‘curse’; everything above is simply mere coincidence — but, a footnote: my cousin Glyn McKay married Dawn Trotter in 1956, and before their first child, Michael, arrived in 1957, they owned a dog. They called him Andrew. He was run over and killed … you decide.


Alexander McKay (1895–1950); father of Desmond. Alex saw us off to Queensland at Glasgow Central in 1950.

 

George McKay (1900–1974); my granddad with his nephew Glyn in 1955. Glyn was in the Australian Navy, and in the UK for the commissioning of HMAS Melbourne.

 

Back: Andrew Orr & “Buddy” McKay (1902–1965);
Front: Myfanwy Evans-McKay & Jessie McKay-Orr (1889–1976). Andrew & Jessie were visiting Queensland from Indiana in 1954.

 

My mother, Pat McKay-Craig (1927–1992). It was Mum who first alerted me to The Andrew Curse!

 

 

 

 

 

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