by Alan Craig

One of my very earliest memories was being at our little shack in Holt Street, Brassall (near Ipswich, Queensland) when we had a visitor all the way from America. She was a kindly, grey-haired old lady who had brought gifts for me: a cowboy suit and an Indian suit — replete with holster, black gambler’s hat and waistcoat … and a bow with arrows! I was a real hit with my playmates from the houses up and down our dirt road for quite some time.

Jessie Orr (McKay) visiting our family at 39 Holt Street, Brassall, in 1954: with Pat, Iain and Alan Craig … and Pluto!

The old lady’s name was Jessie, my mother’s half-aunt who lived in Indiana, USA — the year was 1954, and I was nearly five. Until a few years ago, for me, she was just an image in an old black and white photo in my parents’ family album. When my cousin Glyn McKay gave me some other photos of that same old lady, I was able to start piecing my memories together with records I found in my research.

As every genealogist discovers, each branch of a family seems to have a person or two who are more of a ‘hub’ than the others. Perhaps its just the ones with the most extant records available; but, more likely, it is someone who lived to a ripe old age and saw off all their siblings, or someone who kept more in contact with family members than others. In my mother’s paternal family, this person was Jessie McKay, and her story is fascinating — but her start was not filled with promise.

The family beginnings

My great-grandfather was Andrew McKay, and I tell something of his life in the article The Andrew Curse; however, this story really begins in August 1888, when Andrew’s younger sister Jane married Hendry Stewart at Old Cumnock.1Source: 1888 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 610/ 17, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. A witness to these proceedings was a mill worker, Jess Logan, who, although she probably didn’t know it at the time, was one-month pregnant. In February the following year, Andrew McKay hitched himself to Lizzie Brown, a lass from County Down, Northern Ireland,2Source: 1889 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 610/A 8, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. and set up home at Glengyron Row near Cumnock. Two months later, 70 km (50 miles) to the south in Kirkcowan, Wigtownshire, Jess Logan gave birth to a little girl whom she declared to be illegitimate, and registered no father on the birth certificate.3Source: 1889 Scotland Statutory Births, 888/ 12, Kirkcowan, Wigtownshire. This girl was named Jessie Logan (after her mum), and she was born at the house of her mother’s parents, Robert Logan and Jess McFadden. You might reasonably assume that we would never hear of her again.

Census time came round on 5 Apr 1891 for the good citizens of Cumnock, and at Glengyron Row — the accomodation provided by the Eglinton Iron Company for its workers at the Glengyron Pit — we find my great-grandfather living with his small family, right next door to his half brother, John McMeekin, and thirteen doors up from their parents, John [2] McKay and Elizabeth McMeekin. Andrew had been married for just over two years, and Lizzie was was eight-months pregnant — but they are recorded as having two daughters (names in purple are my direct ancestors):

1891 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 21 Glengyron Row, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire  41891 Scotland Census, 610/A 5/ 20, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Andrew McKie; Head; Mar; 28; Coalminer; born Ayrshire, Old Cumnock
Elizabeth McKie [Brown]; Wife; Mar; 27; born Ireland
Jessie McKie; Daughter; Single; 2; born Kirkcudbrightshire [sic], Kirkcowan
Mary McKie; Daughter; Single; 1; born Ayrshire, Old Cumnock

Yes, wee Jessie Logan had risen out of obscurity. For the rest of her life, she gave her maiden name as ‘Jessie McKay’, or ‘Jessie Logan McKay’. Both times she was married, she gave her mother as Jessie Logan, but left the father’s name blank. So, who was her father? Why did she end up in Andrew McKay’s family? If one and one add up to two, then a reasonable hypothesis must be that Andrew was the father — we will never know for sure unless Jessie’s descendants turn up in our DNA profiles. [STOP PRESS: as of March 2023, a great-grandson of Jessie’s, via her son James Orr, has turned up as a DNA match to me with 31cM-2 (half 2nd cousin once removed), proving that Jessie is a McKay descendant — hopefully, I will have more to add in the near future! —ed.]

The family grows

Two more children were born to Andrew and Lizzie at Glengyron Row — John (1891),5Source: 1891 Scotland Statutory Births, 610/A 159, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. and Thomas (1893)6Source:1893 Scotland Statutory Births, 610/A 28, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. — before the family upped and moved to the Eglinton Ironworks at Kilwinning, where they lived at 39 Single Row. Here they were living close by Lizzie’s parents, Thomas [2] Brown and Mary McCulloch at Double Row. In 1895, Alexander was added to Andrew’s growing family,7Source: 1895 Scotland Statutory Births, 599/ 143, Kilwinning, Ayrshire. and near Christmas of 1897, a boy to bear his father’s name, Andrew.8Source: 1898 (for 1897) Scotland Statutory Births, 599/ 11, Kilwinning, Ayrshire. However, by the next census, the McKay family had moved again, this time to Bothwell Park Rows at Bellshill in Lanarkshire:

1901 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 96 Bothwell Park Rows, Bellshill, Lanarkshire 9Source: 1901 Scotland Census, 625/3 2/ 3, Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

Andrew Mackay; Head; Mar; 37; Coal Miner; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Lizzie Mackay [Brown]; Wife; Mar; 41; born Ireland
Jessie L. Mackay; Daur; Single; 12; Scholar; born Kirkcowan, Galloway [sic]
Mary Mackay; Daur; 11; Scholar; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
John Mackay; Son; 9; Scholar; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Thomas Mackay; Son; 8; Scholar; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Alexander Mackay; Rel; 5; Scholar; born Kilwinning, Ayrshire
George Mackay; Son; 11 mths; born Lanarkshire, Bellshill

The first thing you will notice when looking at the 1901 census is that the last born is not mentioned. In fact, wee Andrew (i) had died in May 1899 of diphtheria (see The Andrew Curse),10Source: 1899 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 625/3 104, Bellshill, Lanarkshire. and his short life would have remained unknown to us except for the fact the 1911 census recorded the number of children Lizzie Brown had given birth to, and how many were still alive. By now, all but two of the family had arrived, including my grandfather, George, in 1900.11Source: 1900 Scotland Statutory Births, 625/3 227, Bellshill, Lanarkshire. The next child, Robert (aka Buddy), was born two years later at Bothwell Park Rows,12Source: 1902 Scotland Statutory Births, 625/3 198, Bellshill, Lanarkshire. but the McKays still had some moving to do. The last of Andrew and Lizzie’s brood was born in 1905: a second son to bear his father’s name, Andrew (ii) (see The Andrew Curse), at High Gauchalland, just south of Galston in Ayrshire.13Source: 1905 Scotland Statutory Births, 593/ 23, Galston, Ayrshire.

The whole family, including Jessie Logan, lived together now for the next five years, and I suppose that these were the years that forged the family’s future bonds and the distinctive ‘McKay identity’ I have always been aware of. Before 1910, the family had moved into Galston proper to take up abode at Titchfield Street, and this is the address Jessie gave when she married William Hunter, a coalminer from Newmilns, just east of Galston — she was the first of the eight siblings to leave the family home.14Source: 1910 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 593/ 15, Galston, Ayrshire.

Jessie and William Hunter

Interestingly, Jessie and William were married in the Good Templar’s Hall in Bentinck Street, which belonged to a temperance group. I know my grandfather and Buddy were teetotal all their lives, and I’m sure their father’s notorious drinking had been the driving influence. By 1911, Jessie and William had temporarily moved further south to 34 Connel Park in New Cumnock,15Source: 1911 Scotland Census, 608/ 7/ 15, New Cumnock, South Ayrshire. where he worked for a while as a hewer in the local coal mine. The rest of the family were still at Titchfield Street for that year’s census:

1911 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 61 Titchfield Street, Galston, South Ayrshire 16Source: 1911 Scotland Census, 593/ 7/ 14, Galston, Ayrshire.

Andrew McKay; Head; 47; Mar; Coal Miner; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Lizie McKay [Brown]; Wife; 48; Mar 22 yrs (8 births, 7 living); born Ireland
Mary McKay; Daur; 21; Single; Machinist in factory; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
John McKay; Son; 19; Single; Coal Miner; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Thomas McKay; Son; 18; Single; Coal Miner; born Old Cumnock, Ayrshire
Alex McKay; Son; 15; Single; Coal Miner; born Kilwinning, Ayrshire
Geo. McKay; Son; 10; Scholar; born Bellshill, Lanarkshire
Robt. McKay; Son; 9; Scholar; born Bellshill, Lanarkshire
Andrew McKay; Son; 6; Scholar; born Galston, Ayrshire
McKenzie McMillan; Boarder; 29; Single; Coal Miner; born Dalmellington, Ayrshire

Jessie was now forging her own life, and became a mother in October 1913 when she gave birth to Annie McDonald Hunter.17Source: 1913 Scotland Statutory Births, 593/ 151, Galston, Ayrshire. The happy couple were back in Galston by now, and living at Henrietta Street, where they were soon to be joined by her brother John, who had also flown the family coup when he married Ellen Muir Neil in November 1913.18Source: 1913 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 593/ 50, Galston, Ayrshire. John and Ellen’s son Andrew (see The Andrew Curse) was born there as well in February 1914.19Source: 1914 Scotland Statutory Births, 593/ 21, Galston, Ayrshire. Later that year, World War One broke out, and this was to have serious ramifications for Jessie.

William Hunter signed up as a private with the 11th (Service) Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), but not before he fathered another child. Thomas Hunter was born in John Street, Galston, in April 1915,20Source: 1915 Scotland Statutory Births; 603/1 34; Newmilns, Ayrshire. a day before the Anzac landings at Gallipoli. William’s battalion, however, was sent to Salonica in Macedonia to fight the Bulgarians and wound up at Lake Doiran. On May 8, 1917, after an extended artillery barrage, five waves of British troops attacked the Bulgarian positions. After four attacks through the evening of 8–9 May, the British were defeated and suffered 12,000 casualties — among them, William.21Source: UK Soldiers Died in the Great War; Index Nº M.R.37, Doiran Memorial, Part 1 (A-L). Jessie was a widow with two children, and William lies buried on a foreign field.

Jessie and Andrew Orr

Eight months earlier, Jessie’s sister, Mary, had also married a soldier. The lucky man was William “Bill” Wyper, a miner, but at that time a bugler with the 2/4 Royal Scots Fusileers;22Source: 1915 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 593/ 36, Galston, Ayrshire. Mary and Bill had their first child, Robert, in September 1916.23Source: 1916 Scotland Statutory Births, 593/ 129, Galston, Ayrshire. However, Jessie wasted little time finding a new husband to provide for her children. In December 1918, just after the war ended, she went up to Glasgow to marry yet another soldier: Andrew Orr, a private with the 78th Battalion Canadians (Winnipeg Grenadiers).24Source: 1918 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 644/10 2520, Blythswood, Glasgow.

Andrew Orr had been born in Galston in 1888, but just why he was serving with a Canadian regiment is a mystery, because he registered for the US military draft in Detroit, Michigan, in 1917.25Source: Orr, Andrew; 1917 US Draft Registration, Detroit, Michigan, M1509; FHL microfilm 1,675,273. He had gone to the USA with his brother James in 1909 where he had worked as a labourer with the United Fuel & Supply Co. On his draft card, he said he had served with the Iowa Home Guard for three years; so, presumably, he had enlisted with them at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

Nearly eighteen months after they married, Jessie gave birth to Andrew’s only child, James (13 May 1921),26Source: 1921 Scotland Statutory Births, 593/ 32, Galston, Ayrshire. in Galston — but Andrew had already returned to the US in February.27Source: 1921 New York Passenger Lists: Film: T715; Roll: 2925; / 3; p.117; “Columbia”. Clearly the couple had decided to migrate to Indiana where James Orr was still living, and Andrew had gone ahead of his family to get a job and get settled — and this seems to have been a catalyst for four of Jessie’s siblings to make a similar decision. The McKay family would never be the same again.

The 1921 Census

As explained in my article on the Šugžda family in Bothwellhaugh, the 1921 census had been delayed by two months because of the nationwide miner’s strike of that year. The transport and rail unions had failed to support the miners, and almost all of the McKay men were out of work at census time (though not the Šugžda boys). Andrew and Lizzie McKay had moved to Bellshill with four of the boys:

1921 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 118 Bothwell Park Rows, Bellshill, Lanarkshire 28Source: McKAY, Andrew; 1921 Scotland Census; 625/3 2/ 23; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

Andw McKay; Head; 57 yrs, 7 mths; Mar; Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); Wm Baird Co Coalmasters; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Elizabeth McKay [Brown]; Wife; 58 yrs, 10 mths; Mar; Home Duties; born Down, Ireland
Thomas McKay; Son; 28 yrs, 5 mths; Single; Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); Wm Baird Co Coalmasters; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Alex McKay; Son; 26 yrs; Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); K Addie Sons Coalmasters; born Kilwinning, Ayrshire
Geo McKay; Son; 21 yrs, 2 mths; Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); Wilson Clyde Coalmasters; born Bothwell Park, Lanarkshire
Andw (ii) McKay; Son; 16 yrs, 5 mths; born Galston, Ayrshire

This record demonstrates just how much the McKay family moved about for work, with all the boys being born in different mining towns. The other three surviving children were still in Galston, with Robert (“Buddy”) staying with his older sister Mary — who was only a year away from migrating to Queensland:

1921 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 26 Polwarth Street, Galston, Ayrshire 29Source: McKay, Robert & Wyper, Mary; 1921 Scotland Census; 593/ 9/ 18; Galston, Ayrshire.

William Wyper; Head; 28 yrs, 4 mths; Mar.; Coal Miner, Drawer (Out of Work); Gauchalland Coal Co; born Galston, Ayrshire
Mary Wyper [McKay]; Wife; 30 yrs, 9 mths; Home Duties; born Galston, Ayrshire
Robert Wyper; Son; 4 yrs, 10 mths; born Galston, Ayrshire
Eric Wyper; Son; 10 months; born Galston, Ayrshire
Robert McKay; Brother in Law; 19 yrs, 4 mths; Single; Coal Miner, Chain Runner (Out of Work); Wm. Baird & Co. Ltd. (Bellshill); born Galston, Ayrshire [actually Bellshill]

Again, Robert and his brother-in-law, Bill Wyper, are both “out of work”, as is the other brother, John, who was living just a couple of hundred metres away with his young family:

1921 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 26 Bentinck Street, Galston, Ayrshire 30Source: McKay, John; 1921 Scotland Census; 593/ 10/ 24; Galston, Ayrshire.

John McKay; Head; 30 yrs, 1 mth; Mar.; Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); Robt. Addie & Sons Coalmasters; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Ellen McKay [Neil]; Wife; 28 yrs, 2 mths; Home Duties; born Galston, Ayrshire
William McKay; Son; 1 yr, 3 mths; Both parents alive; born Galston, Ayrshire

A feature of the 1921 census was the ‘orphanhood’ question for dependent children – probably reflecting the horrific number of fatherless children after World War 1. John and Ellen had already lost one child (Andrew), and you can read about his tragic end in the article ‘The Andrew Curse’. But we’re not done with our family living in Galston at this time — just 700 metres (760 yards) west, in John Street, were three ‘McKay/Brown’ families living cheek by jowl, and all recorded on the same census page:

1921 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 30 John Street, Galston, Ayrshire 31Source: Orr, Jessie; 1921 Scotland Census; 603/1 6/ 20; Galston, Ayrshire.

Jessie Orr [McKay]; Head; 32 yrs, 2 mths; Mar.; Home Duties; born Galston, Ayrshire [actually Kirkcowan]
Annie Hunter; Daur; 4 yrs, 8 mths; Father dead; Scholar; born Galston, Ayrshire
Thomas Hunter; Son; 5 yrs, 2 mths; Father dead; Scholar; born Galston, Ayrshire
James Orr; Son; 1 month; Both parents alive; born Galston, Ayrshire

26 John Street, Galston, Ayrshire

Grace McMillan [Brown]; Head; 61 yrs, 3 mths; Widow; Home Duties; born [Minnigre] County Down
Lizzie Craig [McMillan]; Daur; 24 yrs, 5 mths; Mar.; Home Duties; born Lugar, Ayrshire
Tom McMillan; Son; 22 yrs, 1 mth; Mineral [?] (Out of Work); born Lugar, Ayrshire
Alexr. McMillan; Son; 19 yrs, 6 mths; Miners’ Drawer (Out of Work); Gaucalland Coal Co; born Lugar, Ayrshire
George Strachan; Grandson; 11 yrs, 3 mths; Both parents dead; Scholar; born Paisley, Renfrewshire
Jim Craig; Grandson; 1 yr, 9 mths; Both parents alive; born Paisley, Renfrewshire
William Craig; Grandson; 7 months; Both parents alive; born Galston, Ayrshire

20 John Street, Galston, Ayrshire

Robert McKay; Head; 49 yrs, 3 mths; Coal Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); Gauchalland Coal Co; born Cumnock, Ayrshire
Annie McKay [Jack or Lundie]; Wife [2nd]; 41 yrs, 2 mths; Home Duties; born Airdrie, Lanarkshire
Robert Lundie; Step-son; 15 yrs, 10 mths; Father dead; Coal Miner, Hewer (Out of Work); Gauchalland Coal Co; born Galston, Ayrshire
William Lundie; Step-son; 13 yrs, 10 mths; Father dead; Scholar; born Galston, Ayrshire
Alexander Lundie; Step-son; 11 yrs, 6 mths; Father dead; Scholar; born Galston, Ayrshire
Agnes Lundie; Step-daur; 9 yrs, 3 mths; Father dead; Scholar; born Galston, Ayrshire
Bessie McKay; Daur; 2 yrs, 11 mths; Both parents alive; born Galston, Ayrshire

Jessie’s husband, Andrew Orr, had already migrated to Gary, Indiana, to get work – Jessie and her children were to follow in May 1923. This record clearly shows the orphaned children from her first marriage to William Hunter.

Grace McMillan was Lizzie Brown’s older sister, who was widowed from her husband William McMillan; he had died at that same address in 1916. Grace was living with some of her children and some orphaned grandchildren. Her daughter, Lizzie Craig, eventually migrated with her family to Detroit, Michigan.

Robert McKay was a younger brother of Andrew McKay, and had looked after their mother, Elizabeth McMeekin, until she died in 1909 at Airdrie, Lanarkshire. Robert and his sister Agnes had married siblings who were first cousins (1R) of William Hunter, Jessie’s first husband. Robert McKay lost his first wife (Maggie Brown) at Bellshill in 1912, but then married a widowed Annie Jack (or Lundie) at Galston on New Year’s Eve 1917. In 1921, we find them at 20 John Street where Annie’s first husband (Robert Lundie) had died in 1914, along with her three orphaned children and a newer addition, Bessie.

The New World awaits…


S.S. “Cameronia” – this ship carried many of our relatives to the USA.

In March 1922, Mary (McKay) and Bill Wyper took their two children (Robert and Eric) and headed for London. There they boarded the S.S. Baradine, and sailed via Christmas Island to Sydney, Australia, eventually settling in Townsville in North Queensland.32Source: 1922 New South Wales Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists: “Baradine”. By this time, Jessie’s parents had moved back to Lanarkshire, and were living at 118 Bothwell Park Rows, Bellshill, with their unmarried sons: Thomas, Alexander, George and Robert. But the New World was calling and, in May 1922, both John (still living in Galston) and Alexander bought tickets on the S.S. “Cameronia” and headed off to Indiana via New York, leaving their miner’s hats behind.33Source: 1922 N.Y. Passenger Lists: T715, roll 3118 / 20; p.122; “Cameronia”.

There was another family, at that time unconnected to the McKays, who had also started to migrate to the US in 1922. Joseph Sugzda arrived in Bayonne, New Jersey, in August of that year,34Source: 1922 N.Y. Passenger Lists: T715; roll 3158 / 8, p.42; “Columbia”. and his family and brothers were to follow in the years to come. Joseph was to become a brother-in-law to George McKay in 1929.


John McKay and his wife Ellen Muir Neil in 1916. The wee boy is Andrew, their firstborn, who was accidentally killed by a mine bogie in 1919 (see The Andrew Curse).

Ten months after the two McKay brothers went to the US, John’s wife, Ellen, followed her husband to Indiana (also sailing on the “Cameronia”)35Source: 1923 N.Y. Passenger Lists; T715; Roll 3272 / 18; p.30; “Cameronia”. with their second son, William (born 1920).36Source: 1920 Scotland Statutory Berths, 593/ 37, Galston, Ayrshire. Six days behind, another ship, the S.S. “Tuscania”, was carrying a 22-year-old tailoress, Isabella McGregor, and her sister-in-law Mary;37Source: 1923 N.Y. Passenger Lists: T715, roll 3277 / 2; p.28; “Tuscania”. they were also heading for Gary, Indiana — and, to the same address as John and Ellen: 744 Vermont Street. Less than a week after landing at New York, Isabella married Alexander McKay in Indiana — without a doubt, the couple had eloped to the US to marry.38Source: 1923 Indiana Marriages; Lake County: FHL microfilm 2,414,770. The sea lanes, however, were busy at that time with travelling members of the McKay family, because, on the first of May, 1923, Jessie Orr and her three children (Annie, Thomas and James) arrived in Canada on the S.S. “Montcalm” at St John, New Brunswick, and travelled on to Indiana to permanently join her husband, Andrew.39Source: 1923 Passenger Arrivals; St. Albans, Victoria; 85 / M1464 / 64; “Montcalm”.


While Jessie and her brother John were getting settled in Indiana, their mother, Lizzie Brown, died of appendicitis and septicaemia in July 1924 at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow.40Source: 1924 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 644/ 4 1046; Dennistoun, Glasgow. She had been still living at 118 Bothwell Park Rows where old Andrew was working as a hewer at the local pit — but, she was only 60. My grandfather, George, was the informant (not for the last time) on the death certificate. We know little of her day-to-day life, but she was fondly remembered by those who knew her.

1924 SCOTLAND STATUTORY DEATHS: Dennistoun, Burgh of Glasgow 41Source: McKAY, Elizabeth; Scotland Statutory Deaths; 644/ 4 1046; Dennistoun, Glasgow.

Elizabeth McKay,
Married to Andrew McKay, Coalminer

died: 18th July 1924  (10:00 am)     age: 60 years    at: Royal Infirmary, Glasgow
usual residence: 118 Bothwell Park Rows, Bellshill
father: Thomas [2] Brown, Coalminer (deceased)
mother: Mary Brown M.S. McCulloch (deceased)

cause: Appendicitis; Septicaemia; Cardiac failure    doctor: A. May Alexander MD:ChB.
informant: George McKay, Son    of: 118 Bothwell Park Rows, Bellshill (present)

S.S. “Demosthenes” — brought Buddy McKay to Queensland in 1924.

Within two months of his mother’s passing, Robert, always known to us as “Buddy”, took a train to London and, in September 1924, boarded the S.S. “Demosthenes” and sailed off to Brisbane, Queensland, never to return.42Source: 1924 Aberdeen Line Departures, London; “Demosthenes”. Buddy was only 22, but he was soon working as a miner in Mount Morgan in North Queensland — by 1928, however, he had moved south to Ipswich to marry Myfanwy Evans, the daughter of a Welsh soldier and miner — their story is a fond part of my childhood, and I will tell that in a separate article.


Alexander McKay, now a bricklayer, is next seen arriving from Scotland for a short stay in the USA in April 1925 aboard the S.S. “Tuscania”.43Source: 1925 N.Y. Passenger Lists : T715, roll 3643 / 20; p.122; “Tuscania”. Just when he and Isabella had returned to Scotland is not known, but it seems as if they were now living temporarily at 20 Inglefield Street in Glasgow. He made the return journey for this trip on the S.S. “Montrose” in June, travelling from Gary, Indiana, via Montreal and Liverpool.44Source: 1925 UK Inwards Passenger Lists: BT26 / 787 / 41; “Montrose”. Their only child, Desmond, was born in November that year, and my mother always said that Alex and Isabella had returned from America so that their son could be born on Scottish soil.45Source: 1925 Scotland Statutory Births, 633/B 582, Cathcart, Glasgow. They never returned to the US to live, but were domicile at 408 Allison Street, Govanhill when Alex made a second trip to Gary, Indiana in June 1926 aboard the S.S. “Montclare”, via Quebec.46Source: 1926 US Alien Passenger Manifest: Quebec, M1464/524; Grp Nº: 85; “Montclare”. Jessie was then living at 721 East 7th Avenue, Gary.

Meanwhile, at home …

While some of the family were getting on with their lives in Indiana and Queensland, other developments were taking place in the McKay world back home. In May 1927, Thomas McKay unexpectedly died, aged 33, of a severe bowel obstruction.47Source: 1927 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 644/4 657, Dennistoun, Glasgow. Again, he died in the Royal Infirmary and, again, George McKay was the informant. Thomas had never married and was working as a coal miner and living at Reid Street, Bellshill, not far from the family home. He was the second of the McKay siblings to die.

However, within 18 months, a third brother was gone. Andrew (ii) McKay (see The Andrew Curse), the last born, died at a psychiatric asylum at Shotts in December, aged 23.48Source: 1928 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 655/01 0135, Shotts, Lanarkshire. He was a single man and died of epilepsy — and, of course, my granddad was the informant. He had previously been living at 408 Allison Street, Govanhill, where George and Alexander also lived.

1929: a good year

In February of 1929, George McKay was still living at 408 Allison Street and working as a “railway surfaceman”, a mine worker doing ancillary work above ground. On the 23rd of that month, he married my Lithuanian-born grandmother, Petronėlė Juzė Šugždaitė, a brickfield worker from the pit village of Bothwellhaugh, a short distance south of Bellshill.49Source: 1929 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 625/ 1 16, Bothwell, Lanarkshire. ‘Šugždaitė’ (pronounced ‘Shugz-die-tay’) just means ‘Miss Šugžda’, but my granny was always known as ‘Sarah’ — and she was already expecting my mother. George had been an active trade union organiser, and was a foundation member of the Scottish Communist Party in 1920. The witness at this marriage was Sarah’s niece, Matilda Zinkevičius (pronounced ‘Zin-kay-vich-us’), otherwise known as Tillie Fletcher (much easier!). [My grandparents’ marriage and my mother’s birth are on this page.] Tillie left the following month for Canada,50Source: 1929 UK Outward Passengers List, Greenock, C.55643; “Regina”. and Sarah’s four brothers (Joe, Barney, John and Alex) were already living in Bayonne, New Jersey.

By the time my mother (Patronele Elizabeth McKay) was born in July, George and Sarah had moved from Allison Street to nearby Govanhill Street; however, Mum was delivered at 2 Store Place in Bothwellhaugh, the home of Annie Zinkevičiūte, Sarah’s older and widowed half-sister.51Source: 1929 Scotland Statutory Births, 625/1 287, Bothwell, Lanarkshire. She was named for her two grandmothers: Petronėlė Šugžda née Melnikaitytė (= Melni-kay-tee-tay), and Elizabeth McKay née Brown. The following month, on the other side of the globe, Buddy McKay, miner, married Myfanwy Evans at the United Welsh Church in Blackstone, Ipswich.52Source: 1929 Queensland Marriages, C2252, Blackstone, Moreton. Their witness was David Wyper, who was Bill Wyper’s younger brother. There will be more about these folk and their part in my life in another story.

Back in Gary, Indiana

The city of Gary is in Lake County, right by the southern shore of Lake Michigan. It’s only about 40 km (25 miles) from Chicago in the neighbouring state of Illinois; it was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation, and named after its founding chairman. The city was famed for the industrial riots of 1919, which were only ended with martial law. When our family began to arrive in the early 1920s, nearly 30% of its citizens were foreign-born, and another 30% had at least one foreign parent. By 1930, the population was in excess of 100,000; but, by the ’60s, the city began a spiral of decline. In 1970, the population was just 6,000 — and this number is still falling. Today, the city is a rust-bucket case, with massive school closures, widespread unemployment, and famed only for a couple of casinos and a corrupt police chief. I’m not sure if any of our family would want to migrate there now!

Jessie and Andrew, however, continued to live in and around Gary for the rest of their lives, apart from trips to Queensland and Scotland to visit relatives. The records show the couple moved around quite a bit over the years, with at least nine known addresses in Gary. Here are the census records for Jessie and her brother John for 1930:

1930 USA CENSUS: 741 Virginia Street, Gary, Lake County, Indiana 53Source: 1930 US Census, Gary, Lake, Indiana; Ed: 3; roll 598; p.19A.

Andrew Orr; Head; 43; Mar (at 31); born Scotland; arrived 1909 / 1st papers; Furnace Man, Steel Mill
Jessie Orr [McKay]; Wife; 42; Mar (at 21); born Scotland; arrived 1922 / Alien
Thomas Orr [Hunter]; Stepson; 15; Single; born Scotland; arrived 1922 / Alien
James Orr; Son; 9; Single; born Scotland; arrived 1922 / Alien

Jessie’s daughter, Annie Hunter, was not yet married, but not at home; she would have been 17. Andrew was working for the infamous steel mill, as was his brother-in-law John:

1930 USA CENSUS: Carolina Street, Gary, Lake County, Indiana 54Source: 1930 US Census, Gary, Lake, Indiana; Roll: 598; p.16B; Ed: 3 / 682.0 / 2340333.

John McKay; Head; 38; Mar (at 21); born Scotland; arrived 1922 / 1st papers; Bricklayer, Steel Mill
Ellen McKay [Neil]; Wife; 37; Mar (at 20); born Scotland; arrived 1923 / Alien
Thomas Orr; Son; 10; Single; born Scotland; arrived 1923 / Alien

The 1930s and 40s

Little is known about the lives of the McKay family in the years before the Second World War. Old Andrew McKay (see The Andrew Curse) died of pneumonia in November 1934 at 118 Bothwell Park Rows, where he was living alone, ending the family’s association with Bellshill.55Source: 1932 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 625/3 243, Bellshill, Lanarkshire. Only George and Alex still lived in Scotland, while the others remained abroad. George and Sarah had moved to Polmadie the year after my mum was born, and that was the area of Glasgow she grew up in during the pre-war years.

WW2 painting of Buddy McKay, in Papua New Guinea, by US artist Norman Shipero, aka P.W. Norman.

Alex, Isabella and Desmond, also lived nearby, and it seems Alex was running a pop-up bar service around Glasgow. Mary and Bill Wyper were living in Townsville, Queensland, while Buddy and Myfanwy had their only child, Glyn, in 1930 — Glyn was also the only child of the McKay siblings to be born outside of Scotland.56Source: 1930 Queensland Births, C89425, Ipswich, Moreton. John, Ellen and William were still in Gary, Indiana in 1935, along with  Jessie and Andrew Orr.

Desmond McKay, who served in the Far East with the Royal Navy during WW2.

The war came in 1939, and Buddy, Alexander’s son, Desmond, and John’s son William all saw service. I have never known why my grandfather was not called up for military service, as he was only 40 years old, and wasn’t working in a protected industry. Buddy joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a cook in December 1940, and saw action in New Guinea. He was discharged in October 1945 with the rank of Sergeant and returned to Blackstone.

Desmond was in the Royal Navy and was awarded Atlantic and Pacific service stars. He also served in the Mediterranean and the Far East. When the war ended, he was in Japan and Australia serving with the Royal Navy. From the other side of the Atlantic, John’s son, William, had joined the US Army and was with the Office of Strategic Services  (OSS) working behind lines in France. Later, he served 20 years with the US Army Security Agency, and then a further 20 years with the Nation Security Agency (NSA),

However, even though World War II had started,  Jessie and Andrew Orr were still living in Gary, Indiana, but at their sixth address in that town:

1940 USA CENSUS: 759 Tennessee Street, Gary, Lake County, Indiana 57Source: 1940 US Census, Gary, Lake, Indiana; Ed: 95-7; roll T627_1119; p.13B.

Andrew Orr; Head; 52; Mar; born Scotland (naturalized); lived same house 1935; Steel Mill at $2800 p/a
Jessie Orr [McKay]; Wife; 51; Mar; born Scotland (1st papers); lived same house 1935; Home Housework
James Orr; Son; 20; Single; born Scotland (1st papers); lived same house 1935; Stock Clerk

Two of Jessie’s children had now left home: Annie had married Fred Sable, a foundry worker of German extraction, in 1933; and Thomas married a Scots lass, Margaret Collie, in 1937 or 1938 (I’m still looking for the record). John and Ellen McKay, however, had moved 500 km (300 miles) east to Cleveland, Ohio, sometime after 1935:

1940 USA CENSUS: 13430 Saint Clair Avenue, Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio 58Source: 1940 US Census, Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio; Ed: 92-652; roll T627_3229; p.11B.

John McKay; Head; 48; Mar; born Scotland (naturalized); lived Gary 1935; Bricklayer, Steel Mill at $1200 p/a
Ellen McKay [Neil]; Wife; 47; Mar; born Scotland (1st papers); lived Gary 1935
William McKay; Son; 20; Single; born Scotland (1st papers); lived Gary 1935; Stock Clerk

William McKay and his 1st wife, Audrey Batt.

As you can see, John was earning less than half of what his brother-in-law was earning, but all were either naturalized US citizens, or were on their way with First Papers. Their son, William, went on to have a distinguished military career in the American army — this extract from his obituary tells the story: “[Lieutenant Colonel] McKay joined the Army in 1941 and served in the infantry, Army Air Forces, Signal Corps and Office of Strategic Services during World War II. After the war, he served with the Army Security Agency, with assignments in Japan, Germany and Korea. He retired from the Army in 1962. He then worked at the National Security Agency until his retirement in 1982.”

William married twice; first to Audrey Batt during WW2, who was the mother to his three children; and second to Dr. Sarah Botsai around 1977 — Sarah was Deputy Director of the White House Situation Room in 1976.

After the war

In Australia, Buddy and Myfanwy had set up a small wood-fired bakery in their home at 50 Mary Street, Blackstone (I can still smell it in my mind nearly 70 years later!). Glyn did the deliveries for the business until he joined the Australian Navy as a stoker on HMAS “Vengeance” in 1951. In late 1948, a year before I was born, Jessie Orr had travelled to Australia. We have a record of her return to the US through Victoria, British Columbia, aboard the R.M.S. “Aorangi”; so, we presume this was a visit to see her siblings Buddy and Mary in Queensland.59Source: 1948 Canadian Border Entries, St. Alban’s, Vermont; GS Film 1549411 / 39; “Aorangi”. Just a couple of months after her visit, in 1949, my mum (Pat McKay) and dad (Iain Craig) were married in Glasgow 60Source: 1949 Scotland Statutory Marriages, Q 29908, Pollock, Glasgow. — and I happily arrived in November of that year.

Back: Alexander & Desmond McKay
Front: Isabella McGregor & Phyllis Tierney

We three left Glasgow for Australia in June 1950 and, as told in The Andrew Curse, Alexander McKay came to Central Station to see us off to our new life. Sadly, Alex was dead just one month later when he took his own life at his home in Kingsbridge Drive, Kings Park;61Source: 1950 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 644/19 739, Cathcart. Glasgow. my mother received the awful news a fortnight later when we arrived, off the S.S. “Mooltan”, to stay with Buddy and Myfanwy at their home in Blackstone, Ipswich.62Source: 1950 Inward Passenger Manifest; Freemantle, Western Australia; Ser. K269; reel 110.

Jessie visiting Scotland in the 1950s.
Back: Phyllis Tierney, Desmond McKay & my grandmother “Sarah” Šugždaitė;
Front: Isabella McGregorJessie McKay

Desmond McKay, despite the tragic loss of his father, married Phyllis Tierney in October that year.63Source: 1950 Scotland Statutory Marriages, 644/8 1292, Blythswood, Glasgow. Desmond was a cinema manager, and had two children in Glasgow — Alastair (1951), and Iain (1955) — before moving permanently to Dumfries where Aileen was born in 1957. Isabella remarried in 1955, to a market gardener, John McBride, and they moved to Prestwick Road, Ayr.64Source: 1955 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 578/ 30; Ayr, Ayrshire.

In 1954, Mary and Bill Wyper were still domicile in Townsville when Jessie Orr visited Queensland for the second time, this time with her husband, Andrew. The family reunited at 50 Mary Street, Blackstone, and this was the first time my mother had met her Auntie Jessie. The couple visited us at our home in Brassall, Ipswich, before they returned to the USA in November aboard the S.S. “Oronsay”65Source: 1954 U.S. Citizen Arrivals, San Francisco; GS Film 100034485 / 00290; “Oronsay”. (cf. the photo at the top of this page).

My granddad George McKay with his nephew Glyn in 1955. Glyn was in the Australian Navy, and in the UK for the commissioning of HMAS Melbourne.

Glyn McKay was in the Australian Navy at this time, and had visited my grandfather, George McKay, at Polmadie in 1955. Interestingly, in that year, George went to Moscow as a guest of the Soviet Union (one of only six British Party members to be invited) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1905 — I guess everyone has to have a hobby. There will be more about my grandparents in a separate article.

In May 1956, John and Ellen McKay left Cleveland, Ohio, and sailed back to Galston, Ayrshire, aboard the S.S. “Saxonia”.66Source: 1956 UK Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1356; Item: 22; “Saxonia”. John was listed as a bricklayer, and they arrived for an ‘indefinite’ visit; but, they never returned to the USA. Less than 30 months later, in September 1959, John died at his home in Brewland Street of lung cancer; perhaps he had returned ‘home’ to die.67Source: 1958 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 593/ 32, Galston, Ayrshire. As mentioned above, his surviving son, William, had served in the war, and had attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the US Army. John died as an ‘American Citizen Abroad’, and my grandfather and Andrew Orr were listed as known relatives. William died in Maryland, USA, in 2009.68Source: McKay, William; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009 BIRLS Death File.

Final curtains …

After John’s passing, there were only four remaining siblings from Andrew McKay’s brood of eight children: Jessie, Mary, George, and Buddy. Time, of course, claimed them and their loved ones as well, but Jessie Logan McKay was to outlive all her siblings and almost all their partners — and she lived the longest of them all:

  • Bill Wyper, husband of Mary McKay: d. January 1962, at Townsville, Qld; aged 69 69Source: 1962 Queensland Deaths; C1330; Townsville, Herbert.
  • Andrew Orr, husband of Jessie McKay: d. February 1962, at Gary, Indiana; aged 74 70Source: 1962 Medical Certificate of Death 62-005279; Portage, Indiana.
  • Isabella McFarlane McGregor, wife of Alex McKay & John McBride: d. October 1964, at Ayr, Ayrshire; aged 65 71Source: 1964 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 578/ 563, Ayr, Ayrshire.
  • Robert “Buddy” McKay, husband of Myfanwy Evans: d. February 1965, at Brisbane, Qld; aged 62 72Source: 1965 Queensland Deaths, B71239, Brisbane.
  • Mary McCulloch McKay, wife of Bill Wyper: d. January 1969, at Townsville, Qld; aged 79 73Source: 1969 Queensland Deaths, 32823 / 1514, Townsville, Herbert.
  • Ellen Muir Neil, wife of John McKay: d. March 1973, at Galston, Ayrshire; aged 80 74Source: 1973 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 670/ 19, Galston, Ayrshire.
  • Petronėlė “Sarah” Juzė Šugždaitė, wife of George McKay: d. September 1973, at Glasgow; aged 71 75Source: 1973 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 607/ 763, Glasgow, Lanarkshire.
  • George Brown McKay, husband of “Sarah” Šugždaitė: d. 1974, in Bulgaria (on holiday); aged 73 76Note: According to his Glasgow lawyer, George McKay died in 1974 in Bulgaria while on “holidays”; no record or consular report found.
  • Jessie Logan McKay, wife of William Hunter & Andrew Orr: d. April 1976, at Gary, Indiana; aged 86 77Source: 1976 Medical Certificate of Death, 76-014775, Starke, Indiana.
  • Myfanwy Blanche Evans, wife of Buddy McKay: d. September 1978, at Brisbane, Qld; aged 75 78Source: 1978 Queensland Deaths, 89764, Kenmore, Brisbane.

and let us not forget the cousins …

  • Annie McDonald Hunter, d/o Jessie McKay: d. November 1974, at Valparaiso, Indiana; aged 61 79Source: 1974 Medical Certificate of Death, 74-042138, Valparaiso, Indiana.
  • Thomas Hunter, s/o Jessie McKay: d. March 1978, at Michigan City, Indiana; aged 62 80Source: 1978 Medical Certificate of Death, 78-010207, Michigan City, Indiana.
  • Patronele Elizabeth Craig, d/o George Brown McKay: d. May 1992, at Stirling, Scotland (on holiday); aged 62 81Source: 1992 Scotland Register of Deaths, DE1094691, Stirling, Stirlingshire.
  • Desmond McGregor McKay, s/o Alexander Brown McKay: d. April 1998, at Dumfries; aged 73 82Source: 1998 Scotland Statutory Deaths, 834/ 625, Dumfries, Dumfriesshire.
  • James Orr, s/o Jessie McKay; d. October 2004, at Crown Point, Indiana; aged 83 83Source: 2006 Certificate of Death, 040106, Crown Point, Indiana.
  • Lt-Col. William McKay, s/o John McKay; d. November 2009, at Rockville, Maryland; aged 89 84Source: McKay, William; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009 BIRLS Death File.
  • Ivor Glyn McKay, s/o Robert McKay; d. April 2020, at Monash, ACT, Australia; aged 89.

At this point, I have little or no confirmed information about Eric or Robert Wyper (who were first cousins to my mother, Glyn and Desmond), but I hope to add details of their life as and when I can. Glyn McKay was the last of my mother’s cousins to join his ancestors, passing away only a few years ago at the nursing ward of his retirement village; Glyn and his family were the closest to me of all the McKay clan, and I will tell something of their story on another page in the near future. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Dawn, his daughter, Gabrielle (“Gabe”); and four granddaughters: Meg, Emily, Sally and Molly. Glyn’s son, Navy Commander Michael McKay (retired), died unexpectedly in March 2012, aged 54.

Jessie’s visit to Queensland from Indiana in 1954
Back L–R: Sid Ardon; Jack Townsend; Jim McColm; Lionel Black; Andrew Orr.
Front L–R: Iain Craig; Alan Craig; Lindsay Black; Buddy McKay; Andrew McKenna.

McKay/Evans family at 50 Mary Street, Blackstone, Queensland, 1954
Seated at back L–R: Glenys Black (Townsend); Myfanwy McKay (Evans); Jessie Orr (McKay); Sarah-Jane Evans; Ethel Townsend (Evans); Lindsay Black.
Seated on floor L–R: Andrew Orr; Buddy McKay; Alan Craig; Pat Craig (McKay); Iain Craig.




4. McKay Diaspora: 1889–1959 — 4 Comments

  1. I come from Robert Hutchinson or Hutchison (born ~1830) who lived in:
    Govan, Lanarkshire
    or Eastwood,Renfrew
    or both at different times. I can see that they are different neighborhoods south of Glasgow.
    He married his second wife, Margaret McAlpine in ~1863.
    I feel like I might have seen McKay in something when I was searching for info in
    I just thought I would ask if you happened to recognize his name, or if you thought there might be a connection to the town called Hutchesontown, which is nearby. I imagine it is just a common name, but I thought I would ask.

    • Hi Robert,
      I haven’t got anyone with the name “Hutcheson” in my family tree, I’m afraid, and my McKay roots are mainly in Cumnock, Ayrshire and in Bellshill, Lanarkshire. Hutchesontown is really a registration district on the south side of Glasgow, and mainly the eastern part of the area known as the Gorbals. Govan is more to Glasgow’s south-west, and largely in Renfrewshire for a very long time, and included villages outside of the Glasgow metropolis. I do have McAlpin ancestors, but they were from Dunbartonshire, south of Loch Lomond, in the late 1600s.

  2. Ok, thanks for the prompt and helpful reply.
    My 2nd Great Grandmother was Margaret McAlpine, born Kilmarnock ~1830. She is the one who married Robert Hutcheson, Hutchinson, Hutchison, born Londonderry, Ireland. They lived, as you mentioned, in the Eastwood, Renfrewshire area.

  3. Thank you for sharing this history. I visited your family at 50 Mary St,regularly and loved and have never forgotten how happy they made me feel. Buddy was a constant visitor went I spent some time in hospital. My wonderful Grandfather Andrew Mc Kenna of Queen Street Blackstone is in the above photo and the mc Kenna family and Mckay’s were the close friends for a lifetime.

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