Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Alexander Mackay (1870-1938)

Cleric, educator.

Born at Kintore, Ontario on 1 July 1870, son of Hector MacKay and Christina MacKenzie, he was educated at Owen Sound Collegiate, the University of Toronto (BA 1899), and the United Free Church College (1902, Glasgow, Scotland). He won the Governor General’s Gold Medal and graduated in Theology with highest honors. He toured Palestine in the company of Sir George Adam Smith and a party of British Scholars. In May 1902, he was called to Crescent Street Presbyterian Church in Montreal and served as a Life Governor of the Montreal General Hospital, Governor of the McKay Institute for Deaf and Dumb (Montreal), a Charter Member of the Canadian Club of Montreal, and Chaplain of the Montreal Curling Club. In 1903, he lectured in Apologetics at the Montreal Presbyterian College and declined a Chair of Apologetics in 1906.

He was appointed Principal of Westminster Hall at Vancouver in March 1908, serving as First Vice-President of the Canadian Club of Vancouver from 1912 to 1913, President of the Association of Canadian Clubs (1914) and was first President of the International Theological Conference and Moderator of the Synod of British Columbia (1914). He visited Honolulu in 1910 and 1912, Australia in 1913, and California in 1915. He was a member of the Foreign Mission Board from 1902 to 1919. In 1920, he was appointed Principal of Manitoba College at Winnipeg. When it merged with Wesley College, Mackay was put in charge of its theological faculty, serving until his death.

He was married twice, first in 1907 to Lelia Julie Sampson (?-?) with whom he had a son: John Armour Mackay (c1908-1985). On 5 October 1916, he married Evelyn Sylvia Jones (1894-1922), daughter of M. Hall-Jones, and they had two children: Donald Mackay (?-1955) and Elizabeth “Betty” Mackay. He was an honorary member of the Kiwanis Club and Caledonian Club.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 22 Middlegate, on 16 May 1938, of a heart attack suffered after being struck by an automobile while crossing the street. He was buried in the Kildonan Cemetery.


Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

Marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Principal MacKay is dead,” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 May 1938, page 9.

“Dr. J. A. MacKay, educationist, dies suddenly,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 May 1938, page 1.

Obituary [John Armour Mackay], Winnipeg Free Press, 4 March 1985, page 34.

We thank Pat Martin for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 12 December 2015

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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