| Dr Patrick Mackay entered St Andrews University at the
age of fourteen, gained honours in the literary and philosophical
classes, and carried off the Gray prize for the best essay
on a subject in Metaphysics. He afterwards studied at the
University and New College, Edinburgh, was licenced as a preacher
in 1878, acted as assistant to Dr Macdonald of North Leith
for nine months, and was ordained minister at Prestonpans
in February 1879.
Dr Mackay occupied the position of Free Church minister at
Prestonpans fur twenty years, with much acceptance and success.
During the period of his incumbency, the congregation doubled
in numbers, and greatly increased in material resources, and
was noted in the county for the completeness of its organisation,
and the energy with which congregational work in all its departments
was prosecuted. From the very beginning of his ministry Dr
Mackay took the greatest interest in education, and as a member,
and for some time Chairman of the School Board, devoted much
time and zeal to the educational interests of the parish.
He aided greatly in bringing about salutary changes in the
administration of certain local well-endowed trusts, by which
education, both elementary and secondary, in the parish and
district has largely benefitted.
Perhaps that for which Dr Mackay is best known is his interest
in our soldiers, and in season and out of season he has sought
to deepen in the Church and the community a sense of responsibility
for their spiritual welfare. In 1882 he was asked by the Colonial
Committee of the Free Church to go to Luxor, Egypt—a place
of resort for invalids during the winter months—to inquire
as to the suitability of Luxor as a station to be occupied
by the Free Church. He arrived in Egypt shortly after the
battle of Tel-el-Kebir, and impressed with the need of religious
ministrations among the troops volunteered for service as
a Presbyterian chaplain. His offer was accepted by Sir Archibald
Alison, in command of the Highland Brigade, and he remained
with the troops until the Brigade broke up.
In 1887, with the consent of his congregation and Presbytery,
Dr Mackay spent a year in India, acting as minister, during
the hot season, of the Union Church, Mussoorie, near Landour,
a military sanatorium in the North-West Provinces, and afterwards
doing evangelistic work chiefly among soldiers. It was in
India that he met the lady—Miss Harriet Sprot, a voluntary
missionary to the Santals—who became his wife and true helpmeet,
and whose labours among the working lads of Preston-
pans will long be held in remembrance. Mrs Mackay is the eldest
daughter of Mr Mark Sprot, youngest son of Mark Sprot, Esq.
In the spring of 1894 a strike occurred at Prestongrange Colliery,
Prestonpans. It lasted some weeks, and threatened disaster
to the whole community. Through Dr Mackay's intervention a
settlement satisfactory to all parties was arrived at. For
this service Dr Mackay received the thanks of the Miners'
Federation of Mid and East Lothian, and as a memento of the
event the presentation of a watch subscribed for by the workmen
at the various collieries.
As a representative social reformer, Dr Mackay was asked to
appear before Lord Peel's Commission on Licensing, and gave
valuable evidence as to the condition of matters, and the
state of opinion in the county.
In the end of 1898, at what he deemed "a call which a
servant of Christ may not, without dishonour, decline, "
he resigned his charge at Prestonpans, at great personal and
con siderable financial sacrifice, and went to India to reorganise
the work of the Anglo-Indian Evangelisation Society—a society
catholic in its constitution and aim, whose one concern is
to care for the spiritual welfare of our own countrymen in
India, and there he was "in journeyings often, "
preaching as he went, finding out where there were no religious
organisations among our countrymen, and endeavouring to make
provision for unoccupied fields. It would have been difficult
to find a man more capable and devoted, and more fully endowed
with the gifts and the graces required for this special work.
He remained in India for about three years, and his success
in the work was great. He seems to possess in a remarkable
degree the faculty of approving himself and his work to all
sorts and conditions of men, and he succeeded in interesting
in the aims of the Society men of the very highest station
in the state, the church, and the army—Anglican and Presbyterian
working harmoniously together for the one great end.
A brave heart. may beat beneath a black coat as well as beneath
the red or the khaki. At Darjeehling, on a wild night of storm
and earthquake, Dr Mackay was one of a noble band who went
to the rescue of a family overwhelmed in a fallen house. For
the brave work of that night he received the decoration of
a golden star, from the lieutenant-governor of Bengal, which
will doubtless be handed down in his family as a precious
In 1901, pro honoris causa, St Andrews University,