Born: May 13, 1839, Mont­rose, An­gus, Scot­land.

Died: Au­gust 22, 1885, Por­tree, Scot­land, of an ac­ci­dent.



Mackay was the hus­band of Ma­ry Lough­ton Liv­ing­stone (mar­ried 1868, King­ston up­on Hull).

He gra­du­at­ed from the Un­i­ver­si­ty of Ed­in­burgh and in­i­tial­ly worked as a doc­tor.

His con­ver­sion sto­ry is so re­mar­ka­ble that we in­clude it here as it was pub­lished in The Bri­tish Ev­an­gel­ist, Jan­u­a­ry 1879.

The Hospital Patient

Before I came to this place I was as­sist­ant-sur­geon in an hos­pi­tal; and in a va­ri­e­ty of forms I saw a vast amount of hu­man mi­se­ry. But it was not all mi­se­ry. There were pa­tience, and re­sig­na­tion, and hope, as well as pain, wea­ri­ness and des­pair. I had known some­thing of the pow­er of re­li­gion—that is, I had seen it in oth­ers. In my home, far away, I had seen its pow­er to sanc­ti­fy sor­row, to in­vi­go­rate the mind, and to bless.

My mo­ther was a Chris­tian; and she had prayed for my eter­nal wel­lbe­ing, striv­en for it; hoped, per­haps against hope, that I should some day be brought under the in­flu­ence of the gos­pel, be sav­ing­ly con­vert­ed to God—be­come His child by sur­er and more last­ing ties than I was her own. Against hope, I say; for I was wild and reck­less, ev­en in my boy­hood.

I left home, un­changed; passed through the ear­li­er stag­es of my pro­fes­sion­al career un­changed, on­ly for the worse. I cared no­thing for my mo­ther’s God: I for­got Him; that is, as far as I could I ban­ished Him from my mind. In the sub­se­quent stag­es of my pro­fes­sion­al his­to­ry, I re­moved still fur­ther away from my home, and fur­ther, if pos­si­ble from God: far, far from Him, by wick­ed works.

Professionally, I walked the hos­pi­tals, passed ex­am­i­na­tions, and was said to be a pro­mis­ing man. Mo­ral­ly, I was de­grad­ed. My com­pan­ions were among the most dis­si­pate­d of me­di­cal stu­dents, and from this cause prin­ci­pal­ly, I be­came so ser­i­ous­ly in­volved in pe­cun­i­a­ry em­bar­rass­ments that I oc­ca­sional­ly had to sell or pawn all my avail­a­ble per­son­al pro­per­ty to car­ry on the game, as I said.

One day a poor fel­low was brought in, badly in­jured by a fall. He was a brick­lay­er’s la­bour­er; the round of a lad­der had brok­en un­der his weight while he was as­cend­ing with a hod of mor­tar, and he was, in con­se­quence, pre­ci­pi­tat­ed from a con­sid­er­a­ble height to the ground, with fear­ful vi­o­lence.

There was no hope for him. All that could be done was to al­le­vi­ate pain, and in this we were tol­er­a­bly suc­cess­ful. The man knew that he should die, for his mind was clear; and he asked me, on one oc­ca­sion, how much long­er he had to live. There was no rea­son for reserve, and I told him what I thought.

So long! said he, when I told him; I thought it would have been soon­er; but He knows best.

Yes, per­haps I do, my friend, I said, sooth­ing­ly. I be­lieve you will last as long as that.

Yes, sir; but I meant some­thing else, said the poor fellow, faint­ly smil­ing.

Have you any friends for whom you would like to send? I asked.

The man shook his head: he was alone in the world, he said; but his lodg­ings were not so far off, and if I would not mind, he would like the peo­ple he had lodged with to be told of his ac­ci­dent, and per­haps the wo­man would come to see him, as he owed her a tri­fle of mo­ney, which he wished to pay her. There was enough in his pock­et, he said, to do this, or was when he had his fall.

His re­quest was com­plied with: The wo­man was sent for, and came to see her poor dy­ing lodg­er two or three times, as I un­der­stood, though I ne­ver saw her, and knew no­thing of the na­ture of any com­mu­ni­ca­tions that passed.

My pre­dic­tions were ve­ri­fied. The man lin­gered about a week, and then died. Of course, I saw him dai­ly, and of­ten­er, all the while he last­ed, but ve­ry few words es­caped his lips. I not­ed on­ly a pe­cu­li­ar ex­pres­sion of calm­ness, and qui­et hap­pi­ness, al­most, on his coun­te­nance, at which I ra­ther won­dered; for his pain at times must have been ex­cru­ci­at­ing. Well, the man died, and of course cer­tain for­ma­li­ties were im­me­di­ate­ly ne­ces­sa­ry, at which I was pre­sent.

What shall we do with this, doc­tor? the nurse asked, hold­ing up a book.

What is it?

The poor fel­low’s Bi­ble, sir; the wo­man brought it to him the se­cond time she came to see him, be­cause he had asked her to do it. And up to the last, he was read­ing it as oft­en as he could get a lit­tle ease, and when he could not read, he kept it un­der his bols­ter.

Could I be­lieve my own eyes? It was the Bi­ble which had once been my own; the Bi­ble which my mo­ther had put in­to my hands when I was a youth, first leav­ing home, and which af­ter­wards I had sold—yes, Sold: to sup­ply some trif­ling need in the days of my pro­fli­ga­cy, when, as I have said, al­most all my per­son­al pro­per­ty went in the same way for the same pur­pose. Yes, there was my own Bi­ble, or what had once been mine; my name writ­ten there by my mo­ther’s own hand, still un­e­rased, with the pas­sage of Scrip­ture she had writ­ten un­der­neath, yet le­gi­ble.

I had suf­fi­cient con­trol ov­er myself not to be­tray the emo­tions of my mind, and I ev­en found words to say to the nurse in a tone of as­sumed in­dif­fer­ence: It is of no con­se­quence; I’ll take care of the book.

I took the Bi­ble home with me. As to mo­ney val­ue, it was worth no­thing, for it was dir­ty, torn in plac­es, with many leaves loose. It had ev­i­dent­ly been long and well used. Long com­pa­ra­tive­ly, I mean, for not ve­ry ma­ny years had passed since it left my own hands. Pos­si­bly it had had no oth­er pos­ses­sor be­sides myself and this poor hos­pi­tal pa­tient; but this of course, I ne­ver knew. But I knew one thing, that a bet­ter use of it had been made after it passed away from me than ev­er be­fore. Al­most ev­e­ry page, as I turned it ov­er, bore tes­ti­mo­ny to the care and di­li­gence with which it had been pe­rused, in pen­cil and pen mar­gin­al marks, or in­ter­li­ne­a­tions.

And I could re­peat, now, pas­sage after pas­sage thus in­di­cat­ed, which doubt­less had been the sol­ace of the Bi­ble’s poor pos­ses­sor in times of doubt or tri­al or dif­fi­cul­ty, and had smoothed his pas­sage to the grave, and light­ed it with hea­ven­ly glo­ry. No won­der that he was so calm and hap­py!

Its Poor pos­ses­sor, I said, Well, he was poor in this world, and friend­less, and un­known: yet, as I firm­ly be­lieve, rich in faith, and an heir of the king­dom that God hath pro­mised to them that love Him.

Shall I write more? Shall I say that that strange ev­ent was the turn­ing-point in my his­to­ry? that the ac­cu­sa­tions of an awak­ened con­science drove me al­most to des­pair, un­til was en­a­bled to em­brace the faith­ful say­ing, wor­thy of all ac­cep­ta­tion, that Christ Je­sus came in­to the world to save sin­ners, ev­en the chief; and that my new dis­co­vered Bi­ble is dear­er to me than all the books in my lib­ra­ry, be­cause the gos­pel it con­tains has been made to me, though faith in Christ, the pow­er of God unto salvation!

Mackay was eventually or­dained, and in 1868 be­came pas­tor of the Pros­pect Street Pres­by­te­ri­an Church in Hull. Yorkshire; they were liv­ing in Scul­coates, York­shire, as of 1881.

Seventeen of his hymns ap­peared in W. Reid’s Praise Book in 1872.




If you know Mac­Kay’s bu­ri­al place,