Captain John McKay
Decorated by U.S. President

     ;Captain John McKay, a resident of Goderich in the early 1880’s, was a colourful figure of schooner days. At the height of his career he received a gold medal from Chester Allan Arthur, President of the United states.

     Captain McKay, with James McDonald of Bayfield, was sailing a small fishing vessel out of Goderich. One cold November day when about one hundred miles north of Goderich the two men sighted the Barque Iowa aground at Greenough (Greenock) Point, near Stokes Bay.

     The crew of the Iowa, many with their hands and feet frozen, were lashed to the rigging, but in spite of tremendous difficulties occasioned by high seas, a gale and bitter cold, the two men succeeded in rescuing the entire crew. All survived but many lost hands and feet, which had been frozen.

     In recognition of this courageous feat, Captain McKay received a gold medal from President Arthur. It is inscribed; “Presented to Captain John McKay for gallant services in rescuing the crew of the American Barque Iowa, on Lake Huron in the fall of 1883.”

     For another feat of seamanship in which he saved the lives of sailors, he received a pair of field glasses. The particulars of the rescue are not known.

     In 1885 Captain McKay was appointed lighthouse keeper of Lyal (Big) Island, Stokes Bay. When he retired in 1922 after thirty-seven years of faithful service, his efforts were recognized when the Honourable James Malcolm, M.P. for Bruce pinned on his breats the Imperial Long Service Medal.

     Captain McKay was born of Scottish parentage and came fromBaddock, Cape breton Island. His wife was Isabella McDonald who died at Stokes Bay in 1913. Two daughters also died at Stokes Bay, and a twin brother, Malcolm, was drowned while sailing the schooner Gordon. The rigging collapsed under him and he fell into the lake. One son, Neil, was a well known Goderich resident, and was an assessor and tax collector in that town.

     Captain McKay had three daughters and seven sons; onlytwo members remain; Walter of Regina and Etta of Claresholm, Alberta.

     We are indebted to Mr. Walter McKay for this information, and for the picture, showing his father with the gold medal received from President Arthur. Mr. McKay is now retired, having worked for forty-two years with the T. Eaton Company in Regina. Last year he and his wife celebrated their golden wedding. They had three sons: Neill Ross, a lawyer in Calgary; Warren Douglas, teaching at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. One son, Walter Morris, died in 1972. There are three granddaughters and two grandsons.

Page 62 of Old Timers’ Tales
A History of Stokes Bay and Area
(Bruce Peninsula)
By Helene Scott