Date added: 16 Apr 2015
Robert Farquhar Mackay
my maternal great great grandfather
[Photo shows his memorial stone in Old Reay Cemetery, with 4x great grandchildren Tallara and Quinn.]
According to his obituary in the “Northern Ensign” of 5 February1874, Robert was a native of Reay, Caithness, born in 1792. At sixteen years he enlisted as a soldier in the 42nd Highland Regiment (the Black Watch). Shortly after this the regiment was sent into Spain to engage in the Peninsula War, under the command of General Sir John Moore. He fought firstly at Corunna and then at the battles of Salamanca, Vitoria, Badajos, Burgos, Talavera and Toulous, after which his regiment crossed the Pyrenees and took part in the battle of Waterloo. According to his army release papers (WO97579), on 16 June 2015 Robert’s left leg suffered a compound fracture as a result of a hit from a musket shot at Quatre Bras, which rendered him incapable of taking any further part in the battles. These papers also tell us that he was 5 foot 6 inches, with fair hair and blue eyes and a fresh complexion and was awarded a Waterloo Medal. As a Chelsea pensioner he returned to Scotland where he served for some time as gamekeeper to Captain MacDonald of Sandside near Thurso (who was also wounded at Quatre Bras). He then went with his wife and family to Watten, Caithness, and to the farm of "Kensary" where he died on 25 January 1874. There is a memorial stone to him, erected by his sons, in Old Reay Cemetery. His grandson, my grandfather John Mackay Sinclair, enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders in 1915 at the age of 45 because, according to my mother, it was what the family did in times of need.
One of Robert’s 3xgreat grandchildren, actor Will Irvine, can be seen in the 2004 film Vanity Fair dancing at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on the eve of Quatre Bras. By a nice irony, Private Robert Mackay would not have been at this ball but his 3x great grandson, nearly 200 years later and at almost the same age, was playing the part of a young officer.
Thanks are due to Pat Rawlings of Mount Eliza, VIC, Australia, another descendant of RFM and my 3rd cousin, for much of this information.