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The Airmen's Stories - P/O R Mackay


Ronald Mackay was born on 26th June 1917, the son of William Mackay, a shipping agent. At school he won the Rector’s Reading Prize for the Lower Block, named after PHB Lyon in 1931, and played rugby for the 2nd XV.

Following school he studied law and commerce at the University of Edinburgh. He was a member of the Edinburgh Northern Hockey Club and, as a talented squash player, played in Scotland’s second team. He was a founder member of the Forth Canoe Club.

He joined the Auxiliary Air Force before the war and was called to full-time service in late August 1939 and was recorded as on the strength of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron as a civilian pupil pilot on 3rd September.

He was posted to 11 EFTS Perth on 21st October. Mackay was commissioned in 603 Squadron on 23rd March 1940 and posted to 15 SFTS Lossiemouth where he completed his intermediate and advanced flying training on 16th August 1940.

On 28th August 1940 his Academy colleagues F/Lt. JLG Cunningham and P/O DK MacDonald were both killed in action serving with 603 Squadron.



He arrived at 7 OTU Hawarden on the 2nd September. Mackay joined 234 Squadron at Middle Wallop on 18th September 1940.

Returning to St. Eval from a routine sortie on 25th September, his Spitfire Ia X4182 caught fire. Mackay baled out but received serious stomach injuries on landing. The Spitfire came down NW of St. Columb Minor.

During a year’s convalescence Mackay was based in London, surviving the 1940-41 Blitz. On presenting himself for assessment to fly again, he was found to black out too easily and told he must limit his piloting to flights no faster than 150mph. He was assigned to be personal pilot to the GOC Scotland.

Mackay was released from the RAF in January 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He then was appointed senior partner in the shipping and travel company that had been founded by his father, William, and uncle, George, and kept going throughout the war by his mother, William’s widow Ethel.

From its Edinburgh headquarters in Hanover Street, Mackay Brothers established a successful car hire enterprise. His brother Alastair was the company accountant. The company developed a popular air charter business between Scotland and Toronto. In 1974 Mackay was involved in a new venture, the founding of a new travel group, Globespan, which was later taken over.

He married Yvonne Hills, an actress, in 1942 after they had met during his recuperation in London. They divorced in 1953 and he married Anne Wards Allan in 1958. He married his third wife Jessie Wightman, nee Paxton in 1986. The couple lived in Edinburgh.

He is survived by Jessie, his son, Reay (Edinburgh Academy 1949-53), his daughter Karyn, and stepchildren Isobel and William.

Mackay died on 4th August 2018 aged 101.


Additional research courtesy of Edinburgh Academy.



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