Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Mackay, Alexander

MACKAY, ALEXANDER (1833–1902), promoter of education in Scotland, born at Bonar Bridge, Sutherland, on 22 Feb. 1833, was son of William Mackay, tailor and clothier, of Bonar Bridge, by his wife Elizabeth Macgregor. Educated at Bonar Bridge parochial school, he passed to St. Andrews University, where he was a prizeman, graduated M.A., and subsequently in 1891 was admitted to the honorary degree of LL.D. After a short engagement as a teacher at Cameron in Fifeshire he removed to Torryburn, where he was parish schoolmaster for twenty-six years. There he carried on the best Scottish teaching traditions and made a special effort to train boys for the colonies. From 1862 till his death he was an elder of the established church. On the passing in 1861 of the Parochial and Burgh Schoolmasters Act, which refashioned the old system of Scottish education, Mackay devoted himself to the development of educational methods and administration and in the organisation of the teaching profession. A further stop in advance was made in 1872 by the great Compulsory Education (Scotland) Act. To a weekly paper, 'Educational News,' established at Edinburgh on 1 Jan. 1876 by William Ballantyne Hodgson [q. v.] and other enlightened educational leaders as the official organ of Scottish teachers, Mackay became a chief contributor, and on 1 July 1878 undertook its editorship, at first without salary. He improved the financial position of the paper, and received a salary from 1881. Under his control the paper, in which he wrote on a wide range of themes, did much to increase the efficiency of the statutory system of education and to improve the position of the teaching profession. From 1876 till death he was treasurer of the Educational Institute of Scotland, was president in 1881, and greatly extended the influence of the body. In 1897 he was elected a member of the school board of Edinburgh and was re-elected in 1900. He was convener of the evening school committee. A conservative in politics, he possessed much force of character, independence of mind, and clarity of judgment. He died at 13 Warriston Crescent, Edinburgh, on 4 Dec. 1902. In 1863 he married Jane Watt, who survived him with a son. Major Mackay, and four daughters. Mackay published several works of value in the teaching profession. They include : 1. 'Foreign Systems of Education.' 2. Æsthetics in Schools.' 3. 'A History of Scotland.' 4. 'A Plea for our Parish Schools.' 5. 'Free Trade in Teaching.'

[The Times, 8 Dec. 1902; Scotsman, 5 Dec. 1902; Educational News, 13 Dec. 1902 (with portrait); information from the family; Scottish Educational Statutes.]

J. E. G. de M.