I guess from first settlement in "Port Mackay" in 1862 there has been an ongoing argument on the naming of Mackay.

From an outsider (I was born and raised in Townsville and am yet to be here 50 years to qualify as a local) I have always known Mackay to be pronounced as Mac "eye".

From speaking to many old timers there is a 50/50 split........some call it Mac "eye" and some call it  Mac "A".... And no matter on which side of the fence they come from they insist that is what they have always known it to be called!!!.....

The argument now and again rears its head in the Daily Mercury and on local radio stations.

I receive the occasional email asking the same question so in fairness and upon the evidence that has been given the correct answer should be:


The old Gaelic pronounciation is MacAye, MacEye, or MacKi. The Gaelic spelling is MacAoidh.

The surname Mackay (McKay, Mackay) is the English equivalent of the Gaelic "MacAoidh" from Mac (son) and Aoidh (the genitive of the proper name Aodh). Aodh was a popular Celtic name and is said to be a form of Aed which is translated as "The fiery or impetuous one".

With the passing of time, the spelling of "MacAoidh" has taken many forms including Iye, Y, Aytho, MacIye, Makky, Macky, Maky, McKye, McKeye, Mackie, Mackey, McKy, McAy, McCei, MacCay, Mackee, Makgie, Ison, Eason, Easson, and many others. The name MacIsaac is said to be a corruption of MacIye.

(From: "The Clan Mackay", by Margaret O. MacDougall)

So see below for the evidence......no correspondence will be entered into....


Glen Hall

Attached is a copy of a poem "Mackay(ie) or Mackay" which you may be interested in.

I was browsing your Historical pages and came across pronunciation of Mackay which brought to mind the poem I have which was written by Mrs A Dunbar around 1950...definitely before 1953.

Mrs Dunbar wrote a few poems. I knew her as a lad as she used to shop at my parents' store in Holland St.

Keep up the good work.


Lou Silingardi

Mansfield Qld




Just a short time ago, whilst on holiday bent,

    I happened to meet a young lady and gent.

They said, Where do you come from?” I said “I’m from Mackay(ie)

    “Really, what is it like there?” So here’s my reply:


This is just a little ditty about our fair and lovely City

    Nestled in North Queensland on the coast.

Mackay is part of Aussie, and we dearly love our possie

    With dinkum honest feeling I will boast.


                       We have houses cool and airy maybe a cane farm or a dairy

    Industry progressing in its stride

In our little city we find talent bright and witty

    So Mackay’s a jewel fit for any bride.


There’s a welcome for a stranger, a freedom from all danger

    Sweet flowers whisper softly to the breeze

There’s Palm and Fir trees growing , a peaceful river flowing

    And beauty in the garden plots and trees.


Little homes for aged and weary, our children bright and cheery

    ‘Tis a haven for the Tourist seeking charm.

Kind and homely people, and tho’ our Churches lack a steeple

    Religion here brings comfort peace and calm.


Our buildings in rotation compare with any Nation;

    Hospitals and clinics prove their worth.

Nearby there’s mountain air and beaches so Nature’s lesson teaches

    That Mackay’s a lovely spot on God’s good earth.


Then the young lady said ”Mackay(ie) or Mackay?”

So I answered again in a leisurely way-


Well the people that live there mostly call it Mackay(ie)

    But really my dear, don’t ask me why.

Our City was named after Captain Mackay(ie)

    He pronounced it that way. I suppose that is why.


Then I bade them farewell and they went on their way

    Maybe pondering still—Mackay(ie) or Mackay.




If you can supply any further information or photographs on the above please contact us by Email.
Glen Hall

© Glen Hall 2001-2023.
page created 24 November 2009.
last updated 01 May 2023 .
Site maintained by Glen Hall