John Kenneth ‘Ken’ Mackay MBE

John Kenneth ‘Ken’ Mackay MBE

Featured Image: Scone ‘A’: Winners of the Countess of Dudley Cup, 1969. A. W. Bragg, J. K. Mackay, J. C. Gilder (Captain), A. R. Munro

This was arguably the prelude to a grand finale of a long and distinguished career in polo by Ken Mackay. He had won a record number of six (6) Dudley Cup Championships with this win. He won again in 1974 playing in the same Scone team with his son Jaime. The first five (5) wins were with “Wirragulla” in 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1954.

During his time at the RAS of NSW Ken Mackay was a great mentor to team mate Arthur Bragg AO who led the RAS of NSW as President for the relocation from Moore Park to Sydney Olympic Park in 1997 – 1998. At the invitation of Alex Braid Ken Mackay chaired the very first formal meeting of the Australian Stock Horse Society at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1971. The name ‘Mackay’ is indelibly imprinted for posterity at Sydney Olympic Park. The principal set of horse stables is the ‘Mackay Pavilion’. The main arena is acknowledged as the ‘J. K. Mackay Showground Arena’.

The King’s School Magazine 1995

John Kenneth ‘Ken’ Mackay passed away peacefully on July 9th 1995 at the age of eighty four years.

The service conducted at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church Dungog was attended by a large crowd of family, friends and club dignitaries.

J. K. ‘Ken’ Mackay was born on 3rd November 1910 and attended The Kings School 1925 – 1928. After schooling he returned home to Cangon, Dungog and became heavily involved in the cattle industry and thoroughbred horse breeding. He learnt to ride at an early age and soon became a master horseman and excelled at all Equestrian Sports.

He was a member of the 12/16 Hunter River Lancers, Dungog Troop, and was a member of the team which won the Lord Foster Cup twice (1931 – 1932, second in 1933) for jumping, tent pegging, precision riding and shooting. Ken Mackay played polo from 1928 until 1936, went to India and played polo in Calcutta, competing against the British Colonial Forces Polo Club Teams in a series of matches. The team of J. K. Mackay, C. W. Hooke, Curtis and Bob Skene defeated the cream of the British Colonial Troops.

He married Miss Phyllis Skene in 1937 and competed in shows at Dungog, Gloucester, Singleton, Gresford, Scone and Murrurundi in novelty events, tent pegging, flag races, bending races and campdrafts.  He was one of the most successful competitors at that period. The war intervened and he attained the rank of Major, seeing service in the Middle East in the A. I. F. 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion B Company. After the war in 1945, J. K. Mackay founded the Dungog Australian Bushman’s Carnival Association (responsible for all amateur rodeo events in Australia, now known as the Australian Bushman’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association). From 1928 t0 1975 he played competitive Polo, attaining a World Rating of 6 Goals.

In that period his versatility as a horseman became legendary. His skill at Polo, Campdrafting, flag and bending races, hack and show events won him countless ribbons and trophies. He attained the peak of Campdrafting by winning the Duke of Gloucester Cup on two occasions, and he was third on another occasion.

In 1952 and 1953 Ken won two World Championships in Campdrafting. During the period 1930 to 1963, competing in campdrafting, flag racing, bending races, stock horse, hack and show riding events, he won 236 first placings. He bred, educated and rode his own horses and took a team to each competition with specialist horses for each event.

As well as competing in the Show and Rodeo competitions, he played polo winning the Countess od Dudley Cup on five occasions with Wirragulla Polo Club, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1954, and with Scone Club on three occasions, 1958, 1969, and 1974 (the last winning team included his son). He captained the Australian Polo Team to win the Daily Telegraph Gold Cup in 1957 and won gain as a team member in 1960. This event is contested by international, inter-dominion and state teams.

John Kenneth Mackay has been inducted into the Stockman’s Hall of Fame at Longreach, Queensland, in recognition of his outstanding ability to breed, train and ride his own horses to world standard in Polo, Campdrafting, Hack and Novelty events.

Mr. John Johnston, 83 years old Stud Master, Tyrone Stud Scone said “as an equestrian Ken Mackay was without peer, Polo, Tent Pegging, Campdrafting, any event whatever, he was recognised as one of the best all round horsemen in Australia.”

The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales refers to J. K Mackay as one of the finest Ringmasters on the Association’s history, and in competitions he was an exemplary competitor. He was a marvellous leader, popular with staff, executives and especially competitors. As Ringmaster for 25 years he organised the R. A. S. Grand Parades to become the greatest parade of show equestrians and animals in the southern hemisphere and one of the greatest in the world.

The Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association made him a Life Member of the Association, for his long association with Rodeo and Campdrafting as a competitor and executive.

During the 50 competitive years in Equestrian and Polo events, Shows and Rodeos, J. K. Mackay contributed 25 years to the RAS of NSW as Ringmaster, 10 years as Vice-President RAS, 30 yaers as Chairman of the Horse Committee RAS of NSW, 25 years active Show Judging, 14 years President and Treasurer of the NSW Polo Association, and he was a Foundation Member of the Equestrian Federation of Australia. He was awarded the MBE for his contribution to Equestrian Sports. He bred, handled and educated is own racehorses which were successful on the Metropolitan racetracks, horses such as Dominant, Panama, Grey Gull, Grey Sails and Rapid Hour.

He is survived by his son Jaime (TKS 1960 – 1968) and daughter Margaret (Mrs Pennefather) and four grandchildren: Catriona, Jock (Tudor House 1992 – 1993, TKS 1994 – 1999), Fiona and Scott Pennefather (1981 – 1986). His wife Phyllis predeceased him in 1985.

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