W. H. Mackay of “Tinagroo”

The Featured Image is of his Polo Team “The Nomads”. The players are L to R: Ken Mackay, Bob Mackay, Bill Mackay and Charlie Hooke. This photo captures many of the facets of Bill Mackay’s life: horses, sport, Polo, bush, prose, poetry, family, teamwork, beauty and much more.

The following is a rather prolix ‘purple prose’ eulogy of W. H. ‘Bill’ Mackay at the time of his passing in 1956. It is probably compiled by Arthur Fleming ‘Advocate’ Smith. There is a lot more to be written about Bill Mackay. I believe it is in the offing?

William Hooke Mackay

‘Soldier, Gentleman and Sportsman No More’ (By “A.F.S”; Scone Advocate; Friday 26th October 1956)

Although the passing, on Saturday morning last, of William Hooke Mackay was not altogether unexpected, it caused a pall of sorrow throughout the Upper Hunter and in many other parts of the State and elsewhere.

The deceased gentleman was widely known and equally popular. He was a public benefactor, and his many contributions to organisations covered a most extensive field – were in full consonance with his generous and kindly make-up and disposition. A man who never allowed his left hand to know the actions of his right hand, it was ever characteristic of him to proffer his benevolence unostentatiously.

Mr. Mackay was a philanthropist in every sense and meaning of the word, whose beneficiaries, always grateful and appreciative, were far and wide, just as were the offerings of warm-hearted big Australian in outlook and concept.

This particular phase of his useful life was stressed by Rev. Allan W. Fraser at the large attended and most representative congregation in the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Monday morning, when in his incidental address he expressed sorrow and sympathy at the withdrawal of such a familiar and popular figure from the life and activities of the community.

“William Hooke Mackay”, he said, “never spared himself in what he did for the well-being of the people and their institutions. He enjoyed to the full the freedoms under which the people live, and as he lived he gave most liberally, without any thought of being reimbursed.”

Mr. Mackay typified and epitomised Australia’s bushland, was a lover of its fauna and flora, and of which he was apt to quote in prose and verse, in his almost inimicable style. He had a stock house of bush and folk lore, and when not referring to statistics and breeding lines apropos of the Sport of Kings, of which he was an authority without peer, he was to be heard giving voice to bush lore and bush folk, with emphasis on the pennings of the Scottish and Australian bards, whose work he quoted from start to finish and without any apparent effort.

The subject of these lines was born at “Cangon” in the Dungog district, 69 years ago. It was the original menage and holding of his grandfather, Mr. William Mackay, the progenitor of the family in the colony, who arrived from the Old Country as far back as 1836 while his father Mr. W. H. Mackay, went into possession of “Anambah”, in the Maitland area in 1893. Before coming to the Upper Hunter about thirty years hence, Mr. Mackay, affectionately known as “Bill”, “Old Bill” and “W. H.”, held with another brother, “Giro” and “Curricaback”, two properties in the Gloucester district; but the first block he took up hereabout was part of the Belltrees subdivision, now known as “Nabinabah”. His next venture was “The Junction”, a big expanse of country in the mountains on Thompson’s Creek on the north-western side of Scone, which he subsequently named “Tinagroo”, which he improved and transformed into one of the best-known holdings in the Upper Hunter. Almost simultaneously he went into possession of “The Basin” and “Rainbow”, two areas in the Muswellbrook terrain.

But it was at “Tinagroo” in its beautiful setting that he settled in, was a grand host with hospitality radiating from every portal, that he raised an maintained quality sheep and cattle, and at the same time set about in founding the widely known and reputable stud of thoroughbred horses. An authority on each of the three phases of the rural industries aforesaid, he spared himself no expense in raising the standard of the thoroughbred, yet he did not neglect the stockhorse type by any means, because he was a lover of the horse. He imported not a few sires from the Old Country, and with them many mares and fillies, and the success that came his way was richly deserved.

In his vintage years he was an ardent devotee of “picnic” racing, and here, as elsewhere, had his colours in triumph on hundreds of occasions. One of the first top-liners he raced was Ethics, a son of Rossendale, which crowned a long sequence of wins in this State, where he carried all before him, not excluding the coveted Viceroy Cup. Then came that bonny mare. Dark Elegance, with which he took out the Sires’ Produce Stakes and other classics. Mr. Mackay thought highly of this filly, which he retained for his stud, even higher than the super-galloper Freckles, the record holder for Australia for seven furlongs, which he was equal to putting asunder in 1:22. (Author’s Note: The AJC Randwick record will be maintained forever in perpetuity since the introduction of metric standard race distance measurement).  Not a few sires were sheltered in their time at “Tinagroo”, these including Marabou, a son of Marconigram, himself a winner of the Melbourne Cup, as did his son Skipton. He also experimented with the grey, Roxburgh, a son of Rossendale, and had the satisfaction of seeing one of his get, also a grey, score convincingly in the Doncaster Handicap.

Of more recent years the grand sportsman was set on producing staying types, and to this end imported such sires as Good Company, and Turkaris, but failing to realise his ambition. Not deterred he went into the overseas market again, and three more importations, King’s Own, Wayside Inn and Lighthouse II, are now doing duty and are doing well to fulfill the life’s dream of their now departed owner. Wayside Inn gave the game such an outstanding performer as Karendi, whose wins have taken in the Doncaster and Stradbroke Handicaps, just to mention a brace of his triumphs, also Wayside Bloom, Stirrup Cup, Grand Charles, and others. But with Lighthouse II, and aged horse acquired at a big figure to have his blood infused in the mares at “Tinagroo”, a real aristocrat came into his hands. Not only has he proved himself abroad, but he set his seal to fame when he he got Sailor’s Guide, one of the greatest gallopers in Australia. But alas, this fellow’s potential gain to the Turf and his owner has been robbed now that his enterprising owner is no more. Of King’s Own, his stock have not yet raced, but all show great promise.

Mr. Mackay, also known as “The Patron of Sport” in the district, did not alone confine his sporting activities to racing.

He was a poloist of no mean order, and at one time was the mainspring of the Scone Club, in which he interested himself in a most practical way to the end of making many mounts available to the younger votaries, whom he encouraged and gave great advice. He even went to the length of laying out a full size ground on his property in the mountains where at least one carnival was held in a picturesque and delightful setting, again also strikingly exemplifying that he had an eye for the things beautiful as well as sport.

He likewise was one of the real stalwarts and patrons of the Scone Race Club and Bushman’s Carnival, in which realms he will be greatly missed, as well as in the many other spheres of his activities, for he was likewise and indefatigable and enthusiastic toiler without a lazy bone in his big frame.

Mr. Mackay saw service with the 12th Light Horse Regiment in World War I, rising to commissioned rank. He was in the desert campaign for some three years. When he arrived at the seat of war, he was drafted to the Brigade Headquarters. “Not for me,” exclaimed the disappointed big Australian. “I came here to ‘box-in’, he protested, and ‘box-in’ he did from that day until the cessation of hostilities.

Of a family of seven, two brothers and one sister survive, they being: Messrs J. K. and F. K. Mackay, of Sydney, who retained landed interests in the Upper Hunter and elsewhere, and Mrs. A. A. Verge, also of Sydney. A fourth brother, Mr. Keith Mackay, and two sisters, Mrs. E. J. Turnbull and Mrs. V. Walker, predeceased him. His widow, Mrs. Muriel Mackay, also survives.

The funeral service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Scone, on Monday morning last provided adequate testimony of the great measure of esteem, affection and respect that was held for the deceased gentleman, together with the depth of sorrow that was expressed by his passing. In the exceptionally large congregation were representatives of every section of the life of the community, with relatives and friends from all parts of this and the Southern State. Rev Fraser was the officiating Minister here and subsequently at Beresfield Crematorium.

Pall bearers comprised employees drawn from the Scone and Muswellbrook properties and of the deceased gentleman. They were Messrs. A. Dengate (2), J. Power, S. Newling, K. Atkins and C. Reeves.