Sir John Andrew McKay

When a Blantyre born man gains the accolade of being knighted and becoming a “Sir”, his story deserves to be told. This article recognises the life and accomplishments of Sir John Andrew McKay.

When John Andrew McKay was born on 28 November 1912 in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, his father, Denis, was 38 and his mother, Jane Dinsmore, was 36. Both parents were of Irish descent. The McKays lived at 8 Station Road, Blantyre. HIs father Denis was a spirit Salesman and its known the family had been in Blantyre since at least 1905.

John is pictured as a schoolboy in Blantyre. He graduated from Glasgow University, leaving Scotland in 1935 to join the Metropolitan Police in London, commonly called Scotland Yard.

He attended Hendon Police College from 1937-1938. As a police officer in London during the World War II bombings his job meant pulling injured from rubble, getting people to shelters, etc. Whilst doing this he was part of CID at Scotland Yard. In 1943, as war intensified, he then served with joint military governments in Italy and Austria. Being proficient in Italian, he was appointed Temporary Mayor of Palermo.

He completed his term as Lt. Colonel in 1947, returning to Scotland Yard and on 3rd June married Gertrude G Dieghan. He became Chief Inspector of D Department of Scotland Yard and in 1949 in charge of the Notting Hill area of London.

Promotion followed in 1951 and in 1953, he was appointed Dep. Chief Constable to Birmingham and later in September 1958 at the age of 45, to Chief Constable (Police Chief) of Manchester. The post carried a salary then of £3,085 a year with a rent allowance of a further £250. During this time he was instrumental in forcing many Manchester clubs to become legal, closing down significant amount of criminal activity.

A Manchester paper described him in the late 1950’s as “as near as possible to a modern day Sheriff cleaning up the town”.

In 1966 he moved to Langton and he became H.M. Inspector of Constabulary going on to H.M. Chief Inspector of Constabulary of England and Wales and in 1968 was awarded the Queen’s Police medal.

Sir John Andrew McKay

His wife Gertrude passed away on 16 June 1971 at the age of 54. They had been married 24 years.

He retired on 3rd December 1972 and was dubbed a Knight by the Queen Mother. There were many other honours from both the Army and public service. During 1972 at the end of his career, he was especially involved in the prevention of firearms. Upon retirement at almost a 40 year career in the police, he told reporters, “The police force is a wonderful career with many opportunities to be helpful to other people. If i had ever had a son, I would have been delighted if he had joined.”

In 1976 Sir John decided to re-marry, with Mildred Kilday his second wife marrying in Portola Valley, CA, spending their first 8 years in Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, England. They enjoyed travels and entertaining family and friends from all over the world.

In 1984 they emigrated fully to California, USA to spend the rest of their retirement years in Oakmont. Sir John was a man of honor and high ideals. With his strong faith and compassion for others, he devoted much time visiting the ill and infirm as well as working on programs to aid the needy. With his knowledge of music and literature, plus his interesting anecdotes from life experiences, Sir John was a fascinating and gracious gentleman. He was much loved by those who knew him and will truly be missed.

John McKay passed away on 24th October 2004 in Santa Rosa, California, USA at the ripe old age of 91. He was the dearly loved husband of Mildred McKay. He is survived by his two daughters, Margaret Thompson and Janine McKay, both of England, from his first marriage to Gertrude Deighan. He also leaves a step son, Bruce Kilday of Sacramento, CA, and step daughter, Marcia Sisk of Campbell, CA; a large family in the U.K., grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and two step grandchildren in Sacramento, CA.

His funeral took place on Friday, 29th October 2004 at Star of the Valley Catholic Church, Santa Rosa, CA. A private interment was later held at Winters District Cemetery, Winters, CA.

Such a distinguished long and noteworthy career is recognised here and Sir John Andrew McKay automatically goes into the Blantyre Roll of Honours here on Blantyre Project.


Add a Comment
  1. Uncle ‘Jack’, as he was known in the family, was my Godfather. I was in awe of him as he was so tall and handsome! My brother and I spent a week with him and Aunt Gertrude in Manchester when he showed us many of the surrounding sights, castles and industrial sites, the stuff of life of those manufacturing days. And again with my husband when he had relocated to the south of England where he worked in the Metropolitan Police force. Aunt Gertrude died there. He remarried a lovely American lady, Millie, who still lives in the home they set up in California where he, much to his amusement, was introduced to the golf club as Lord McKay! He had a very enjoyable end of life with Millie. I visited them there with my husband and still talk to Millie who adored him, and misses him immensely. He truly was a man of principle.

  2. Enjoyed reading this article about my father. Miss his wisdom and company.

    1. Janice – he sounds like he was a remarkable man. With your permission I’d like to amend a current book draft and make room to tell his story in the same format as this article within the book. Would this be ok? Many people have spoken highly of your father today on social media. Paul

  3. Thank you for this entry, Paul.

    Sir John was a notable figure in Manchester’s policing history.

    As a Manchester police constable in the 60s to 80s and, later, as one of a group creating the Police Museum in that city, I was well aware of his career.

    Sir John’s fight against corruption and criminality in every force in which he served was a fearsome burden and his knighthood reflected the esteem in which he was held. His very private dedication to charity work earned him a St. John award too.

    My personal connection to him was minimal, apart from seeing him regularly visit disabled neighbours in Withington, Manchester.

    An exceptional man of whom Blantyre may now be proud, thanks to your research, Paul.

  4. I’ve never heard of him, until now. A great read, many thanks for the article.

Leave a Reply