Dr. William Morrison MacKay, 1836-1917

Dr. William Morrison MacKay, n.d. Source: UAA Jamieson

A "rocky" start to life in Canada

Dr. William Morrison MacKay, a pioneer physician who practiced medicine for many years with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), had a “rocky” arrival in Canada in 1864.

Dr. MacKay began his practice in his native Scotland and in London. In 1864, when he was back in Edinburgh on a furlough, his cousin Fraser (the HBC's General Secretary) persuaded him to join the company.

Dr. MacKay soon joined the HBC as a surgeon and sailed for Canada from London.

His ship ran aground in the entranceway to the Hudson Bay. Re-floated at high tide, the ship arrived at York Factory with a large boulder in its hull. After docking, the boulder fell out and water poured into the ship.

Dr. MacKay's arrival continued the 200-year HBC practice of hiring and locating physicians in York Factory.

Shortly after his arrival at York Factory, a scout took Dr. MacKay out on the Prairies, where they were both attacked by a polar bear.

Three years later in 1867, Dr. MacKay accepted an offer to work as a clerk and surgeon in what was the
North-Western Territory. He was moved or promoted 13 times during his 31 years inland, becoming a Factor in charge of Fort Chipewyan.

During his postings, he regularly toured his District, providing medical advice and treatment. Whenever he was away, his wife dealt with any medical emergencies:
Read the story of Jane Flett MacKay >>

Although managing the company’s affairs increasingly occupied his time, he remained on call for outbreaks of infection such as smallpox and would travel up to 1,600 km to treat both employees and First Nations peoples.

Dr. MacKay survived the rigors and demands of northern life until he retired from the company in 1898 and opened a private practice in Edmonton for the next 19 years.

Edmonton's MacKay Avenue School was named after him in 1904 and was the site of the first sittings of the Alberta Legislature.

Get the whole story!

Read the full profile of Dr. MacKay in Dr. Robert Lampard's "Alberta's Medical History"
Dr. William MacKay >> 

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.