James McKay was the third child of Edward Hector MacKay 1st and Rebecca Forsdyke and was born in East Retford, Nottinghamshire on 16th August 1868. He was recorded on the 1871 Census living with his parents in Alma Road, East Retford aged 2 years. In 1878, his Father petitioned the Royal Military Asylum in Chelsea, (later the Duke of York's Royal Military School), to accept James as a pupil. As he was the son of a former soldier, James was accepted and entered the School on 13th July 1880. He is recorded on the 1881 Census for the School as a 12 year old Scholar. A copy of the Petition obtained from the School, records quite a lot of information regarding James' Father's time in The Royal Scots Regiment. Included with the Petition is a letter written by Edward Hector to the School stating that his son, James McKay, No. 6 C Company, while at home for the holidays, had expressed a desire to enter the 42nd Highlanders, (The Black Watch), as his Grand-father had served with them at Waterloo. The letter goes on to say "At the same time I am fully persuaded that you will advise him for the best". Contrary to this, James in fact enlisted with his Father's old Regiment, The Royal Scots, when he left the School on 26th August 1882.
His Attestation Papers appear to have been filled in on James' last day at the School as they are also dated 26th August 1882. They record that his Trade is a 'Shoemaker', a trade that he was presumably taught at the School. At the time the Regiment was stationed at Fermoy, Co. Cork in Ireland and we can therefore assume he was sent there for his initial training.
His Discharge Papers show that he remained on a 'Home' posting until October 1885, following which he served in South Africa until September 1891. He was again stationed at Home in the 'New Barracks, Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh', until November 1899 before returning to South Africa until March 1903. Finally, he returned home to complete his service and was discharged at Blackdown Barracks in Surrey, (later renamed Deepcut Barracks). He was a Bandsman (Drummer) and by the time of his Discharge, had been promoted to Sergeant Drummer.
During his time in South Africa, he had taken part in the 'Zululand Operations of 1888 and the South Africa Campaigns of 1899 to 1900 and the Campaigns of 1901 and 1902, for which he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with Clasps for the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Belfast, (Belfast, South Africa, not Northern Ireland), and the King's South Africa Medal with Clasps for the 1901 to 1902 Campaigns. In addition, he was in receipt of a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Entries on his Discharge Papers state: "Exemplary, a thoroughly reliable, steady, willing and respectable man" and "Is a Musician and a very handy man".
During his time at home, apart from being stationed in Edinburgh, he was also probably stationed for a period of time in the Barracks at Chatham, Kent, as I have a photograph of James and his younger brother, William, who was also in The Royal Scots, taken by a professional photographer in Chatham. During this time, he met and married Fanny Rich in the Parish Church of St. Margaret of Antioch in Darenth, Dartford, Kent on the 19th September 1896. The actual circumstances of their meeting are unknown, however we do know from their Marriage Certificate and the Birth Certificate of their 1st child, Agnes Rebecca, that Fanny was pregnant at the time of their Marriage. Following their Marriage, James was posted to Edinburgh and it was there that Agnes Rebecca was born on 12th March 1897, followed by their 2nd daughter, Alice Jessie, on 8th May 1898. Fanny and the 2 children are missing from the 1901 English Census so I initially assumed that they had accompanied James when he was posted to South Africa in 1899. Later in my research, quite by accident, I found them on the 1901 Irish Census living near Belfast in what is now Northern Ireland, but then was still part of the UK. Although the Census does not say, presumably they were provided with accommodation by the Army during James' overseas posting.
Following his Discharge, the family initially settled at 45 Azof Street, East Greenwich, Kent and James gained employment as a Labourer at the South Metropolitan Gas Company. They later moved to 15 Commercial Street and finally to 37 Whitworth Street. Two more children followed, Walter George on 31st August 1905 and Kate Victoria on 23rd May 1912. James passed away on the 31st January 1913 at the age of 44 years and was buried in Charlton Cemetery.
Fanny remained living at 37 Whitworth Street for much of her life, also having gained employment at the South Metropolitan Gas Company on 1st July 1917. I have the original 'Memorandum of an Agreement' between Fanny and the Gas Company agreeing to employ her for 12 months, but it does not say in what capacity nor is there any indication if her employment extended beyond the 12 months. On the strength of James' service in The Royal Scots, Fanny successfully petitioned the Duke of York's Royal Military School, then based in Dover, Kent, to accept her son, Walter George as a pupil in 1914. Some time prior to her death, Fanny entered a Nursing Home at 82 Plumstead Common Road, Plumstead, and passed away there on 4th May 1970 at the age of 92.