Mack-eye or Mack-A: What’s the right way to say Mackay?

By Tammy Laval

IT’S the great debate that allows no fence sitters, and according to Mackay Historical Society’s Glen Hall it’s been ongoing since the settlement of Port Mackay in 1862.

A letter to the Daily Mercury editor on September 10, 1956 presents the idea that it should be pronounced phonetically as “Mackay does not spell Mackeye”.

In another letter on 28, May, 1960 the writer said Mr R. H. Mackay’s son pronounced the name Mack’eye’.

To put the debate to rest, it is Mack’eye’ and Mr Hall proves this with a rhyming poem by Mrs A Dunbar written around 1950.

Just a short time ago, whilst on holiday bent,

I happened to meet a young lady and gent.

They said, Where do you come from?” I said “I’m from Mackay(ie)”

“Really, what is it like there?” So here’s my reply:

This is just a little ditty about our fair and lovely City

Nestled in North Queensland on the coast.

Mackay is part of Aussie, and we dearly love our possie

With dinkum honest feeling I will boast.

We have houses cool and airy maybe a cane farm or a dairy

Industry progressing in its stride

In our little city we find talent bright and witty

So Mackay’s a jewel fit for any bride.

There’s a welcome for a stranger, a freedom from all danger

Sweet flowers whisper softly to the breeze

There’s Palm and Fir trees growing, a peaceful river flowing

And beauty in the garden plots and trees.

Little homes for aged and weary, our children bright and cheery

‘Tis a haven for the Tourist seeking charm.

Kind and homely people, and tho’ our Churches lack a steeple

Religion here brings comfort peace and calm.

Our buildings in rotation compare with any Nation;

Hospitals and clinics prove their worth.

Nearby there’s mountain air and beaches so Nature’s lesson teaches

That Mackay’s a lovely spot on God’s good earth.

Then the young lady said “Mackay(ie) or Mackay?”

So I answered again in a leisurely way-

Well the people that live there mostly call it Mackay(ie)

But really my dear, don’t ask me why.

Our City was named after Captain Mackay(ie)

He pronounced it that way. I suppose that is why.

Then I bade them farewell and they went on their way

Maybe pondering still-Mackay(ie) or Mackay.

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