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Robert Hugh Mackay was born on 1st October 1878 in Achtoty, Skerray, son of William Mackay and Alexanderina Mackay. They were married in Tongue in 1858.He was married to Fairlie Mackay from Achtoty, Skerray, Sutherlandshire. Prior to the outbreak of war he was employed in the herring fishing industry and was also a member of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.

In August 1914 the Naval Reserve was called up for duty and Robert was sent south for training at the Naval depots. Once he had completed his training he was sent to serve on the armed trawler Waltham; the fishing trawlers were requisition by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war and tasked to clear minefields or escort inshore convoys.

On the night of the 4 December 1915, His Majesty’s Trawler Waltham was caught in a storm off the town of Larne in Ayrshire whilst escorting a convoy. Seaman Robert Mackay was washed overboard during the storm and drowned, his body was washed ashore on the beach the following day. His body was returned home to his wife for burial. Soldiers and sailors killed on duty in the United Kingdom were nearly always returned home for burial.

In early 1916 Robert Hugh Mackay was buried at Torrisdale burial ground Skerray, his funeral was attended by two of his nephews, Alexander and Murdo Mackay from High Bonnybridge Stirlingshire. His nephew James Mackay had already been killed in Gallipoli serving with the Royal Scots; another nephew William Mackay from Glasgow enlisted in the Army in Tongue. (The story of Alexander, Murdo James and William Mackay appear elsewhere on this site).

Mrs Fairlie Mackay lost her husband and four nephews during the First World War, two of her nephews appear on Skerray War Memorial beside the name of her husband. I have been unable to discover why the names of James and William have been omitted from the stone; the two nephews named on the memorial also appear on the Tongue Church Roll of Honour beside the name of their Uncle.     

SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE Mackay Robert Hugh. 2568. Leading Seaman. R.N.R H.M. Trawler Waltham. 4-12-15.

COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION Mackay Leading Seaman R. H. 2568/C (PO). R.N. H.M. Trawler Waltham. 4 December 1915.

Leading Seaman Robert Hugh Mackay 2568 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve is buried in a war grave at TORRISDALE BURIAL GROUND SKERRAY.

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