J. Greer McKAY was born in July 1885 in Cookstown in County Tyrone, Ireland.
Both his father and maternal grandfather, Mr Samuel Smart, were in business in Cookstown for many years. His Uncle was Mr. Foster McKay, Petty Sessions Clerk, Aughnacloy. The family were prominently connected with the First Presbyterian Church, Cookstown and his father and grandfather were successively superintendents of the Evening Sabbath School of that Church for about half a century.
The family left Cookstown for Leeds, Yorkshire around 1890 and lived at Consort Terrace, Leeds then later at 8 St. John’s Terrace, Belle-vue Road, Leeds where James was educated at Belle-vue Road School and Leeds Central High school. He worked in the family business as a Coal Merchant and was also actively associated with the Cavendish Road Presbyterian Church and was a member of the choir.
In 1901 his father, William C. McKAY died.
By the 1911 Census, his maternal grandfather, Samuel SMART and his aunt, Laura SMART, had moved into the family home.
From 1909, he served with the Leeds territorial regiment, Yorkshire Hussars - A Squadron.
In 1912 he ventured to Australia, having had for fellow passengers on their first visit down-under, Rev Thomas Glass and Mrs Glass then of the First Presbyterian Church, Cookstown and thence residents in Melbourne.
Thus, aged 26 y.o., Mr G. McKAY arrived from Liverpool into Sydney Australia on October 10 1912 aboard the Suevic. He was listed as being a Farmer heading to Sunshine but made his way to the McKAY family homestead of Drummartin.
At the outbreak of WW1, Greer considered returning to England to rejoin his original regiment. However when Australia offered its support to the "Motherland", after due consideration, he decided to enlist with the Commonwealth forces.
On August 25 1914, James Greer McKAY enlisted with the AIF at Broadmeadows, Victoria. His attestation papers show that he was 6 feet tall, weighed 11 stone 11 pounds and had a chest of some 36".
Greer was assigned to the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, "C" Squadron Wiltshire Group, which embarked from Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A18 Wiltshire on the 19th October 1914. (The HMAT A18 Wiltshire weighed 10,390 tons with an average cruise speed of 13.5 knots or 25.00 kmph. It was owned by the Commonwealth & Dominion Line Ltd, London, and leased by the Commonwealth until 2 October 1917.)
After leaving Gallipoli he was sent to France, where he was attached to the 1st Battalion Australian Machine Gun Corps. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 2nd July 1916. He was killed during the night of 19th August 1916 during the battle operations near Moquet Farm in France (know as Mucky Farm to allied troops.) The gun crew under Lieutenant J.G. McKay were about to move off when they were all killed or wounded.
Captain W R French, in a letter to Mrs McKay says:- ‘Lieutenant McKay was one of the finest characters it has been my fortune to come across, and a more gallant officer never lived. He volunteered to relieve another lieutenant for six hours as he told me they had had a very bad time and considered they should be relieved.’
Mrs McKay had two other sons serving with the colours.
Lieut. Greer McKAY's body was not retrieved from the field.
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