Devout gentleman and letter-writer to The Record, John McKay passed away suddenly at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital on August 30 after collapsing near the Eric Street, Cottesloe, shops which he frequented.
His Requiem Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey, a personal friend of John’s, and Parish Priest Fr Charles Waddell, at St Thomas’ Church, Claremont, on September 7 at 9.30am.
Vigil prayers and the Rosary were recited at the same church the previous evening, led by friend Fr Brian Limbourne, who chose the joyful mysteries.
John was the husband of Philomene (deceased), and father of Maurita, father-in-law of James Gardner and grandfather of William, Emily and Rachel.
Four eulogies were delivered at the funeral Mass: by John’s sister Jane Paul, from Orange, NSW; Gavin Drew, from the Whittington Interceptor Salt Affected Land Treatment Society (WISALTS); James Gardner and his wife Maurita McKay.
John Henry McKay was born in Warren, NSW, the eldest son of John Beverley and Florence (nee Edwards), and was the first son of the first son for three generations and a fifth generation Australian, originating from Argyle, Scotland.
His siblings were Susan (since deceased), Jane and Michael, who was too ill to attend the funeral.
After leaving school, he studied medicine at the University of Sydney for a year, but told his grandson William, “I didn’t really do medicine, I was having fun.” He spent his early years as a grazier.
John married Philomene Ryall at St John’s College chapel at that university on February 8, 1954, and their only daughter Maurita was born in Sydney on August 27, 1955.
The family moved to Western Australia in the early sixties, where John decided to follow his dream and become a geologist, studying geology at the University of Western Australia.
He graduated and had worked as a student with Western Mining Corporation and headed out into the field for 24 years in many areas of the State to the east and north.
During his early time in Kalgoorlie and Kambalda, he made a discovery that still stands today.
He associated a eucalyptus tree growing in the Goldfields on top of nickel deposits, and nicknamed it the nickel tree.
With a student, he also mapped the nickel find in Kambalda, Maurita told The Record.
Jane Paul said in her eulogy that her older brother John rode his pony Snowy to and from the public school in Warren, and won all the trotting races and gymkhanas and the show for many years.
“Being the eldest in the family, he was viewed as the knowledgeable one – experienced and competent. He always drove we teenagers on various outings, even when the two girls had earned their licences.”
Gavin Drew told the congregation that John McKay had a particular interest in rocks, various compositions of stones, sands and the formation of soil.
He was a voluntary consultant geologist for WISALTS and “very valued member”.
“As an individual, John was firmly entrenched in his Catholic faith, with very high principles,” Mr Drew said.
James Gardner said John’s property Paradise Hill at Boddington featured WISALT banks in the paddocks to control soil degradation and the trees they planted are now more than three metres tall.
“He was the best father-in-law a man could ever have,” he said, “and many people … loved his conversations, warmth and friendly presence. (John was) able to speak with knowledge and interest with the young and old anywhere.”
Psychologist Maurita said in her eulogy that a few days before he died, her father gave her a bolt, “handing on the baton” in life, so to speak.
“(The late) Archbishop William Foley said to me at a dinner on the eve of his death that my father was one of his great mentors,” she said.
Her mother died on July 27, 2008, and the devoted couple were 54 years married.
Three generations of the family attended UWA: John, Maurita and now William.
Maurita performed a liturgical dance at the rosary prayers and at the offertory at the Requiem Mass. A lighted paschal candle was handed to the family by Fr Limbourne at the rosary prayers.