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William McKay

The remarkable Dr. William McKay was one of Saskatoon's early sportsmen. In 1905 he was a member of Saskatoon's first lacrosse team, which won the Saskatchewan Valley League championship. He also played for the Saskatoon Hockey Club, the city's first hockey team and Strang Cup champions in 1904-5.

Dr. McKay seems to have been a feisty character in the city's history. Little is known of his performance on the athletic field, but in public life he was an pugnacious opponent of threats to public health. As Medical Health Officer from 1906 to 1911, he took aim at two major foes in particular. One was the "beastly filthy conditions" in local hotel kitchens. The second was contamination by sewage of the river water supply, resulting in annual outbreaks of typhoid in the years following Saskatoon's incorporation as a city in 1906. Dr. McKay drafted a set of by-laws said to set a high standard in public health, and reportedly set out to enforce the regulations "indifferent to criticism from some quarters".

A graduate in medicine from the University of Manitoba in 1899, he had come to Saskatoon in 1903 and shortly began a practice here. The first story of the McKay Block on 2nd Avenue may have been erected as early as 1905, and still stood in 1996. (It housed the Mikado Silk company for over 60 years, as of 1995.)

After his wife was severely burned in a freak fire in their house on Victoria in 1911, and some controversy around 1912, he appears to have left Saskatoon. Little is known of him other than that he died in 1948.

Contact the Local History Room for more details.

Text courtesy of Ruth Millar.

Date: 1905.

Photographer: Dill, Ralph.

Subject: .

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