Skip to content
Engineering In The New World

As mentioned in a previous post, the founders of Mackays of Cambridge were Economic migrants from the Scottish Highlands. However, not all of the family ended up in Cambridge. The original Donald Mackay had 3 brothers who set their sights on the other side of the pond and it is Roderick who stands out in particular.

Water to the City of Angels

In the USA Roderick achieved the position as the chief constructional engineer to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the biggest civil engineering project in the world at that time. Begun in 1908 and completed in 1913 the aqueduct still provides some 75% of Los Angeles’ water needs. Roderick was answerable directly to the initiator of the project, William Mullholland, who has the important thoroughfare in Los Angeles named after him: Mullholland Drive. Roderick, who was working way out in the Mojave Desert where there was nowhere to spend money, shrewdly invested his salary in the place where his project would be delivering the water. He died owning some 80 acres of land,which also included part of the Beverly Hills area.

Roderick’s daughter, Christine, popularly known as Blossom, inherited a vast fortune. She remained single and was something of a recluse living on part of the famous Hope Ranch area of Santa Barbara where she grew Sunkist Oranges and Avocado pears on land facing out over the Pacific.

A great cause

Upon her death most of her great fortune went to the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children. Her father had been a keen member of the Shriners branch of the Masons.

The first the Cambridge side of the family heard about all of this was when a number of the Shriners came over cowboy hats and all to present the current Donald Mackay with a plaque by way of thank you as had the land not passed to them it would have been Donald who would have been next in line! Whilst the thought of suddenly owning some prime Beverly Hills Real Estate would have been quite something, the fact that it has gone to such a good cause goes a long way to softening the blow.

Thursday 13th July 2017

<< Previous
The Economic Migrants

This week we are looking back at the early days of the firm and how it got started. As covered in a previous post, The Mackays had completed their slow emigration from the Highlands of Scotland to the city of Cambridge. Having bought out the local Wheelrights it was time for the original Donald and his son Duncan to make their mark. In the extract from his memoirs below, the current Donald Mackay (3rd Generation in the business) looks back at how it all got going:

Read More