Robert McKay came to York Factory in 1811 as a servant of the HBC. He was a passenger on the Edward and Ann, a barely seaworthy vessel which also carried a number of men who were to form an advance work party for Selkirk’s proposed settlement. The HBC accounts create some confusion as to Robert’s place of origin as one record states he was from Muir (Rosshire), and another says he came from Mull (Argyll). Later information indicates that Rosshire is correct. According to the HBC records, he was 40 years old in 1814. Red River census records are inconsistent regarding his age, but it is possible that he was a few years older than the HBC entry shows.
McKay’s work record with the Company shows that he was employed as a cooper and that he was working at York Factory in 1813-16. At the end of August 1815, the Hadlow arrived at York Factory with colonists for Red River. Among the passengers was a young woman named Christie Bannerman whom Robert married on Sept. 4, 1815. Christian Bannerman was 22 years old in 1815, and she seems to have been travelling alone on the Hadlow. After his marriage, Robert McKay joined the colonists on their journey to Red River.They arrived at the Forks on Nov. 4, 1815 and then continued south to Pembina for the winter. McDonell’s journal entry of 4 Dec. 1815 gives the information that the servants were building a cooperage for Robert McKay.
The settlers returned to the Forks in the spring and were given their allotments. In the summer of 1816 they were driven from the settlement after the disaster at Seven Oaks, and made their way to Jack River where they spent the winter. The following summer they returned to the settlement where they were met by Lord Selkirk. Selkirk granted lands free of payment to those settlers who had suffered losses at the hands of the NWC; Robert McKay was the recipient of lot #20.
Their first child was a daughter Christiana. There is no record of her birth, but there is an application for scrip in 1875. The McKays would have seven more children, only one of whom would be a boy, born in 1832. A son does not appear in any of the RRS census records, so it must be assumed that he died as an infant. Except for Christiana, the McKay girls all married and had children.
Robert McKay died in 1853. Christian Bannerman McKay died in 1876. At the time of her death, she was living in Headingley with her daughter Alice (Alexy) Dennison and family.