McKay, Andrew

McKay, Andrew

Second Officer

SS Sheaf Mead (Newcastle-on-Tyne), Merchant Navy      

Died as a result of enemy action on Monday 27 May 1940 (aged 61)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 95)


In the CWGC Debt of Honour it is recorded that Andrew McKay was a son of Andrew and Eliza McKay and the husband of Mary McKay of Gransha, Co. Down.  Research has shown that Andrew McKay was in fact from Gransha, Islandmagee, Co. Antrim.  There are five townlands named Gransha in County Down and two of them are in the Ards area.  There is one townland named Gransha in County Antrim and it is in Islandmagee.

The 1901 Census shows that the McKay family lived in the townland of Ballytober, Islandmagee.  The Head of the family was Elizabeth (Eliza) McKay (aged 54) and she was a widow.  Five children were named – Mary (aged 23) was a farmer’s daughter; Andrew (aged 21) was a sailor; Robert (aged 18) was a farmer’s son; Arthur (aged 15) was a carpenter; Agnes (aged 11) was a scholar, as was Rosina, (aged 9).

Andrew McKay Senior died on 1 December 1899 (aged 65) and Eliza died on 10 June 1904 (aged 58).  They were buried in Ballypriormore Graveyard in Islandmagee and, also commemorated on the family grave headstone is their son Alexander who was lost at sea in 1887 (aged 22) and their son Robert who died on 9 July 1949 (aged 66).

During the Second World War Andrew McKay Junior served with the Merchant Navy aboard the SS Sheaf Mead (formerly Gretaston).  This British Cargo Ship was built in 1924 by Robert Duncan and Company, Glasgow and was owned by the Sheaf Steam Shipping Company, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  On 27 May 1940 she was on route from Swansea to Philadelphia in ballast when she was torpedoed without warning by the German submarine U-37.  The attack happened around 4.00 pm and SS Sheaf Mead sank some 150 miles west of Cape Finisterre in Spain.  Second Officer Andrew McKay was one of more than 30 men who lost their lives.  The British and German accounts of the sinking of this ship were heard at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials on 14 January 1946.  Second Officer Andrew McKay is commemorated as Captain McKay on the family grave headstone in Islandmagee (Ballyharry) Cemetery, Co. Antrim.  His wife Mary Johnston McKay died on 4 March 1961 (aged 79) and their son Charles died on 5 December 1989.  During the Second World War Charles McKay (No. 571983) served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force.