Dictionary of National Biography, 1927 supplement/Mackay, Donald James
MACKAY, DONALD JAMES, eleventh Baron Reay (1839–1921), governor of Bombay, and first president of the British Academy, was born at The Hague 22 December 1839. He was the elder son of Eneas, Baron Mackay, of Ophemert, Holland, tenth Baron Reay, and head of the clan Mackay, whose ancestor, Sir Donald Mackay, first Baron Reay [q.v.], raised a regiment among his clansmen and served at its head with the Danish and Swedish armies during the Thirty Years' War. His mother was Maria, daughter of Baron Fagel, privy councillor of the Netherlands. Mackay was educated at the university of Leyden, where he matriculated in 1856 and graduated in laws in 1861. On entering the Dutch Foreign Office he was attached to the Dutch legation in London, but was transferred the same year (1861) to the Dutch Colonial Office. In 1871 he entered the Chamber of Representatives as a member of the Left.
In 1875 Mackay left Holland and settled in England, succeeding to the Scottish title in 1876 and becoming naturalized in 1877. He married in the latter year Fanny Georgiana Jane, daughter of Richard Hasler, of Aldingbourne, Sussex, and widow of Alexander Mitchell, M.P., of Stow, Midlothian. In 1881 he was created Baron Reay in the peerage of the United Kingdom, and in 1885 Mr. Gladstone appointed him governor of Bombay, a post which he held till 1890. As governor he kept in his own hands the charge of the political, military, ecclesiastical, and public works departments, and, during his last year of office, that of public instruction, encouraging the development of teaching in manifold branches. He also paid much attention to the development of the railway system. He was made G.C.I.E. in 1887 and G.C.S.I. in 1890. In 1894 Lord Reay was appointed under-secretary of state for India, but held the office for only fifteen months, the liberal ministry of Lord Rosebery having terminated in the summer of 1895. During this period the expedition to Chitral [see Robertson, Sir George Scott] was organized and successfully concluded.
In 1897 Lord Reay was elected chairman of the London School Board, and retained that office till the abolition of the Board in 1904. His association with University College, London, dates from 1881, when he was elected a member of the council. On his return from India he was re-elected (1891) to the council, of which he became vice-president in 1892 and president in 1897. After the incorporation of the college in the reorganized university of London (1907), he was appointed chairman of the University College committee, and he held the office until his death. He also presided, in February 1908, over the departmental committee which led to the foundation of the school of Oriental studies, since incorporated in London University.
Lord Reay took great interest in questions of international law and politics, and was elected associate (1882) and member (1892) of the Institut de Droit International. From the latter date he took an active part in nearly all the meetings of the Institut, working on its committees and making communications on such subjects as extradition and expulsion of foreigners. He attended the Geneva meeting of 1892 and nearly all those that followed, serving as vice-president at Venice (1896) and at Brussels (1902), and as president at Edinburgh (1904). In spite, however, of his interest in questions of international law he never published any work on the subject.
In 1907 Lord Reay was appointed third British delegate to the second Peace Conference at The Hague, where he served as member of the second commission on the laws and customs of war on land. He read a closely reasoned explanation of the definition of fleet auxiliaries, delivered important speeches proposing the abolition of contraband, and presented the new British draft on the subject of delays of grace.
Lord Reay was made a privy councillor in 1906 and created K.T. in 1911. He was elected rector of St. Andrews University (1884), vice-president of the Royal Asiatic Society (1892), and first president of the newly founded British Academy in 1901, retaining the last-named office until 1907.
In January 1917 an accident, which resulted in a broken thigh-bone, confined him thenceforth to an invalid's chair, but did not prevent his attendance at the meetings of University College and of the Royal Asiatic Society. He died at Carolside, Earlston, Berwickshire, 31 July 1921. His wife predeceased him in 1917, leaving no children.
Lord Reay was a devout Presbyterian, of simple tastes and habits. He took an active part in the foundation and opening (1883) of St. Columba's Presbyterian church, Pont Street, London. A statue of him commemorating his services as governor of Bombay was erected in Bombay in 1895.
[The Times, 1 August 1921; Viscount Bryce in Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. x, 1921–1922; Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, October 1921; personal knowledge.]