Thomas Wills Gibbs McKay was born on March 8, 1873 at the McKay family home in Oshawa. His parents were Donald H. McKay and Mary Elizabeth Gibbs, cousin of William and Thomas Gibbs.
Donald (known to the family as Daniel), had a successful career with the Denny & Company Marine Engineers and had sailed with the Merchant Marines until he was struck by cholera in Calcutta, India in 1868. He sailed to Canada in 1869 and worked for the Joseph Hall Iron Works as an engineer, building engines for printing machinery. Later he worked for the Universal Knitting Mills in Toronto. The family lived there, at 19 Gloucester Street, from 1886 until Donald’s death in 1911.
His mother, Mary Elizabeth Gibbs came to Oshawa with her father, Philip Gibbs in 1859. They were located close to her cousins T.N. and W.H. Gibbs in the village of Harmony.
Thomas attended Centre Street School in Oshawa during his early years and obtained a medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1896, winning the George Brown Scholarship and was a Starr gold medalist. That same year, he began practicing medicine with Dr. Francis Rae. He was also an examiner in primary anatomy for the Ontario Medical Council, associate examiner in clinical surgery and Medical Officer of Health in Oshawa from 1905 – 1945.
Early in his career Dr. McKay married Alice Adella Drew, a Toronto General Hospital nursing graduate, on April 4, 1902. It was at this time that he built their family home, a three-storey brick house at 58 King Street West, on the northeast corner of King Street and Victoria Street. They had three sons; Donald Drew, Wilson Gibbs and Ian Blake. The family also had a cottage on Lake Mississauga near Buckhorn, Ontario, and they spent much of their time there. After Alice died in 1933, McKay married her sister, Ina Estella Drew, in 1938.
Dr. McKay travelled throughout the community to houses and schools campaigning for issues such as inoculations and clean water. He was instrumental (along with Dr. D.S. Hoig) in establishing the health program in Oshawa’s schools. Dr. McKay’s granddaughter, Adella McKay (Wilson Gibbs daughter) has said that her Grandfather was often paid in chickens and farm produce, if at all! This may be why they lost their Victorian home on King Street.
Dr. TWG McKay died at the family home in Harmony on March 12, 1945. He is buried in the Gibbs-McKay-Drew plot at Union Cemetery.
Learn more about Community Health in the 20th Century by visiting our latest feature exhibit! Visit soon because it will close later this month!
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection. McKay genealogy files.
French, Olive. Unpublished Manuscript. 1967.