Sir Donald McKay

Attended WBHS from 1921 to 1926

Sir Donald McKay was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, for public services, in the 1978 Queen's Birthday Honours.

Sir Donald was born in 1908 in Waipu. He received his education from Whangarei Boys’ High School and the University of Auckland. 

At Whangarei Boys’ High School, he was head prefect, captain of the first XI cricket team and captain of the first XV rugby team. Another student at the same school was future parliamentary colleague Jack Marshall who described McKay as his schoolboy hero. On graduating from Whangarei Boys’ High School Don received a letter from the Headmaster which included the line “I implore you to go on and be a leader of men as you have been here”.  He became a farmer in Waipu. Don was the chairman of the Northland Harbour Board and went on to become the Chairman of the  New Zealand Ports Authority. He married Miriam Hilda Stehr in 1934 with whom he had 3 children.

Sir Donald joined the National Party and became the chairman of the Marsden electorate committee. In early 1954 the 77-year-old MP for Marsden Alfred Murdoch was challenged for the National nomination by William Rodney Lewin Vallance, the deputy mayor of Whangarei. Vallance won a postal ballot of members, an outcome which split the Marsden National Party membership into two opposing factions. After it emerged that Vallance was in trouble with his taxes he was in turn deselected and replaced by McKay. Vallance ran as an independent candidate and split the vote, almost costing National the seat. 

McKay represented the Marsden electorate in the Northland region from 1954, and he retired in 1972. He was Minister of Health and Minister of Social Security in the Second National Government from 1962 to 1972 under Keith Holyoake. 

A couple of Quotes from Sir Jack Marshall’s Memoirs Volume 1 1012-1960  “Don administered the Health Portfolio with solid common sense and quiet efficiency” and “I admired Don’s quantities of character which he had in full measure”

After retiring from Parliament, he was elected a member of the Northland Harbour Board and served one term as its chairman.

High School Achievements

  • Head prefect
  • Captain of the First XI cricket team
  • Captain of the First XV rugby team


  • Appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, for public services, in the 1978 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

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