1810- Donald McKay was born the 4th of September, in Jordan Falls, Shelburne Nova Scotia. The oldest child of 18 of Hugh Patrick McKay and Ann McPherson.
1827- McKay moved to New York to learn the shipbuilding trade, apprenticing for Isaac Webb. He remained with Isaac Webb for four and half years.
1831- Released from his apprenticeship, McKay returned to Nova Scotia.
1832- 1840-McKay began working as a freelance. He worked for many of the most prominent shipyards in New York. Including Isaac Webb, Smith and Dimon and Brown and Bell. During this time, he had begun to make a name for himself and was known within the shipbuilding community of New York
1840-McKay was sent to Maine to oversee the building of ships for New York ship houses. It was there he learned that New England ship building was behind what was being produced in New York. When work in Maine was completed, he went to Newburyport Massachusetts, a major shipbuilding town at the time. In Newburyport, he finished the ship Delia Walker for shipbuilder John Currier Jr. So impressed with his work, Currier offered McKay a job with a five-year contract. McKay refused as he had ambitions to open his own shipyard.
1841-William Currier, no relation to John Currier Jr., impressed with is work on the Delia Walker, offered McKay a partnership, and the Currier and McKay shipyard in Newburyport was born. The first ship produced by the Currier and McKay shipyard was the Mary Broughton.
1842- Under the name of Currier and McKay, two more ships were built, the Ashburton and the Courier, the first ship to be designed and built entirely by Donald McKay. The Courier, at the time of construction, was very advanced for a shipyard in Newburyport. Part of the Rio coffee trade route, she was very successful and brought fame and name recognition to McKay. His partnership with Currier was dissolved and he began a new partnership with William Pickett.
1843 to 1844-The first ship built by the newly formed McKay and Pickett shipyard of Newburyport was the St. George in
1843, and the John R. Skiddy in 1844. It was the ship Skiddy that caught the attention of Enoch Train, the owner of the White Diamond Line. Train contracted with McKay to build the packet ship Joshua Bates, which was considered a mechanical masterpiece at the time of her launch. Enoch Train, then convinced McKay to move to Boston and open his own shipyard, using the phrase “Boston needs you”.
1845 to 1869-Donald McKay established his own shipyard on Border Street in East Boston. During this time, he also purchased land on White Street in East Boston and with the same attention to detail as his ships, he designed and constructed his home. McKay’s shipyard produced thirty ships during this time. The ships Lightening, Sovereign of the Seas, Champion of the Seas, James Baines, Flying Cloud, and the Bald Eagle. All record setters in terms of speed and distance. The last ship built by the McKay shipyard was the Glory of the Seas, built in 1869.
1869- Following financial setbacks, Donald McKay sold his shipyard on Border Street. He continued to build ships and work in the industry.
1877- Due to ill health, McKay fully retired from shipbuilding and moved to his farm in Hamilton Massachusetts.
1880- Donald McKay died on the 20th of September 1880 and was buried in a family plot Oak Hill Cemetery, Newburyport.