[Ads-l] G. MacKay and Co.

Tue May 31 18:27:57 EDT 2016

Further on real McCoy/MacKay:  The OED associates early uses of this phrase with G. McKay and Co. of Edinburgh, which it describes as "distillers of whisky."  Do we know why the firm was thought to operate a distillery?  I am able to find several references to a G. MacKay and Co., of Edinburgh, that was a brewer, but I find no references to it as a distiller, except in references to "real McCoy."  

Do we have the texts of any references to the firm's advertisements of "the real MacKay"?  I do see one reference, but it's much later.  In the Edinburgh Evening News, Oct. 10, 1931 (British Newspaper Archive), the firm ran a small block advertisement, as follows:

Mackay's 90/- Pale Ale
Retailed at 7d per pint
G. Mackay & Co., Ltd., St. Leonard's Brewery, Edinburgh, desire to inform the Public there is no alteration in the gravity of the above Beer, and, further, the high quality of this famous Pale Ale is maintained.
Only the finest materials are used in brewing Mackay's Beers, and Purity is Guaranteed.
Drink and enjoy the "REAL MACKAY."  There is no change in the gravity.

The earliest use of the phrase (with the possible exception of the 1856 example Garson found) is from an 1856 Scots poem, Deil's Hallowe'en.  The OED says that "A drappie o' the real McKay" in that poem was a tagline used by G. McKay and Co.  The poem's text does not seem to be online.  Is there any more context available for this use?

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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