Fulton Mackay

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Fulton Mackay
Born William Fulton Beith MacKay
(1922-08-12)12 August 1922
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, UK
Died 6 June 1987(1987-06-06) (aged 64)
London, England, UK
Occupation Actor, playwright
Years active 1952 - 1987
Spouse(s) Sheila Manahan (?-1988)

Fulton Mackay OBE (12 August 1922 – 6 June 1987) was a Scottish actor and playwright, known for his role as prison officer Mr. Mackay in the 1970s sitcom Porridge.

Early life[edit]

Mackay was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He was brought up in Clydebank by a widowed aunt after the death of his mother due to diabetes. His father was in the NAAFI.[1]

On leaving school, he trained as a quantity surveyor and later volunteered for the Royal Air Force in 1941 but was not accepted due to a perforated ear drum. MacKay then enlisted with the Black Watch and he served for five years during the Second World War, which included three years spent in India.


Theatre work[edit]

After being demobbed, Mackay began training as an actor at RADA. His first work was with the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, where he performed in nine seasons between 1949 and 1958. He also worked at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh before gaining notice at the Arts Theatre Club, London, where in 1960, he played the part of Oscar in The Naked Island, a play about POWs in Singapore. Two years later, he appeared at the same theatre, in Russian playwright Maxim Gorki's classic The Lower Depths for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He then acted with the Old Vic company and the National Theatre, performing in such productions as Peer Gynt and The Alchemist. Other roles for the RSC included Mr Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby and the drunken gaoler in Die Fledermaus.

Mackay was a director of the Scottish Actors' Company and, in 1981, he founded the Scottish Theatre Company, with whom he acted. Surprisingly, despite his status, he appeared in few films. After his screen debut in the 1952 film I'm a Stranger, his most notable roles were those in Gumshoe, Britannia Hospital, Local Hero as the wise, old Scottish fisherman - and Defence of the Realm.

Television work[edit]

Mackay is remembered for his namesake role as the comically ferocious prison warder, Mr Mackay, in the British sitcom Porridge alongside the comedian and comedy actor Ronnie Barker.[2] This characterisation made him a household name. He also appeared in the film version of the series. The ensemble playing of Mackay, Barker, Richard Beckinsale and Brian Wilde, and the writing by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, made Porridge one of the most successful comedy series of the 1970s. Mackay returned to the role of the newly retired prison officer in the first episode of Going Straight (1978), the sequel series to Porridge.

Appealing to a younger age group, he played the original lighthouse-keeper in the British version of the children's series, Fraggle Rock. He also appeared as an RAF psychiatrist in an episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, and as a doctor in Doctor at Large in 1971.

Also, on television, before coming to prominence in Porridge, Mackay had a regular role as DI Inman in the police series Special Branch between 1969 and 1971. He was also a strong character actor in series such as Z-Cars, was misguided scientist Doctor Quinn in the 1970 Doctor Who story Doctor Who and the Silurians, was later in the running to play the Doctor himself when Jon Pertwee gave up the role. He played a regular officer running a training course in the Dad's Army episode "We Know Our Onions", and a doctor in "The Miser's Hoard". He played the grocer Alex Webster in the 1970s dramatisation of Sunset Song and part of it was filmed in the area around Auchenblae, Aberdeenshire.

On television, however, Mackay often stayed true to his Scottish roots, acting in productions such as Three Tales of Orkney and The Master of Ballantrae.

In one of his last performances, Mackay portrayed an art forger in the Lovejoy episode "Death and Venice".


Under the pseudonym of Aeneas MacBride, he wrote plays for the BBC.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Irish actress Sheila Manahan. He did much work for the Glasgow children's charity Child and Family Trust. He was awarded an OBE in 1984 and greatly enjoyed oil painting.[3] On occasion he would make the journey to the far north of Scotland to visit his long-time friend and relation John Mackay of Borgie. During these trips which occurred throughout the 1960s and '70s Mackay developed a love of salmon fishing, beachcombing and hillwalking. It is said his character of "Ben" in the film Local Hero was based on his friend John Mackay.


Mackay died on 6 June 1987[4] from stomach cancer. He is buried at East Sheen and Richmond Cemeteries, Surrey, England. His wife Sheila died in 1988 and is buried in the same grave.[5]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Cox, Brian (1992). Salem to Moscow: An Actor's Odyssey. Methuen Drama. p. 28. ISBN 978-0413664501. 
  2. ^ "Fulton Mackay - Porridge and Going Straight". Porridge.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-27. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49583. p. 11. 31 December 1983.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 50975. p. 8105. 24 June 1987.
  5. ^ "Fulton Mackay (1922 - 1987) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2013-05-27. 

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