Alexander Mackay was born in Skerray, son of Mr and Mrs John Mackay of Achnabat, Skerray, Sutherlandshire. He enlisted in the Army in Skerray, once he had completed his military training he was sent to the 2 Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders with the 10 Brigade 4 Division in France.
He fought with the 2 Seaforths on the 1 of July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme and the attack on Beaumont Hamel. (See John Angus Grant Mackay, Clashbuie.) He then fought with the Seaforths at High Wood and the attack on Longueval, taking part in some of the fiercest fighting of the First World War.
The battalion buried all the dead they could find at the side of the sunken road from Les Bouefs to Ginchy, the burial party was forced to work under heavy shellfire from both sides. On the 16 of October the battalion was shelled by British artillery, the casualties were two men killed, two wounded and five suffering from severe shell shock. October the 17 was a very wet day and again the 2 Seaforths came under friendly shellfire, several men were wounded, enemy artillery bombarded Thistle and Shamrock trenches heavily. At 5:30pm the battalion was relieved by the 1 East Lancashire Regiment, the relief was completed in the dark under terrible conditions of mud and heavy rain.
The battalion marched back, approximately six kilometres from the front line trenches at Les Bouefs to Bernafay crossroads, just south of Longueval and Delville wood. The Battalion War Diary says that “it was quite a way considering everything and in the centre of all traffic,” the battalion spent the rest of the day in billets cleaning themselves up.
On the evening of the 19 of October a party of men were sent out to fill in old trenches to the North of the village of Guillemont. The party arrived at the old trenches and began work in the bitter cold filling in trenches, one of the men struck a buried ‘dud’ shell with his pick or shovel and there was an explosion.
Private Alexander Mackay was one of two men killed when the unexploded shell detonated, eleven other men were wounded; he was twenty four years of age.