Fulton Mackay

Fulton Mackay
Born William Fulton Beith Mackay
(1922-08-12)12 August 1922
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died 6 June 1987(1987-06-06) (aged 64)
London, England
Cause of death Stomach Cancer
Resting place East Sheen and Richmond Cemeteries, Surrey
Occupation Actor, playwright
Years active 1952-1987
Spouse(s) Sheila Manahan (-1987; his death)

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

Early life

Mackay was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He was brought up in Clydebank by a widowed aunt after the death of his mother from 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 because of a perforated ear drum. He 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

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.

In 1962, 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

Mackay was acknowledged as a strong character actor in various television series.

He is best remembered for his namesake role from 1973 to 1977 as the comically ferocious prison warder, Mr Mackay, in the British sitcom Porridge alongside the comedian and comedy actor Ronnie Barker.[2] 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.[3] He returned to the role of the newly retired prison officer in the first episode of Going Straight (1978), the sequel series to Porridge.

Before coming to prominence in Porridge, he played DI Inman in Special Branch (1969–71).[4] He also appeared in Z-Cars. He appeared as an RAF psychiatrist in an episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and as a doctor in Doctor at Large in 1971.

He was cast as misguided scientist Doctor Quinn in the 1970 Doctor Who story Doctor Who and the Silurians and was later seriously considered by producer Barry Letts to play the Fourth Doctor when Jon Pertwee announced he was leaving the role in 1973.[5]

He played a regular officer running a training course in the Dad's Army episode "We Know Our Onions" (1973), and a doctor in "The Miser's Hoard" (1977).[4]

He often stayed true to his Scottish roots, acting in productions such as Three Tales of Orkney and The Master of Ballantrae, and as former Prime Minister Bonar Law in the 1981 TV series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George. He played the Captain in the British version of the children's series, Fraggle Rock (1983–1984). In one of his last performances, Mackay portrayed an art forger in the Lovejoy episode "Death and Venice".[4]


Under the pseudonym of Aeneas MacBride, he wrote plays for the BBC.[6]

Personal life

He was married to Irish actress Sheila Manahan. He did much work for the Glasgow children's charity Child and Family Trust. He was appointed an OBE in 1984 and greatly enjoyed oil painting.[7]


Mackay died on 6 June 1987, aged 64[8] from stomach cancer. He was buried at East Sheen and Richmond Cemeteries, Surrey, England. His wife Sheila died in 1988 and is buried in the same grave.[9]

Partial filmography


  1. Cox, Brian (1992). Salem to Moscow: An Actor's Odyssey. Methuen Drama. p. 28. ISBN 978-0413664501.
  2. "Fulton Mackay profile". Porridge.org.uk. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  3. Fulton Mackay's role in the TV comedy series "Porridge", porridge.org.uk; accessed 22 August 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 Fulton Mackay at the Internet Movie Database
  5. Westthorp, Alex (24 April 2008). "Who could've been Who? An alternate history of Doctor Who". Den of Geek. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  6. Donaldson, Anne (8 December 1979). "What's on his plate after 'Porridge' ?". The Herald. Glasgow.
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49583. p. 11. 31 December 1983.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 50975. p. 8105. 24 June 1987.
  9. "Fulton Mackay (1922-1987) profile". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
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