William Mackey (Jesuit)

Father Mackey

William Joseph Mackey (August 19, 1915 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada – October 18, 1995 in Thimphu, Bhutan) was a Canadian Jesuit priest who was responsible for establishing the modern education system in Bhutan, including its first high school (which is now its first accredited university, Sherubtse College).

Early lifeEdit

Mackey joined the Jesuits in 1932, and was ordained priest in 1945. In 1946, he left Canada for the Jesuit mission in Darjeeling district of India. He served there for 17 years, during which time he participated in many education programs and was headmaster of two high schools. However, he also became unpopular with local authorities,[1] and in 1963 he was ordered to leave the country.

When the King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, learned of Mackey's imminent expulsion from India, he invited Mackey to become an educator in Bhutan, as part of that country's ongoing modernization efforts. Mackey accepted the invitation. As a preemptive measure, he had all his teeth removed, because he would have no access to modern dentistry in Bhutan.[2]

Life in BhutanEdit

When Mackey arrived in Bhutan in October 1963, the Jesuits became the first Roman Catholic religious order allowed in the officially-Buddhist nation. During the three decades that followed, Mackey performed no conversions of Bhutanese citizens, as that was forbidden under Bhutanese law.

His first school, in Tashigang, was based in an abandoned cowshed and had 7 students.[3]

In 1973, Mackey was awarded the royal Druk Thuksey medal for his services to education in Bhutan. In 1985, he was granted honorary Bhutanese citizenship, and in 1988, when the Jesuits had to leave the country, their schools being taken over by the Government of Bhutan, he was allowed to remain.

After his death in 1995, his obituary on Bhutanese national radio lasted 15 minutes. Despite his wishes to be buried in Bhutan, the Darjeeling Jesuits claimed his body for burial in their own cemetery.

Other readingEdit

  • Howard Solverson: The Jesuit and the Dragon: The Life of Father William Mackey in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, 1995


  1. ^ The Jesuit and the dragon: the life of Father William Mackey in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan (book review) from Catholic Insight; published September 1, 1996; retrieved November 5, 2012
  2. ^ British-Indian Medical Service Officers in Bhutan, 1905-1947: a historical outline, by Alex McKay; published 2004 in The Spider and the Piglet: Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Bhutan Studies
  3. ^ The 12th death anniversary of Father William Mackey at Bhutan Majestic Travel; published October 19, 2007; retrieved November 5, 2012

External linksEdit