William John Mackay was born in Scotland in 1885, and had grown up on the streets, in the industrial squalor of 19th century Glasgow. And as a teenager, Bill Mackay discovered that the only places he could meet his friends was out on the streets. There were no organised games, activities or safe places.
At age 19, William Mackay followed his father into the City of Glasgow's police force. Looking for greater opportunities afield, Mackay immigrated to Australia and, in 1910 at the age of 25, joined the NSW Police Force. In 1936, William Mackay, as the new NSW Commissioner of Police, travelled overseas with a brief of "reviewing the methods of combating crime".
In Norwich, England, he found a Police Boys Club that gave young people an opportunity to overcome some of the disabilities of their tough environment. He later visited Germany and Italy, and then the US, where he reviewed youth movements.
On his return to NSW, he took the best of these schemes and, at a Sydney Rotary Club lunch, assembled Rotarians for their support:
"To raise funds to provide suitable places where lads, brought up in industrial areas, could meet, play engage in sport, giving them a chance in life, and preventing them becoming street corner loafers."
The Rotarians responded to the Commissioner, and there was a drive for funds to launch the first Police Boys Club.
They secured agreement that a disused Police lock-up in Woolloomooloo would become the first Police boy's club, with the government paying for the cost of converting the buildings, and Rotary responsible for the cost of equipment, libraries and furniture.
In March 1937, Commissioner Mackay wrote to the Metropolitan Superintendent, about four boys age ten to 16, convicted of breaking, entering and stealing in the Balmain division:
"Where four boys of the age of these lads are on the one day charged with such a serious offence... it appears to me that it is time the Police Department took some steps to dissuade them from malpractices of this nature by encouraging them to indulge in sporting and Club activities," he wrote. By August 1937, the Balmain Police Citizens Boys Club was established.