Australian Dictionary of Biography

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MacDonald, Allan Nicoll (1892–1978)

by David Black

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Allan Nicoll MacDonald (1892-1978), by Clarke Studio

Allan Nicoll MacDonald (1892-1978), by Clarke Studio

National Library of Australia

Allan Nicoll MacDonald (1892-1978), accountant and politician, was born on 25 August 1892 at Lochee, Forfarshire, Scotland, son of Alexander MacDonald, a retired mill manager, and his wife Helen Christie, née Nicoll. Educated at Arbroath High School, Allan emigrated to Western Australia in 1911. He lived at Collie, and worked in a bakery and as a teamster's labourer. In 1914 he moved to Perth. Employed by the accountancy firm, Rankin, Morrison & Co., he attended evening classes in commerce and accountancy at Perth Technical School.

On 17 August 1914 MacDonald enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. After sailing for Egypt with the 8th Battery, Australian Field Artillery, he served at Gallipoli until he fell ill and was evacuated. Apart from seven months in England in 1916-17, he spent the rest of the war in Egypt, attaining the rank of acting warrant officer, class one, in the Australian Army Pay Corps. In June 1919 he was discharged at his own request to take an appointment with the American Red Cross Commission in Palestine. At the register office, Wandsworth, London, on 4 October that year he married Christiana Hildreth, who had been a driver for the Women's Legion when he met her in 1916.

They arrived in Perth in February 1920 and MacDonald resumed his job with Rankin, Morrison & Co. In 1925 he became secretary of the Western Australian Consultative Council, a coterie of businessmen chaired by Sinclair McGibbon. Probably formed at the behest of Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne (Viscount) Bruce to raise funds for the United Party (later the National Party of Western Australia), the Consultative Council also aimed to combat communist activity and industrial lawlessness. MacDonald acted as director of the unsuccessful United-Country parties' campaign to regain office in the 1927 State elections. Notwithstanding the victory of the conservative coalition in 1930, dissatisfaction with the influence of 'outside' fund-raising bodies led to the effective disbanding of the Consultative Council. From 1930 MacDonald was general secretary of the National Party.

In 1934 he was elected to the Senate as a United Australia Party candidate. His term should have begun on 1 July 1935. When Senator Sir Walter Kingsmill died in January that year, Sir James Mitchell, the lieutenant-governor of Western Australia, appointed MacDonald to fill the vacancy from 5 March, in accordance with section 15 of the Constitution. On 29 November 1937 Prime Minister J. A. Lyons made MacDonald a minister without portfolio; he assisted the minister for commerce (to November 1938) and the treasurer (7 November 1938 to 7 April 1939). Following Lyons's death, MacDonald supported W. M. Hughes against (Sir) Robert Menzies for the leadership of the U.A.P. Menzies omitted him from his first ministry on 26 April 1939. MacDonald's decision in December to vote against the government during the committee stage of the gold tax collection bill did not help his hopes of gaining a portfolio.

A member of the Senate standing committee on regulations and ordinances (1939-47) and the parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting (September 1943 to July 1944), MacDonald was also a member (1943) of the Empire Parliamentary Association delegation to Britain and Canada. He lost his seat in the 1946 elections, left the Senate on 30 June 1947, and did not gain endorsement for the 1949 polls. A pipe-smoking, outgoing man, he had been active in the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia before entering the Senate. During his years in parliament he was keenly interested in lawn bowls; back in Perth, he found recreation in tending the garden of his Mount Lawley home.

MacDonald was a member (from 1949) and chairman (1961-65) of the Western Australian Lotteries Commission. He died on 18 January 1978 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife, two daughters and three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 6 Dec 1939, p 2166
  • West Australian, 23 Jan 1978
  • author's interview with A. N. MacDonald, June 1964
  • private information.

Citation details

David Black, 'MacDonald, Allan Nicoll (1892–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/macdonald-allan-nicoll-10928/text19415, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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