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McDonald, Allan Mckenzie (1888–1953)

by I. C. Cochran

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

Allan Mckenzie McDonald (1888-1953), farmer, auctioneer and politician, was born on 4 July 1888 at Winchelsea, Victoria, fourth child of Allan McDonald, a contractor who became a farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née McKenzie (d.1889), both of whom came from Geelong. Educated at Winchelsea State School, young Allan worked as a farm labourer and then as a farmer. In later years he often drew on the lessons that life on the land had taught him. On 17 September 1913 at the McLennan Memorial Presbyterian Church, Birregurra, he married Sarah Mary Farquharson, a 27-year-old domestic servant; they were to have six children. Following his father's death in 1914, Allan succeeded him as a member of the Winchelsea Shire Council. He remained on the council for almost forty years, becoming a lucid, forceful and entertaining speaker.

On 6 April 1916 McDonald enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; at that time he was described as being 5 ft 8 ins (173 cm) tall, with a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. After joining the 14th Battalion in France in December, he was shot in the left arm on 11 April 1917 at Bullecourt and spent some months in hospital. He served with distinction at Polygon Wood, Belgium, in September, and was promoted sergeant in October. Next month he was transferred from the front because of his injured arm. Returning to Australia, he was discharged from the A.I.F. in October 1918.

McDonald helped to form the Winchelsea sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia and was its president in 1920-21; he also presided over the 14th Battalion and 4th Brigade associations in 1933-34. He belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Victoria and was grand master in 1923. Elected shire president in 1921 and 1927, he was a staunch supporter of local government. He represented the council on the Municipal Association of Victoria, of which he was president (1941-42).

At the 1919 and 1922 general elections, McDonald had stood unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives as the Nationalist candidate for Corangamite. While employed (from 1924) as an auctioneer with Dalgety & Co. Ltd, he increased his knowledge of stock and land values, and his understanding of rural Victoria. He worked as a party organizer and assisted the election campaigns of his uncle James McDonald who held (1917-33) the seat of Polwarth in the Legislative Assembly. When James died in August 1933, Allan won Polwarth for the United Australia Party in the ensuing by-election. He spoke regularly in parliament and gained a reputation as a constructive politician. From 1935 he was the Opposition's leading spokesman on farming issues. Although he was mentioned as a possible leader of his party in Victoria, he resigned in August 1940 to contest the Federal elections.

On 21 September 1940 McDonald won the seat of Corangamite in the House of Representatives for the U.A.P. From 26 June to 7 October 1941 he held the portfolio of external territories in the governments of (Sir) Robert Menzies and (Sir) Arthur Fadden. McDonald contested the leadership of the U.A.P. in 1941 and 1943. Advocating the welfare of returned servicemen and their families, he served on a parliamentary committee which reported (1943) on repatriation. He strongly supported its recommendation that preference in employment be given to ex-servicemen. In 1946-49 he was Opposition whip. Subsequently, he took little part in the proceedings of the House, preferring to involve himself in discussions in the party room; always a practical man, he may have decided to make way for new and younger members eager to catch the Speaker's eye. Ill health further curtailed his activity.

McDonald was immensely popular in his electorate. Widely respected for his strength of character, courage, independence of thought and sense of justice, he had a ready wit and an easy laugh. He was a steadfast Presbyterian, proud of his Scottish ancestry, and of Australia's links with the Crown and Britain. Survived by his wife, four daughters and one of his two sons, he died of cancer on 10 June 1953 in his home at Winchelsea; he was accorded a state funeral and was buried with Masonic rites in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Wanliss, The History of the Fourteenth Battalion, A.I.F. (Melb, 1929)
  • P. Hasluck, The Government and the People, 1939-1941 (Canb, 1952)
  • E. B. Gregory et al, Coast to Country (Melb, 1985)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 6 Oct 1937
  • Argus (Melbourne), 24 Apr 1943, 13 June 1953
  • Age (Melbourne), 11 June 1953
  • Colac Herald, 12 June 1953.

Citation details

I. C. Cochran, 'McDonald, Allan Mckenzie (1888–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcdonald-allan-mckenzie-10927/text19413, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 October 2017.

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

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