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McDougall, Douglas Gordon (1908–1977)

by Margaret Henry

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

Douglas Gordon McDougall (1908-1977), by unknown photographer, 1955

Douglas Gordon McDougall (1908-1977), by unknown photographer, 1955

State Library of New South Wales

Douglas Gordon McDougall (1908-1977), accountant and lord mayor, was born on 2 July 1908 at Ballina, New South Wales, fifth child of native-born parents Alexander Thomas McDougall, engineer, and his wife Isabella Mary, née Holwell. Although severely handicapped by poliomyelitis, contracted at the age of fifteen months, Douglas became a keen swimmer. After attending Newcastle South Public and Cooks Hill Intermediate High schools, he studied accountancy part time while employed as a clerk. At St John's Anglican Church, Newcastle, on 2 May 1931 McDougall married Edith Juanita Victoria Phillips, a 30-year-old clerk; they were to remain childless. In 1934 he qualified with the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants and established a practice. During World War II he was seconded to the Department of Munitions where he served as officer-in-charge, Newcastle branch. When the war ended he joined Newstan Colliery Pty Ltd as the company's accountant. He was president of the Newcastle branch of the Australian Institute of Management, and chairman of the local branches of the Australian Society of Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Secretaries.

In 1944 McDougall had been elected to Newcastle Municipal Council for the Citizens' Group, representing the interests of the business community. As lord mayor (1956, 1958 and 1965-73) and chairman (1965) of Shortland County Council, he promoted Newcastle as an industrial capital. Believing that 'relics should not be allowed to hold up the progress of Newcastle', he advocated the demolition of several of the city's most important colonial buildings for a new office-block. The projected destruction of the historic eastern end of the city in the 1960s and its replacement with high-rise development was forestalled by widespread community opposition backed by the trade-union movement.

An accomplished pianist, McDougall supported the arts. He oversaw the establishment of the War Memorial Cultural Centre and five new branch libraries, and the installation in Civic Park of a fountain designed by the sculptor Margel Hinder. Major capital works completed during his term included an administration building for the council, suburban swimming pools, the International Sports Centre and inner-city car parks. His support for the construction of a freeway through the city's most extensive bushland reserve and a road through Birdwood Park attracted strong resistance. Aware of his waning popularity, he reluctantly retired from local government in 1973, though he returned briefly in 1977.

McDougall walked with a pronounced limp and the aid of a walking stick; he was courageous, fiercely independent and determined to overcome his disability. A small man with large schemes and the ability to carry them through, he was ambitious and enjoyed exercising power. He was a member of the boards of the State Dockyard (1968-77) and Royal Newcastle Hospital (1965-77); he held office in many community and charitable organizations; and he was an 'indefatigable guest of honour at countless functions'. A staunch Anglican who described his hobby as work, he was appointed C.B.E. in 1969. Survived by his wife, he died of myocardial infarction on 20 October 1977 in R.N.H. and was buried in Belmont cemetery. His portrait by Graeme Inson is held by Newcastle City Council.

Select Bibliography

  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 1 Jan 1969, 22 Oct 1977
  • Newcastle City Council minutes
  • Lord Mayor's newsclippings (Newcastle Regional Library).

Citation details

Margaret Henry, 'McDougall, Douglas Gordon (1908–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcdougall-douglas-gordon-10942/text19443, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 16 November 2018.

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

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