Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Donald Macansh (1820–1896)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

John Donald Macansh (1820-1896), pastoralist and politician, was born on 31 May 1820 at Stirling, Scotland, son of John Macansh, naval surgeon, and his wife Ann, née White. Educated at Stirling Grammar School and Edinburgh High School, he migrated to Sydney in 1838 and worked in the Bank of Australasia. In 1840 he leased a property on the Hunter River from the Church and School Lands Corporation and about 1846 moved to Murrumburrah as a station manager for S. K. Salting. Together they established a merino stud at Bonyeo, near Murrumburrah. Macansh occupied various properties in the Yass district, usually with members of the Salting family, until in 1867 he bought Gurley, near Narrabri, in partnership with two of Salting's sons. On 8 June 1849 he had married Sarah Jane, daughter of Archibald Windeyer of Raymond Terrace.

In Queensland Macansh bought Canning Downs, near Warwick, in 1875 and Albilbah in 1880. He settled on Canning Downs to raise stud dairy and beef cattle, became a magistrate and was elected to the Glengallan Divisional Board. In 1882 he leased Brunette Downs in the Northern Territory. After refusing appointment to the Legislative Council in 1886 because he disapproved its constitution, he accepted appointment in 1888 on a pledge to change the constitution. His liberal politics had little impact on the Legislative Council and when he died at a meeting of the Glengallan Divisional Board on 1 August 1896 he had done nothing to achieve his objective. He left an estate nominally worth £241,588, but it proved to be in some confusion. His six sons and five daughters agreed to carry on the business through a family trust, legalized by a private bill of 1910. Macansh Estate Ltd was still registered as late as 1957.

Select Bibliography

  • R. D. Barton, Reminiscences of an Australian Pioneer (Syd, 1917)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1876, 3, 878, 1880, 2, 1001, 1910 (2nd S), 3, 1062
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Council, Queensland), 1890, 25
  • Warwick Argus, 4 Aug 1896
  • Brisbane Courier, 8 Aug 1896
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Aug 1896
  • Queensland Country Life, 13 June 1957
  • Griffith papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Macansh, John Donald (1820–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 May, 1820
Stirling, Stirlingshire, Scotland


1 August, 1896 (aged 76)
Glengallen, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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