Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Macleod (1881–1963)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published:

Thomas Macleod (1881-1963), barrister, aviator and grazier, was born on 5 June 1881 in Brisbane, eighth child of Thomas McLeod, Brisbane Grammar School master, and his wife Blane, née Robertson. His father died when he was 4. Thomas attended Leichhardt State School and Brisbane Grammar School by scholarship in 1895. After employment at Charters Towers with Watson & Dowden, assayers, he returned to Brisbane to study law and was admitted to the Bar on 2 September 1902.

Macleod established a reputation as an author and editor of legal publications. With (Sir) James Blair he revised and edited R. A. Ranking's Queensland Police Code and Justices' Manual in 1905. In 1906 with Blair and T. W. McCawley he edited with annotations The Worker's Compensation Act of 1905. Macleod and McCawley began editing the Queensland Justice of the Peace and Local Authorities' Journal in 1907; and in 1913 Macleod published both Queensland Criminal Reports 1860-1907 and The Liquor Law of Queensland, and in 1915 a Queensland Criminal Code Supplement.

A yachting and flying enthusiast, Macleod built and launched his auxiliary yacht Brynhild in 1909 and next year helped to found the first Queensland Aero Club and a State branch of the Aerial League of Australia. In July he helped to build a biplane glider, the first heavier-than-air apparatus built in Queensland, and made the State's first officially observed flight in a bat's wing monoplane glider, which he had constructed, on 11 October 1910 near Brisbane. The biplane glider's first flight was made on 22 December. A wooden rail was used along which the glider slid, on a cradle, before becoming airborne. Experiments continued, and Macleod met and became a firm friend of Bert Hinkler.

In November 1914 Macleod formed the Queensland Volunteer Flying Civilians to train at Hemmant for aerial warfare in a reconstructed Caudron aircraft. He and eight Volunteers sailed for England where the Royal Flying Corps accepted them. Commissioned second lieutenant, Macleod was appointed temporary captain on 22 December 1916. He served with No.13 Squadron, with a period in command, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme for his work as an aerial observer in the 1st battle of Arras and at Vimy Ridge. In 1918 he was appointed O.B.E. Transferred to the Australian Flying Corps, he was demobilized in 1919 as major. On his return to Brisbane he was a founder of the (Royal Queensland) Aero Club. In December 1922 he was appointed a commissioner of the World's Board of Aeronautical Commissions.

Macleod married Ruby Margaret Shannon (d.1923) on 5 January 1921 at St Luke's Church of England, Toowoomba. A war-inflicted disability forced him to abandon his legal practice in 1923. He published The High Court on the Interpretation of Statutes in 1924, then took up Firshot, a grazing property at Longreach, renamed Wingalong. As a director (1925-29) of the Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Services Ltd, he helped to establish its involvement in the flying doctor service. In the 1926 election and a 1928 by-election, Macleod was the unsuccessful Country and Progressive National Party candidate for Mitchell.

In England Macleod had known Lady Aurea Frederswyde Wace, daughter of the 9th earl of Carlisle; he married her on 2 June 1928 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Longreach. Because of his health they settled in England, where he bred sheep. During World War II he trained Local Defence Volunteers as a lieutenant-colonel in the Home Guard. Macleod died at Par, Cornwall, on 24 September 1963 and was cremated after a service at Tywardreath Methodist Church. His wife survived him.

The Thomas Macleod Aviation Archives, Queensland Museum, established in 1973, is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Stephenson (compiler), Annals of the Brisbane Grammar School, 1869-1922 (Brisb, 1923)
  • E. P. Wixted, Queensland Aviation. No.1, From the Ground Up, 1910-1912 (Brisb, 1972)
  • E. P. Wixted (compiler), Queensland Museum History and Technology leaflet no 9 (Brisb, 1976), and personal aviation files (Queensland Museum)
  • Queenslander, 2 Dec 1922, 14 Apr 1923
  • Times (London), 28 Sept 1963
  • Queensland Supreme Court Library catalogue.

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'Macleod, Thomas (1881–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 June, 1881
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


24 September, 1963 (aged 82)
Par, Cornwall, England

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.