Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Likely Herman McBrien (1892–1956)

by Frank Strahan

This article was published:

Likely Herman McBrien (1892-1956), football administrator and politician, was born on 7 December 1892 in South Melbourne, sixth child of Irish-born parents John McBrien, foreman, and his wife Frances Ann, née Kittson. Educated at Middle Park Central School, Likely began work in 1906 as a messenger for the Age newspaper. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 October 1916 and undertook clerical duties at Administrative Headquarters, London, before returning to Australia where he was discharged on 13 August 1917. At St Luke's Anglican Church, South Melbourne, on 16 July 1919 he married Madge Margaret Summers. Returning to the Age, he became assistant circulation manager and advertising manager. In 1922-29 he was secretary of the Authorised News Agents' Association of Victoria.

A versatile sportsman, McBrien played cricket and tennis, and later golf and bowls. He also took part in the first (1913) three-mile (4.8 km) swim down the River Yarra and rowed number four in the Albert Park VIII which won the Victorian championship in 1915. But Australian Rules football was the passion of his life. From 1909 to 1911 he was a player and treasurer of the Leopold Football Club (later the South Melbourne Football Club's second XVIII); he retired after fracturing an arm in a game of ice hockey. A committee-member (from 1912) of the South Melbourne club, he was honorary secretary (1922) and president (1929).

On 28 May 1929 'Like' was appointed secretary of the Victorian Football League, a position he held until March 1956. He helped to develop the league, chaired its finance committee and arranged the purchase of Harrison House, Spring Street, Melbourne, for the V.F.L.'s headquarters; what was more, he promoted an attempted amalgamation of the Victorian Football Association with the V.F.L. and endeavoured to expand the code interstate, while vigorously opposing any threat from Rugby.

During World War II McBrien was honorary administrator and senior vice-president of the Australian Comforts Fund, honorary deputy-chairman of the Returned Soldiers' War Services Fund and honorary chairman of the purchasing panel for the army's directorate of amenities. Elected to the Legislative Council in 1943 as an Independent member for the province of Melbourne North, he served as commissioner of public works and vice-president of the Board of Land and Works in Ian Macfarlan's short-lived ministry in 1945. His campaign for the rehabilitation of returned servicemen was one of his prime commitments. Opposed to paid entry to organized sport on Sundays, he was appointed (1948) to the Melbourne Sunday Christian Observance Council. In 1949 he was defeated in the elections for the Legislative Council. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1950.

McBrien held a string of other public posts: chairman of the Edith Cavell Fund Trust, the Homes for Aged and Infirm Society, and the Yarra Bend National Park Trust; honorary treasurer of the Travellers' Aid Society and of the Victorian Anti-Sweating and Industrial Improvement League; executive-member of the Playgrounds and Recreation Association of Victoria; and trustee of the Heidelberg branch of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. A qualified accountant, he was a fellow of the International Institute of Accountants and of the Institute of Commerce, England. In addition, he was a director of Disher & McBrien Pty Ltd.

Survived by his wife, daughter and son, McBrien died of cerebral thrombosis on 22 December 1956 at Richmond and was cremated. Percy Taylor, the Argus's sports journalist, wrote: '''Like" McBrien was a big man in every respect—a big frame, a deep booming voice, a big heart, and big ideas for the advancement of sport'.

Select Bibliography

  • Table Talk, 1 May 1930
  • Argus (Melbourne), 25 May 1929, 15 Sept 1934
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 Apr 1943, 9 May 1944, 24 Dec 1956
  • Herald (Melbourne), 24 Dec 1956
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 24 Dec 1956
  • McBrien biographical sheet (Victorian Parliamentary Library).

Citation details

Frank Strahan, 'McBrien, Likely Herman (1892–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


7 December, 1892
South Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


22 December, 1956 (aged 64)
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.