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Duncan Elphinstone McBryde (1853–1920)

by Doreen Wheeler

This article was published:

Duncan Elphinstone McBryde (1853-1920), businessman and politician, was born in 1853 probably at Whitehaven, Cumberland, England, son of Robert McBryde, engineer, and his wife Mary, née Ashbridge. Arriving in Australia in 1872, he became lessee of Mount Poole station (formerly Depot Glen) north of Broken Hill, New South Wales. Gold was discovered near the property in 1880 and may have aroused McBryde's lifelong interest in mining. In 1883 or 1884 he moved to Melbourne where he married Ellen Menzies, sister of the owner of Menzies Hotel, on 2 August 1883.

In 1885 McBryde was among the first public buyers of shares in the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. Elected a director in December, he remained on the board until his death, one of three Melbourne directors whose constant attendance at weekly meetings provided steady leadership not only for the development of the mine at Broken Hill and the smelting facilities at Port Pirie, South Australia, but for the opening of large-scale iron-ore mining in the South Australian Middleback Ranges, and the move into steel. He was chairman twice, from 1 February 1895 to 11 February 1897 and from 22 January 1915 to 9 March 1917, presiding over the official opening, in June 1915, of what was then Australia's largest steelworks at Newcastle, New South Wales.

In 1888-1916 McBryde chaired the Silverton Tramway Co. which, connecting the Broken Hill mine with the South Australian railway system, paid out over £1 million in dividends before 1908. McBryde was also a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Block 10 Co. Ltd, floated by B.H.P. in 1888, and in 1892 with Bowes Kelly, William Knox and H. H. Schlapp invested in the rich Mount Lyell Mining Co. Ltd. His interests in silver and copper were extended to lead and zinc when he became B.H.P.'s representative on the boards of Broken Hill Associated Smelters in 1915 and the Zinc Producers' Association in 1916.

Outside mining, McBryde was a director of the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd from 1903 and of the National Trustees Executors & Agency Co. Ltd from 1910. In 1891-96 he represented North-Western Province in the Victorian Legislative Council and in June 1901 succeeded William Knox as member for South-Eastern Province, retaining the seat until June 1919 when he retired from politics. He had been minister of public health, commissioner of public works and vice-president of the Board of Lands and Works in the Bent ministry of 31 October 1908 to 8 January 1909.

McBryde was a large man with light eyes and a walrus moustache. A Presbyterian and a justice of the peace in both Victoria and New South Wales, he had as his main recreational interest the Melbourne Rifle Club; he was president for ten years and donated the United Service Shield for annual competition.

About 1918 McBryde moved from Brighton to Kamesburgh, Wallace Avenue, Toorak. He died there in his sleep of heart disease, still holding a book, on 24 November 1920. His wife had died in 1914 and he was buried with her in Brighton cemetery, survived by their two daughters to whom he left an estate valued for probate at £55,494. His obituaries were restrained, but one comment, that McBryde was 'a sound and able' politician, echoes the solid progress made by the commercial organizations to which he had devoted many years of quiet attention.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • R. Bridges, From Silver to Steel (Melb, 1920)
  • G. Blainey, The Peaks of Lyell (Melb, 1954)
  • P. Mawson, A Vision of Steel (Melb, 1958)
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 25 Apr 1901
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Jan 1914, 26 Nov 1920
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Nov 1920
  • Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, Half Yearly Reports, 1894-1918, and Minutes of Board of Directors, 1885-1920, and Minutes of shareholders' meetings, 1887-1893, and Register of directors' shareholdings, 1889-1952 (BHP Billiton Archives, South Melbourne).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Doreen Wheeler, 'McBryde, Duncan Elphinstone (1853–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 16 July 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]


Whitehaven, Cumberland, England


24 November, 1920 (aged ~ 67)
Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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