Australian Dictionary of Biography

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David Cannon McConnel (1818–1885)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

David Cannon McConnel (1818-1885), grazier and farmer, was born on 14 January 1818 at Ardwick, Manchester, England, the eleventh child of James McConnel, cotton spinner, and his wife Margaret, née Houldsworth. He migrated to Sydney on 19 February 1840 and after investigating the Moruya and New England districts, decided to settle in Moreton Bay. In 1841 on the Upper Brisbane River he took up a run, naming it Cressbrook after a family home in Derbyshire; it was the first holding in the district to be stocked with sheep. His elder brother John had a run at Crows Nest for a time and then joined his brother. They soon found that Cressbrook was unsuitable for sheep. McConnel bought stud Shorthorn cows from the Australian Agricultural Co. in 1845 and later imported bulls from England, establishing a stud which became famous.

Leaving John in charge of Cressbrook, David returned to England in 1847 and at Old Grey Friars' Church in Edinburgh on 25 April 1848 married Mary McLeod. He intended to settle on a farm in Nottinghamshire but was recalled to Queensland because of financial difficulties at Cressbrook and arrived with his wife in the Chaseley in May 1849. The station did not suit his wife's health so McConnel settled near Brisbane. He took up land at Toogoolawah (Bulimba) where he built a large house in 1850, began farming on his own account and sold small blocks cheaply to deserving immigrants. In 1854 McConnel returned to England because his wife was seriously ill and for seven years travelled extensively throughout Europe. He published Facts and traditions collected for a Family Record (Edinburgh, 1861). On his return in 1862 he settled at Cressbrook. In 1868 half his run was resumed by the government but his petition failed to yield any compensation for his improvements. In 1873 he retired in favour of his son James. In 1885 he went to England and died after an operation in London on 16 June. His wife died on 4 January 1910. The Cressbrook property is still owned by the McConnel family.

Both McConnel and his wife were Presbyterians and deeply religious. Mrs McConnel worked actively for establishment of the Children's Hospital which was opened at Brisbane in 1876. As the wife of an Australian pioneer she published Memories of days long gone by. Her daughter, Mrs Mary Macleod Banks, published Memories of pioneer days in Queensland (London, 1931).

Select Bibliography

  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 2 (Brisb, 1921)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1868-69, 145
  • Queenslander, 27 June 1885
  • Graziers' Review, 16 Jan 1922
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 22 Aug 1970.

Additional Resources

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'McConnel, David Cannon (1818–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 13 June 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]


14 January, 1818
Ardwick, Lancashire, England


16 June, 1885 (aged 67)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death

surgical complications

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.

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.