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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McGregor, Martin Robert (1859–1936)

by J. D. Adams

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Martin Robert McGregor (1859-1936), farmer and politician, was born on 22 February 1859 in Hobart Town, son of Duncan Robert McGregor, clerk and later wine merchant, and his wife Betsy, née Roberts. He came to Melbourne as a baby with his family and was educated at St Peter's Common School, Eastern Hill. For eighteen years he served in the Chief Secretary's Department, spending some time on the administrative staff of the Sunbury Mental Hospital. He followed pastoral activities in Queensland for a further seven years before returning to Victoria and taking up a farm at Narracan, near Moe, Gippsland. He faced years of work clearing away the huge trees and fallen logs but his farm, named Skye for his Scottish background, eventually became a model potato-growing and dairying property. On 14 September 1902 at the East Melbourne Presbyterian manse he married Agnes Marshall, and in the same year became secretary of a movement to build a hall in his community.

In 1908 McGregor was elected a councillor for the East Riding of the shire of Narracan; he held this seat until his death, frequently unopposed at elections. He was shire president in his first year, when he led the movement to shift the shire seat from Moe to Trafalgar, and also in 1917-18 and 1929-30. He was a justice of the peace and served on the Narracan Shire Repatriation Committee; the Returned Soldiers' and Sailors' Imperial League of Australia awarded him its highest honour, the certificate of merit, for this work. A founder of the Gippsland Shire and Boroughs Development Association, in 1918 he became an executive member of the Municipal Association of Victoria, serving as vice-president in 1922-30 and as treasurer in 1931-36.

McGregor represented Gippsland Province in the Legislative Council from May 1922 until his death. A Nationalist, he was for a time vice-president of the National Federation. He was honorary minister in the third Lawson and the third Peacock governments in 1924 and in the Allan government from November 1924 to May 1927. In 1928-31 he was a member of the Railways Standing Committee, serving as chairman for a time. Described as an exceptionally friendly man, 'a good mixer', he was a forthright speaker on rural matters, always keen to promote the interests of Gippsland; in particular he supported inclusion on the local electoral rolls of the State Electricity Commission employees at Yallourn.

McGregor was founding chairman of the Trafalgar Water Trust (1926) and of the Trafalgar Meadows Drainage Trust, holding both posts until his death. He was also a director of the Trafalgar Co-operative Butter Factory, president of the Central Gippsland Agricultural Society and a member of the Chamber of Agriculture.

He died at his home at Narracan on 17 August 1936, survived by his wife; they had no children. Before his cremation his body lay in state at the new Narracan shire hall at Trafalgar, which he had striven for years to see built. McGregor Park in Trafalgar commemorates his many years of service to the district.

Select Bibliography

  • J. D. Adams, So Tall the Trees (Trafalgar, Vic, 1978)
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Aug 1936
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 Aug 1936
  • Narracan Shire Advocate, 21 Aug 1936
  • Trafalgar and Yarragon Times, 24 Aug 1936.

Citation details

J. D. Adams, 'McGregor, Martin Robert (1859–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 15 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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