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Martin McKenna (1832–1907)

by Sylvia Morrissey

This article was published:

Martin McKenna (1832-1907), brewer and pastoralist, was born on 11 November 1832 at Carrahill, Kilkenny, Ireland, son of Patrick McKenna, a Catholic farmer, and his wife Anastasia, née Feehan. After working for a Quaker firm of millers he migrated to Victoria in 1854. He mined on such goldfields as Ballarat, Ararat, Blackwood and Forest Creek but caught typhoid.

McKenna then went to Kyneton where he joined his cousin Michael McKenna in business. By 1858 he was able to join a friend, Jowett, in building the Campaspe brewery in Beauchamp Street, Kyneton, and twenty years later combined with Johnson & Cock's brewery on the Campaspe. McKenna became chairman of the Kyneton Brewing Co., Jowett retiring from the business. In 1879 the malt house was built in Ebden Street.

In 1861 McKenna and others including C. & M. Lyons took up occupation licences at Baynton, and the basis of McKenna's Glen Erin estate was formed. He also owned properties at Tylden and Katunga. In 1883 he told the royal commission on the tariff that he had between 4000 (1619 ha) and 5000 acres (2024 ha), with 120 acres (49 ha) under crop and the rest grazing Lincoln sheep, cattle and horses.

McKenna's business interests included membership of the Board of Union Trustees and Executors Co. and shares in the Tramways Co. His tall upright figure was well known in Kyneton and in Melbourne where he wore a silk top hat and frock coat. He was a splendid host and enjoyed the respect of his contemporaries as an impartial and forceful leader in local affairs. His local offices included membership of the Land Board in the early days and presidency of the Kyneton Hospital and Racing Club. He was a sergeant in the volunteer Prince of Wales Light Horse in the 1860s. In 1864, after two years as a councillor, he was elected mayor of the borough of Kyneton. When Kyneton became a shire in 1865 he was its first president and remained a councillor till 1907. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the Kyneton Boroughs in March 1868, and held the seat as a moderate protectionist until he retired in March 1874. In the Legislative Council he contested the North-Western Province in 1881 without success. He later held the post of returning officer for elections to the Legislative Assembly. He was also a justice of the peace.

In 1865 McKenna had married Catherine, daughter of Bartholomew Wheeler of Carlsruhe; they had eleven children. One of their six sons became a Catholic priest and others carried on his civic interests. After two years of illness McKenna died on 7 May 1907.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • History of Kyneton 1901-1935, vol 2 (Kyneton, 1935)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1883, 4 (10)
  • Australian Brewers' Journal, 20 Mar 1905, 20 May 1907
  • Table Talk, 2 Jan 1902
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 May 1907
  • Kyneton Observer, 9 May 1907.

Citation details

Sylvia Morrissey, 'McKenna, Martin (1832–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 July 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]


11 November, 1832
Carrahill, Kilkenny, Ireland


7 May, 1907 (aged 74)
Kyneton, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

pulmonary embolism

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