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Donald Norman McLeod (1848–1914)

by L. Lomas

This article was published:

Donald Norman McLeod (1848-1914), farmer, pastoralist and politician, was born on 10 June 1848 at Borhoneyghurk station on the Moorabool River, Port Phillip District, second son of John Norman McLeod (1816-1886), pastoralist, and his wife Agnes, née Paterson. Donald's parents were typical Scottish pioneers of Victoria's Western District. John Norman, whose father Major Donald McLeod had taken up a land-grant in Van Diemen's Land in 1820, took sheep to Port Phillip in 1837 and formed Borhoneyghurk station. In 1849-50 he sold out and bought runs on the Wannon River which, in turn, he sold and moved to Portland where he built the mansion, Maretimo. Eventually he bought Castlemaddie at Tyrendarra where he established an estate of 1500 acres (607 ha).

A devout Anglican, McLeod was active in evangelistic, charitable and public works. He represented Portland in the Legislative Assembly in 1859-60 and was actively concerned with Aboriginal welfare. He died on 18 April 1886 at Tyrendarra and was buried in South Portland cemetery. His wife and seven children survived him.

Donald was educated at Portland and at Scotch College, Melbourne. At 16 he was sent to his uncle Hugh McLeod's station Benyeo, near Apsley, to learn about sheep-farming; he eventually became overseer. In 1872, with John Hancock of Ashburton Plains, McLeod shipped stock to Nicol Bay, Western Australia, near where Roebourne now stands, and, after exploring the hinterland, successfully established and managed Chiritta station; the bushman's skills learned from his father enabled him to prosper in the dry, isolated territory. On 24 February 1879 at the Church of St Mary, Busselton, he married Charlotte Harriet, daughter of Alfred Pickmore Bussell.

Donald sold his Nicol Bay run in 1883 and returned to Portland to establish a dairy-farm, Yannarie, near his father's property, which became well known for his innovative approaches to farming. McLeod used rollers to clear the thick tea-tree scrub, imported judiciously to produce a breed of Ayrshire cattle, and was the first Victorian farmer to make ensilage on a large scale. His most remarkable advances were made in the techniques of butter and cheese-making: well before the factory system was introduced he had a steam-driven cream separator; and he adopted the Cheddar method of cheese production, receiving the highest award for cheese at the 1888 Intercolonial Dairying Exhibition. Yannarie, which McLeod sold in 1892, was occasionally opened to visitors, as in 1888 when Alexander Crawford used McLeod's plant and staff to demonstrate butter-making techniques.

For many years a justice of the peace and a councillor of Portland Shire and Borough, McLeod represented Portland in the Legislative Assembly in 1894-1900. In 1895 he was appointed to a board to enquire into the best methods of exporting perishable goods and in 1897-98 he was a member of the royal commission on old age pensions. Towards the end of his parliamentary career he was chairman of the Society for the Protection of Aborigines and vice-president of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society. He held a commission in the Victorian Mounted Rifles under Colonel Tom Price and when the first Bushmen's contingent was recruited for the South African War he examined candidates for their ability as bushmen and rough-riders.

In 1899 McLeod severed his Victorian connexions and took up Minilya station in the Carnarvon district of Western Australia. He died in Perth on 25 October 1914, survived by his wife, six daughters and five of his six sons, and was buried in the Congregational section of Karrakatta cemetery. Represented at the funeral were the Pastoralists' Association of Western Australia, the Clan McLeod Society of Australia, the Caledonian Society of Perth and the Narrogin Masonic Lodge.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1859-60, p 645, 706, 793, 1169
  • Portland Guardian, 20 Apr 1886
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 17 Aug, 8 Sept 1894.

Citation details

L. Lomas, 'McLeod, Donald Norman (1848–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 May 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]


10 June, 1848
Victoria, Australia


25 October, 1914 (aged 66)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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