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James McDonald (1877–1947)

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James McDonald, n.d.

James McDonald, n.d.

McDonald, James (1877-1947) miner, trade union official and parliamentarian 

Birth: 12 January 1877 at Newstead, Victoria, son of John Joseph (Josh) McDonald (1842-1919), a farmer, born at Adelaide, South Australia, and Margaret Frances Bourke Jennings (1853-1925), born at Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Marriage: 1903 at Gormanston to Mary Ellen Scannell. They had eight daughters and four sons. Death: 17 October 1947 in hospital at Launceston, Tasmania: usual residence Laura Street, Launceston. 

  • Educated at Yando State School, Victoria. Was a farm worker in Victoria before moving to Tasmania about 1897. Worked as a miner at Mt Lyell from about 1899 to about 1909. Later worked at Tullah, near Zeehan.
  • Moved to Launceston in 1915. Became a trade union official and agent. Co-founder of the Federated Mining Employees’ Association of Australia. He was general president from 1913 to 1918; secretary of its Tasmanian branch for two years. President of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU). Organiser AWU.
  • Member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly for Bass in a by-election on 26 June 1915; was defeated for the seat on 25 March 1916. Elected to the Legislative Council for Gordon on 2 May 1916 – the first Labor member elected to the upper house. Defeated in 1922. Re-elected on 8 May 1928, he held the seat until his death. Contested a seat in the Australian Senate for Tasmania in 1914 and 1925.
  • Appointed a royal Commissioner into shooting by SWJ Eade 1917. State Recruiting Committee. Chairman Government Accommodation Board. Appointed justice of the peace in 1925; Seat EC without office 1934-1940.
  • Hon minister from 1934 to 1940; attorney-general from 1940 to 1946. Minister of Mines 1946-1947.
  • Secretary of the Tasmanian ALP 1931-1935. Secretary Launceston branch League of Nations Union. Member of Queenstown Cycling Club. Anti-conscriptionist.
  • Cause of death: carcinoma of bladder and metastasis.
  • Two of his sons, Thomas Raymond McDonald (1915-1992) and John Joseph McDonald (1904-1959) were also member of the Tasmanian parliament. The latter was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for manslaughter in April 1951.

Scott Bennett & Barbara Bennett, Biographical Register of the Tasmanian Parliament, 1851–1960, Canberra, 1980; Who’s Who in Australia 1933-34; Examiner, 18 October 1947; D. J. Murphy (ed.), Labor in Politics: State Labor Parties in Australia, 1880-1920 (St Lucia, Qld, 1975); Voice (Tas); Australian Worker, 4 November 1925, p 20.

Additional Resources

  • photo, Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 11 March 1938, p 8

Citation details

'McDonald, James (1877–1947)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

James McDonald, n.d.

James McDonald, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


12 January, 1877
Newstead, Victoria, Australia


17 October, 1947 (aged 70)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (bladder)

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.

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