MACROSSAN, John Murtagh (1832-1891)

MACROSSAN, John Murtagh (1832-1891)
was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1832. He emigrated to Victoria in 1853 and worked for 12 years on the diggings in Victoria, New South Wales and New Zealand. In 1865 he went to northern Queensland, became well-known among the miners, and in 1873 was elected a member of the legislative assembly for the Kennedy district. Being a representative of the miners and a fervent democrat, surprise has been expressed at his subsequent association with McIlwraith (q.v.). He had, however, an instinctive distrust of Griffith (q.v.), and there was then no Labour party. When McIlwraith offered him a place in his cabinet in January 1879 he became secretary for public works and for mines. In 1879 and again in 1880 he endeavoured to bring in an act for the regulation of mines without success, but in 1881 he succeeded in passing his mines regulation act, which marked an important advance in industrial legislation. Macrossan held the same positions in McIlwraith's second ministry formed in June 1888. He took a strong stand on the appointment by the Imperial government of Sir Henry Blake as governor of Queensland, obtained McIlwraith's support, and as a result Sir Henry Norman was sent instead. In 1889 Macrossan brought in a new mines regulation act, which included provisions for a system of inspections by representatives of the miners. As a northern representative, he was a great advocate for the self-government of northern Queensland, and spoke most eloquently for this now almost forgotten cause. He had made a great speech when the question was brought up in 1886, and in October 1890 he brought forward a motion to bring about the separation of the north. Sir Samuel Griffith moved an amendment that it was desirable to have separate legislative authorities in southern, northern and central Queensland, which was carried. But the coming of the federal movement threw this question into the background. In January of this year Macrossan had become colonial secretary in the Morehead (q.v.) government, and in February, with Griffith, who was leader of the opposition, he attended the conference on federation held at Melbourne. There he made a great impression. B. R. Wise (q.v.) called him the "second figure in the federal movement next after Sir Henry Parkes"; Deakin (q.v.) once said of him "on the floor of the house he was almost Sir Henry's equal, while in committee he was the superior". (B. R. Wise, The Making of the Australian Commonwealth, p. 83). At the 1891 convention at Sydney he was one of the Queensland representatives. He was by now obviously a sick man, he had been advised by his physician not to attend, but thought it his duty to do so. Four weeks after the conference opened he died, on 30 March 1891. He left a widow and children, who in 1925 by a gift of £2000, founded the John Murtagh Macrossan memorial lectureship at the university of Queensland.
Macrossan was small of stature and of frail physique, a hard-working and able administrator, with a great grasp of detail. He was thoroughly sincere, a good speaker, and one of the best debaters of his time. Recognized as one of the great personalities of his own colony, his too early death prevented him from taking the high place in federal politics to which he would have been entitled.
Of his sons, Hugh Denis Macrossan (1881-1940), after a distinguished scholastic career, was called to the Queensland bar in 1907. He was M.L.A. for Windsor 1912-15, was appointed a judge of the supreme court of Queensland in 1926, and chief-justice in May 1940. He died after a short illness on 23 June 1940, having established a high reputation both as a lawyer and as a judge. He acted as host to the Papal delegates when the foundation stone of the Holy Name cathedral was laid, and was made a Knight of St Gregory. His younger brother, Neal Macrossan, was appointed a supreme court judge in June 1940.
The Queenslander, 4 April 1891; Foreword to W. A. Holman's John Murtagh Macrossan Lecture, 1928; P. Mennell, Dictionary of Australasian Biography; B. R. Wise, The Making of the Australian Commonwealth; The Courier-Mail, 24 and 26 June 1940; The Telegraph, Brisbane, 24 and 29 June 1940.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • John Macrossan — John Murtagh Macrossan (1832 1891) was an Australian politician of the late 19th Century in the parliament of Queensland.Early and parliamentary lifeJohn Macrossan was born in Donegal, Ireland. He moved to the colony of Victoria at the age of 21… …   Wikipedia

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