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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mackinnon, Sir Lauchlan Charles (1848–1925)

by Geoffrey Serle

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

Sir Lauchlan Charles Mackinnon (1848-1925), newspaper proprietor and manager, was born on 12 April 1848 at Broadford, Skye, Scotland, eldest son of Rev. Alexander Kenneth Mackinnon and his wife Barbara, née Reid. His education at private schools was provided for by his wealthy cousin Lauchlan Mackinnon, co-proprietor of the Melbourne Argus and Australasian, who chose him as his successor.

In his youth Mackinnon worked in the offices of the London Times and the Edinburgh Scotsman and with the publishers W. H. Smith & Co. In 1870 he moved to Melbourne to gain administrative experience with the Argus. On 23 January 1873 he married a widow Elizabeth Anketell-Jones (d.1875), daughter of William Learmonth. On 13 December 1876 at Plympton, Devon, England, he married Emily Grace Bundock, adopted daughter of his cousin Lauchlan.

After three years as Argus representative in London where he developed the paper's joint cable-service with the Sydney Morning Herald and the South Australian Register (which eventually became the Australian Press Association), Mackinnon became general manager in 1881. He was sole trustee and representative of the Mackinnon interest in the company after his cousin's death in 1888. During his thirty-nine years as general manager, Mackinnon was a key Establishment figure, preserving the Argus as a rigidly conservative organ and developing a highly profitable enterprise; in his time circulation grew from 11,000 to 123,000. He is said to have always presided, in later years at least, over meetings of Australian newspaper proprietors. A 'benevolent disciplinarian', he rewarded merit among his staff and gave opportunities of work overseas to his senior journalists. He was knighted in 1916.

Engrossed in his work, Mackinnon had few outside interests. He was a devout member of Scots Church, and belonged to the Melbourne Club (president, 1903), Australian (Melbourne) and Reform (London) clubs. He was a founder of the (Royal) Melbourne Golf Club and occasionally enjoyed shooting. He retired in 1919 and settled at Crediton, Devon, England. Predeceased by his wife, Mackinnon died on 3 December 1925, survived by a son and two daughters. His estate in England and Victoria was sworn for probate at about £50,000.

His son Lauchlan (1877-1934) was born on 28 September 1877 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, and educated at Uppingham College, England, and Cumloden, St Kilda, Melbourne. After some training on the Scotsman he worked on the managerial side of the Argus until 1915-18 when he served in France with the Royal Army Service Corps. Captain Mackinnon succeeded his father in 1920 as general manager of the Argus and representative of the Mackinnon interest. He rode to hounds, was an outstanding polo player and a prominent racehorse owner; he was a member of the Melbourne Club.

On 16 November 1904 in Scotland Mackinnon had married Hilda Law, daughter of the general manager of the Scotsman. She and three sons survived him when he died suddenly in Melbourne on 9 October 1934. His estate was sworn for probate at £24,545. The Mackinnon interest in the Argus was sold in 1937.

Lauchlan Kenneth Scobie Mackinnon (1861-1935), Lauchlan Charles's second cousin, was born on the Isle of Skye, migrated to Melbourne in 1884 and from 1888 was a partner in Blake & Riggall, solicitors. He was a company director and in 1935 chairman of the Victoria Racing Club; the L. K. S. Mackinnon Stakes is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 5, 7 Dec 1925, 10 Oct 1934
  • Men Who Made the Argus and Australasian (typescript, in C. P. Smith papers, State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Geoffrey Serle, 'Mackinnon, Sir Lauchlan Charles (1848–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 7 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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