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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McCracken, Alexander (1856–1915)

by G. H. Gellie

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

Alexander McCracken (1856-1915), brewer and sportsman, was born on 7 May 1856 in Melbourne, second son of Robert McCracken and his wife Margaret, née Hannah. He was educated at Scotch College and then joined his father's brewery firm, R. McCracken & Co., becoming a junior partner in 1884. In 1888 he became managing director after McCracken's was purchased and floated as a public company by B. J. Fink. The company lost heavily in 1892 when Fink was declared bankrupt; the continuing depression took further toll. In June 1896 McCracken went to London to negotiate concessions on the interest payments to debenture holders. Some accommodation was achieved but only after an English representative had investigated the company's affairs and strongly criticized the board of directors. The company was saved from liquidation, but trading did not improve and in May 1907 McCracken's and five other brewing firms were merged into Carlton & United Breweries Ltd. McCracken was made a director.

Though the shareholders had suffered, McCracken's City Brewery had never ceased to project a large and popular image. McCracken himself had a reputation for genial management and honest dealing. He became a powerful figure in the organization of the brewing industry, and its favourite spokesman. He was an early president of the Brewers' Club of Melbourne (1891), and first chairman of the Brewers' Association of Victoria (1901), the Manufacturers' Bottle Co. of Victoria (1903) and the Liquor Trades Defence Union (1903). He was president of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1909-15 and a director of the Trustees Executors & Agency Co. Ltd and of the Victoria Insurance Co.

A good speaker and an easy mixer, McCracken was a man made for the public appearance and the social occasion. His enthusiasm for team-games amounted to a passion. He was the first secretary and later president of the Essendon Football Club; his portrait hangs in their rooms. He was founder and president of the Essendon Rowing Club. Local cricket, tennis, golf, bowling, athletics, baseball, cycling, rifle-shooting and lacrosse were all indebted to his generous patronage; trophies bearing his name became commonplace. He was also president of the Essendon Poultry, Dog, Pigeon and Canary Society, the Essendon Town Fire Brigade and the Essendon Literary and Debating Society.

Outside Essendon he was first president of the Victorian Football League (1897-1915) after the breakaway from the Victorian Football Association, and a founder of the Oaklands Hunt Club. He raced a number of horses with modest success, winning the Caulfield Grand National Steeplechase in 1893 with Knight of the Garter, and served as chairman and vice-chairman of the Victoria Racing Club.

In 1894 McCracken stood against Alfred Deakin for the Legislative Assembly seat of Essendon and Flemington. Soundly defeated, he did not attempt to enter politics again. He died of cirrhosis of the liver at his home, North Park, Essendon, on 25 August 1915 and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery, leaving an estate valued for probate at £175,358. The main beneficiaries were his wife Mary Elizabeth, née Peck, whom he had married on 19 September 1884 at Pascoe Vale, and his two sons and three daughters. The Essendon Presbyterian Church received a small legacy.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • A. D. Pyke, The Gold, the Blue: A History of Lowther Hall (Melb, 1983)
  • Australian Brewers' Journal, 8 (1889)
  • Essendon Gazette, 27 Nov 1913
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Aug 1915.

Citation details

G. H. Gellie, 'McCracken, Alexander (1856–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 27 October 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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