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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McDougall, Dugald Gordon (1867–1944)

by R. W. Baker

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

Dugald Gordon McDougall (1867-1944), professor of law, was born on 28 March 1867 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, second son of Irish-born Dugald McDougall, stationer and later head of the printing firm Sands & McDougall, and his wife Mary Allott, née Chisholm, of Melbourne. McDougall was 17 when his father died. He was educated privately at St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, England, at Hawthorn Grammar School and at Trinity College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1888; M.A., 1890), where he proved a brilliant student, taking exhibitions in most subjects, the Wyselaskie scholarship in modern languages in 1886 and scholarships in the schools of classics, philosophy, and English, French and German in 1888. In 1888-92 he attended Balliol College, Oxford (B.A., 1892), where as Williams exhibitioner he took first classes in classical moderations, the final school of jurisprudence and the postgraduate course in civil law. He was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1892 and next year returned to Melbourne where he worked with the solicitors Blake & Riggall and in 1895-97 read in the chambers of Theyre à Beckett Weigall. Graduating LL.B. in 1894 and LL.M. in 1896 from the University of Melbourne, he was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1895 and practised to 1900.

A tall, well-proportioned and handsome man, McDougall was a keen tennis and billiards player, captain of the Oxford lawn tennis IV and Oxford billiards cue in 1892. Although his father had been a founder of the Hawthorn Presbyterian Church, McDougall had been a devout Anglican since early youth. In 1900 he was appointed professor of law and modern history at the University of Tasmania. He took up the post next year after his marriage on 23 February at St Paul's Church, Ipswich, Queensland, to Helen Ione Atkinson. In 1902 he graduated M.A. and B.C.L. from Oxford and in 1909 LL.D. from Melbourne.

McDougall made a special study of Federal law. In 1905, when he was acting professor of law at the University of Sydney, he published Self-Governing Colonies, followed by Commonwealth and States in 1907. His major achievement, however, over three decades as Tasmania's sole full-time law academic, was to produce the State's law graduates and consequently its judges and magistrates. In his lecturing, covering an astonishing ten subjects, great intellectual talents were combined with a teaching skill that still commands the admiration of former students. His scholarship went beyond the law: he remained well learned in history, Greek, Latin, French and German. After his wife became mentally ill about 1910, his enormous teaching load was combined with the responsibility of bringing up their six sons. He retired from the university in June 1933 as emeritus professor.

In retirement McDougall lived on Norfolk Island and later in Sydney on a yearly government grant of £100. His unsuccessful application for a Commonwealth Literary Fund pension in 1937 drew attention to his drinking problem. He died in hospital at Kogarah, Sydney, on 19 June 1944 and was cremated. Of his sons, Archibald was a Tasmanian Rhodes scholar and a lawyer, four became accountants and one a service station proprietor.

Select Bibliography

  • University of Melbourne, Calendar, 1900
  • Mercury (Hobart), 21 June 1944
  • CSR A 3753 item 72/2760 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. W. Baker, 'McDougall, Dugald Gordon (1867–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 29 September 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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