b. 6 March 1878, d. 12 May 1953
Donald Glenorchy McDonald (snr)
FatherArchibald McDonald b. c Jun 1833, d. 26 Dec 1890
MotherLucy Turner Campbell b. 26 Jul 1845, d. 22 Nov 1929

Birth, Death, Marriage

Donald Glenorchy McDonald was born on 6 March 1878 in Swan Hill, Victoria.1 
He married Alice Euphemia Steer, daughter of Philip Steer and Euphemia Forrest, on 12 May 1910 in Swan Hill, Victoria.2 
He died on 12 May 1953 in Mooroopna hospital, Mooroopna, Victoria, at age 75.3,4 


Alice Euphemia Steer b. 17 Aug 1880, d. 18 Sep 1957
ChartsCampbell, John, descendant chart
McDonald, Archibald, descendant chart
McDonald, Irene, pedigree chart
Steer, Edward, descendant chart


Donald Glenorchy McDonald probably spent too much of his life in pubs. He was born in the White Swan Hotel in Swan Hill, spent too much time drinking in Nyah then Preston where he was a butcher, and died of liver failure while living at his daughter's pub in Toolamba. But he provided well for his wife Alice and their family of four children, and to most of those around him was a lovable man and the life of any party.
Early Life
Donald and his older twin, Alexander were born at the White Swan Hotel in Swan Hill. This hotel was owned by their father.

In his later years, Donald's father Archie went into farming. In his will, he asked that for a period of six years after his death, the family continue to work the farm for their separate and joint benefit. This may be why Donald went into share farming.5,6
Donald and Alice took the twins and set up home on Pental Island near Swan Hill. The couple were share dairy farming there, and Alice helped milk 70 cows by hand. She used to take the twins to the shed with her and put them in a big box; they could stand but not yet walk.6
Alice, Sis (Irene) & Nene (Doris) Steer/McDonald, Pental Island, Swan Hill
Image: Margaret Sellwood, Nene Courtie
In August 1905, when Dougal was born, Alice's sister Beatrice helped to look after the twins, Nene & Sis.6
Marriage and Family 
Alice Euphemia Steer and Donald Glenorchy McDonald were married in Swan Hill on 12 May 1910. They had four children, all born before the marriage, between 1903 and 1908.

The marriage was conducted by John Stewart Drummond, a presbyterian minister. Notably, neither of the two witnesses, Ernest Gerald Gray and Donald Urquhart, were family.

Because of the delayed marriage, the twins were originally registered under the name Steer, though they were always referred to as McDonalds. No father's name was provided for the original registration of twins Doris and Irene, but Donald's name was added as the father when these two births were re-registered in June 1943.

Donald McDonald is shown as the father for Donald (jnr) and Violet.

It says something about the Australian treatment of names that the four children, Doris, Irene, Donald and Violet were always known as Nene, Sis, Dougal and Bub.

While we don't have any photos of the wedding, we do have a photo of the three eldest children that could have been taken at the time.7,2,8,9,10
Nene (Doris), Dougal (Donald) & Sis (Irene) McDonald
Image: Nene Courtie
Swan Hill to Nyah by Ballast Train
According to Nene, the family travelled on the ballast train when they moved house from Swan Hill to Nyah. The line was being built from Swan Hill to Piangil, through Nyah West (or Nyah Rail as it was then known) around 1914. It must have been quite a sight and adventure for the four young children to have all the family's belongings piled onto a railway wagon.11,12
Ballast train, old S-class steam locomotive No.199, early 1900s
Family Life in Nyah
Donald was a butcher, so meat would have been readily available. Though most of it would have been sold to support the family and perhaps his growing drinking habit.

A treat might have been Murray Cod from the nearby Murray River, or a rabbit.

The children all attended the local school in Nyah.13,4
Nyah Picnic Sports
A highlight on the family's social calendar must surely have been the annual Nyah picnic sports day. Held on New Years Day, the social gathering drew people from all around the region, including a large contingent from Swan Hill. A popular location was the Nyah recreation reserve on the bank of the Murray. At night, dances would be held in any available hall.

During the war, the day was used as a fundraiser directly for the war effort, but also to help returned wounded Nyah soldiers.

The 1916 event featured athletics and swimming. In the girls' under 14 race, the McDonald twins came first and second. Their father, Donald, was one of two judges on the day.14
Nyah picnic sports: McDonald girls 1st and 2nd 1916
Working Life
For a time, Donald was a labourer on a sheep station in southern NSW, and during the Depression in the 1930s, he worked in the Mallee somewhere. But for most of his working life was a butcher. In 1919, with the family living in Nyah, AN Lewis built a new butcher shop for him on the south side of Gray St, Nyah West. Through a combination of drink and poor management, he lost the butcher shop and moved to Preston with his son Donald Glenorchy jnr, where he helped in his son's butcher shop. Unfortunately he was a bit of a soft touch; when a down-and-outer came to the shop for a hand-out, he was known to give eye fillet.3,15,4
By 1924, Donald and Alice were in Preston at 182 Bell St. The younger two children, Dougal and Bub, would have also been at this Preston address. Nene (Doris) had married Ken Stuart in Nyah then moved to Melbourne. Sis (Irene) had married Tom Phillips and moved to Shepparton.

In 1925, Alice is shown in the electoral roll at the same address, but Donald is not. Neither Donald nor Alice have been found in the 1926 and 1927 electoral rolls, but by 1928 they are both back in Preston, this time at 60 Austral Avenue. This is just around the corner from 501 Bell Street, where we know Dougal ran his butcher shop. Nene said that during the Depression (late 1920s), her mum ironed and her dad worked in the Mallee somewhere; this fits well with the absences from the Preston electoral roll.4
Through most of the 1930s, Donald and Alice were living in Austral Avenue. Donald 'helped' in Dougal's butcher shop. Alice helped look after Dougal's son Donald, and Bub's (Violet) son Graeme after they moved down from Mooroopna.
Shot fired at butcher: Donald senior shot at in Preston 1932.16
Image: The Advertiser (Hurstbridge)
The Joker
He was a very good roller-skater and dancer, and annually went roller-skating in his kilt. He would sit out the front of his son's butcher shop in Preston with young 'friends' and drink and tell stories. He was a bit of a joker, spinning yarns about feeding his stock at the MCG when Swan Hill was affected by drought, and about riding his bike from Alice Springs to Swan Hill, first with rubber tyres, then later on the rims when the bindy-eyes got to be too much of a problem.17,18
The Dancer
Donald was a good dancer. When grandson Laurie Phillips was staying with the McDonalds in Preston, the two went to a dance. A lady asked Laurie if she could dance with his grandfather because he danced so beautifully. The lady turned out to be the granddaughter of Parson Pearce, who, when Donald lived in Swan Hill, was always trying to get him to stop drinking and go to church.19
Donald Glenorchy McDonald (snr)
Dancing with Parson Pearce's granddaughter: The only time I saw him dressed like that was when I went to dances with him in Preston. He was very popular with the ladies, he was such a good dancer. One night I met a girl at the hall and she asked me if I would ask Grandpa to have a dance with her. He had the dance with her and came back to tell me she was Parson Pearce's granddaughter who was in Swan Hill all those years ago when Grandpa had the butcher shop there.20
Drink and Other Trouble
He was quite a handful at times, particularly in the last years of his life, while living with Bub at the Toolamba Hotel. He drank far too much. With a little drink, he was happy and the life of the party. But with a bit more drink, he would become aggressive and Bub would often be called to come and pick him up and take him home. While at the Toolamba Hotel, Bub attempted to alter his drinking habits to include less cheap wine and more (lower alcohol) beer, but there was always a serious drinking problem. After one particularly aggressive incident, Bub phoned her mother, who was staying with Pauline at the time, and said that she would not put up with it any more and that he would have to go. After much pleading by her mother and some very good behaviour (for a short time) by her father, Bub relented and allowed him to stay. It wasn't that much later that Donald died, in Mooroopna Hospital of liver failure.21,4


  1. [S28] Donald Glenorchy McDonald, birth registration no. 12134, 6 March 1878.
  2. [S53] Donald Glenorchy McDonald and Alice Euphemia Steer, marriage registration no. 4052, 12 May 1910.
  3. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication.
  4. [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication, 10 November 2001.
  5. [S110] 'Archibald McDonald', VPRS 28 Probate and Administration Files, no. 44/962, probate, 4 May 1891.
  6. [S376] From the Memories of the Life of Beatrice Lee, unpublished, 1987, p. 2.
  7. [S146] Edwardian Index Victoria 1902-1913: Indexes to births deaths and marriages in Victoria, CD-ROM, Macbeth Genealogical Services, 1997.
  8. [S375] Doris May Steer, birth registration no. 8481, 4 April 1903.
  9. [S374] Irene Gladys Steer, birth registration no. 8482, 4 April 1903.
  10. [S5] Irene Gladys McDonald, birth registration no. 9877/1943, 4 April 1903.
  11. [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication.
  12. [S188] On 'This Bend' of the River, Nyah district centenary committee, 1993, p. 110. This was probably around 1913-1915 because at the time railway workers camped in the Nyah area as the rail line was being built from Swan Hill to Piangil, through Nyah West (or Nyah Rail as it was then known).
  13. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 1998.
  14. [S39] 'Nyah picnic sports', Swan Hill Guardian and Lake Boga Advocate, 1892-1937, newspaper, A Knox Chapman, 6 January 1916, p. 2, viewed 7 June 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92121872
  15. [S188] On 'This Bend' of the River, Nyah district centenary committee, 1993, p. 111.
  16. [S258] 'Shot fired at butcher', The Advertiser (Hurstbridge), newspaper, GP Armstrong, 29 July 1932.
  17. [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication, 6 April 1996.
  18. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 7 July 1996.
  19. [S32] Laurie Phillips, personal communication, 16 June 2019.
  20. [S281] 'Phillips Family', Facebook, webpage, Facebook Inc., group created 25 June 2011, 22 February 2012 comment by Laurie Phillips in response to 18 February 2012 post by Lesley Blythman.
  21. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 1 September 1996.