b. 17 August 1880, d. 18 September 1957
Alice McDonald (Steer)
Image: Rene Barnes
FatherPhilip Steer b. 2 Jul 1855, d. 11 Aug 1937
MotherEuphemia Forrest b. 1859, d. 13 Mar 1914

Birth, Death, Marriage

Alice Euphemia Steer was born on 17 August 1880 in Dinyarrak, Victoria.1 
She married Donald Glenorchy McDonald, son of Archibald McDonald and Lucy Turner Campbell, on 12 May 1910 in Swan Hill, Victoria.2 
She died on 18 September 1957 in District hospital, Forbes, New South Wales, at age 77.3,4 

Family 1


Family 2

Donald Glenorchy McDonald b. 6 Mar 1878, d. 12 May 1953
ChartsCampbell, John, descendant chart
McDonald, Archibald, descendant chart
McDonald, Irene, pedigree chart
Steer, Edward, descendant chart


Alice was born in Dinyarrak near the Victoria-South Australia border. She was ten when the family moved to Lake Boga. At 18, she had a child in Echuca. Four years later, she started her family of four with Donald McDonald, whom she married when the twins were about seven. The family moved from Swan Hill to Nyah where the children grew up. Alice moved to Preston where her son Dougal ran a butcher shop with a little help from Donald senior. She then helped her daughter Bub in the Cricketer's Arms hotel in Mooroopna, and later the Junction Hotel in Toolamba. She died age 77 while on holiday through central New South Wales.
Early Life Near Lillimur
Alice Euphemia Steer was born in Dinyarrak, in western Victoria near the border with South Australia and just north of Lillimur.

She most likely attended school in Lillimur.

Alice was the eldest of six children, though only four reached adulthood. She would have witnessed the deaths of her three year old sister Helen and three month old brother Robert while living in the area.
Wagon Trip to Lake Boga
Whether to leave behind the tragic deaths of the two young children, or with the hope of better farming prospects elsewhere, Philip and Euphemia decided to move from near Lillimur. The three children were loaded into horse-drawn wagons and they headed to Lake Boga, south of Swan Hill. This was around 1890, so Alice would have been about ten, Maggie about seven and Albert still a baby.5
Family Life in Lake Boga
When the family first moved to Lake Boga, Philip built a four-roomed cottage on his ten acre property. This is where Beatrice was born. The cottage was to be the family home for the next 15 years, and so is where the children did most of their growing up. They all attended school in Lake Boga.5
Food consisted of whatever was available at the time, and was quite dependant on the weather and economic conditions. The Federation drought of 1902 and the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 30s were particularly tough times. On a good day it might be lamb that was part of Philip's pay, or Murray cod caught in the nearby Little Murray river. At other times, they might catch a rabbit or two to eat. The water in the nearby lakes was of poor quality, usually too salty. This would cause fruit crops to fail in some years and was known to wipe out whole seasons of many different vegetables. In leaner times, they would have to live on potatoes and onions.
In the big drought of 1902 times were very hard, Grandfather [Philip]found work at a big Station called Murray Downs. Once a fortnight he would walk the 10-12 miles home carrying half a sheep on his back, this was part of his pay. Most of the time they lived on potatoes and onions.6

Rupert George Steer
Around Christmas 1898, the 18 year old Alice fell pregnant. Rupert George Steer was born the following year in Echuca East. He was brought up by a friend, Christine McBride, and died aged eight of heart failure.7,8
Twins Born in Brunswick 
Alice Steer was expecting twins and moved from Echuca back to her parents' family home in Lake Boga. For the birth, she went to a lying-in home in Brunswick. Perhaps this was the most prudent course of action for a young mum who was about to have twins. Certainly in the early 1900s, Melbourne would have offered better medical facilities than Lake Boga or Swan Hill, if needed.

A lying-in home was a private home or hospital where mothers could give birth with the help of a midwife. They were then encouraged to stay for a couple of weeks before returning home or moving on to their next destination.

In this case, the lying-in home was at 91 Sutherland St in Brunswick. It was run by Mrs Mary Morris, a qualified and certified midwife who welcomed unmarried mothers.9,10,11
Upon returning to the family home in Lake Boga, Alice's sisters helped with their new twin nieces. Beatrice recalls rocking them in an old rocking chair.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
Bub was born in July 1908. When she was just six weeks old, Alice was back milking cows and one morning one attacked her. Alice wasn't quick enough getting over the fence and the cow's horns caught her. She was taken to hospital with Bub by her side, and needed 60 stitches. She was lucky it wasn't more serious. At this time, the three older children were looked after by Beatrice with the help of a neighbour.6
Violet Alice (Bub) McDonald
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.12,2,13,14,15
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.16,17
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.18,19
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.20
Nyah picnic sports: McDonald girls 1st and 2nd 1916
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.19
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.
Around 1940, when her daughter Sis Phillips had a major lung operation, the family rallied around to help. Alice came up from Melbourne to help look after the three youngest children, Rene, Don & Brian.

When her daughter Bub run the Cricketer's Arms Hotel in Mooroopna from late 1941 to late 1944, Alice lived there too and helped out.

Alice & Bub may have stayed with Bub's niece Pauline Stuart in Mooroopna until Bub bought the Junction Hotel in Toolamba in 1946.

At this point, Alice moved into the pub, as did her husband Donald, who had been staying with their son in Preston.

Apart from brief periods with Pauline, Alice stayed with Bub until her death in 1957. She died while on a holiday through New South Wales.4,21,22


  1. [S362] Alice Euphemia Steer, birth registration no. 15067, 17 August 1880.
  2. [S53] Donald Glenorchy McDonald and Alice Euphemia Steer, marriage registration no. 4052, 12 May 1910.
  3. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication.
  4. [S379] Alice Euphemia McDonald, death registration no. 1957/024623, 18 September 1957.
  5. [S376] From the Memories of the Life of Beatrice Lee, unpublished, 1987, p. 1.
  6. [S376] From the Memories of the Life of Beatrice Lee, unpublished, 1987, p. 2.
  7. [S352] Rupert George Steer, birth registration no. 18206, 7 September 1899.
  8. [S353] Rupert George Steer, death registration no. 5193, 15 May 1908.
  9. [S2] 'Lying-in', Wikipedia, online, Wikimedia Foundation, viewed 9 August 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lying-in
  10. [S2] 'Lying-in home', Find & Connect, online, 2011, viewed 15 August 2014 http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/wa/objects/…
  11. [S2] 'Board and lodging', The Argus, Melbourne, 19 June 1909, p. 10, viewed 9 August 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page364655
  12. [S146] Edwardian Index Victoria 1902-1913: Indexes to births deaths and marriages in Victoria, CD-ROM, Macbeth Genealogical Services, 1997.
  13. [S375] Doris May Steer, birth registration no. 8481, 4 April 1903.
  14. [S374] Irene Gladys Steer, birth registration no. 8482, 4 April 1903.
  15. [S5] Irene Gladys McDonald, birth registration no. 9877/1943, 4 April 1903.
  16. [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication.
  17. [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).
  18. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 1998.
  19. [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication, 10 November 2001.
  20. [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
  21. [S376] From the Memories of the Life of Beatrice Lee, unpublished, 1987, p. 11.
  22. [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 28 September 1996.