Lauchlan Mackinnon

Lauchlan Mackinnon (1848 – 1925) newspaper proprietor and manager
Lauchlan Mackinnon was a vigorous, forthright Presbyterian, respected by his friends for his courage and integrity. A Liberal in politics he had profound faith in education ‘without which Religion and Morals must give place to every species of public and private depravity’.  Mackinnon was a partner in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus.

Lauchlan Mackinnon, pastoralist and newspaper proprietor, was born on 26 February 1817 at Kilbride, Isle of Skye, Scotland, second son of John Mackinnon, Presbyterian minister of Strath.

Mackinnon was member for Warrnambool and Belfast in the squatter-dominated Victorian Legislative Council from December 1852 till he resigned in May 1853. At a protest meeting in 1852 he had stood alone among squatters in opposing their more extreme claims. He recognized the importance of squatting and was prepared to meet what he called the pastoralists’ ‘just claims’, but he opposed the long leases and pre-emptive rights of purchase which they demanded under the 1847 Order in Council, the spirit of which he denounced, declaring himself in favour of ‘free trade in land’. In the bitter anti-transportation controversy he championed the colonists’ right to refuse to take convicts.

In 1852 Lauchlan Mackinnon became a partner in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus.

When the telegraph link between Britain and Australia became imminent, Mackinnon was convinced of the importance of an independent news service and in 1870 attempted to form a press association embracing all colonial newspapers which could receive news telegrams direct from London, thus avoiding dependence for foreign news on Reuter. By 1872 when the link with Britain was established, he had succeeded in achieving a cable partnership between the Argus, Sydney Morning Herald and South Australian Register, whose London representatives selected and cabled the news at their discretion, dispensing foreign news to associated papers outside the ‘ring’. Opposed to ‘stinting, false economies’, Mackinnon fought for ‘free expenditure’ on the special news service, despite its high cost of some £8500 a year until a special press rate was introduced in 1886.

Mackinnon did not write for the Argus but his business ability was chiefly responsible for its financial success. His letters to his representative, J. S. Johnston, reveal his assurance and liberal vision in business; with enterprise, energy and no fear of ‘bold action’, he constantly exhorted his colleagues, impatient of the timidity and narrow vision which led to short-sighted policies. He was just but stern with employees, intolerant of incompetence and claimed that sentiment was a ‘fatal error’ in business.

Mackinnon was a vigorous, forthright Presbyterian, respected by his friends for his courage and integrity. A Liberal in politics he had profound faith in education ‘without which Religion and Morals must give place to every species of public and private depravity’. He was a member of the original Council of the University of Melbourne. He died at Malpas Lodge, Torquay, Devon, on 21 March 1888 leaving a vast estate. He was twice married: first, to Jane Montgomery who died in Sydney on 13 June 1849; and second, at Parramatta on 9 May 1850 to Emily Bundock who died at Malpas Lodge on 17 June 1893 survived by two adopted children.

Lauchlan Mackinnon (as described by the Melbourne Argus newspaper, Thursday 9 September 1926)

In 1852 Mr. Edward Wilson was joined in partnership in The Argus by Mr. Lauchlan Mackinnon, a Western district squatter, who had come out from Scotland to seek his fortune. Mr. Mackinnon was born at Kilbride, Isle of Skye, Scotland, on February 20, 1817. He was the second son of the Rev. John Mackinnon, Presbyterian minister of Strath, Skye, who died in 1856.

Mr. Lauchlan Mackinnon reached Sydney by way of Tasmania, having decided to seek employment as an overseer for Messrs. Campbell and Co., of Campbell’s Wharf, Sydney, to take stock to South Australia and the district of Port Phillip. Mr. Mackinnon, who is described by his contemporaries as a man of “rare courage and capacity,” seemed to be intended by nature for a pioneer. He was engaged by Messrs. Campbell and Co., and in their interests he made his first overland journey with stock from Sydney to Adelaide, a remarkable feat which naturally attracted much attention. The trip was so successful that he undertook another. About 1840 he like-wise made one of the first overland journeys with sheep from Sydney to Melbourne. This work was extremely hazardous, and the drovers carried their lives in their hands. Later he took up a run for himself on the Loddon River, and afterwards removed to Mount Fyans, in the Western district. His enterprise was wide-ranging, and he became associated with Mr. James Montgomery, solicitor, at Sandhurst (Bendigo).

Public events had brought him into companionship with Mr. Edward Wilson, and in 1852 he joined Mr. Wilson and became a co-partner in “The Argus.” In the meantime, however, important events had occurred in his life, and in the history of Australia. In 1848 the agitation for the separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales had become violent and irresistible. Some of the ultra-separationists had decided that it would be useless to send representatives to the Legislature which sat in Sydney, but Mr. Mackinnon did not see his way to push the quarrel so far as this. At the general election in 1848 five members were returnable for the district of Port Phillip, and one for Melbourne. The New South Wales Government nominated a leading English statesman for each of the vacancies. Earl Grey was returned by Melbourne and the disaffected party nominated the Duke of Wellington, Lords Palmerston, Brougham, and Russell, and Sir Robert Peel for the district. Mr. Mackinnon and four other local candidates who were proposed by the party had the honour of defeating these illustrious statesmen. In the Legislature he did his best to obtain justice for Port Phillip from the Government of New South Wales. He was a strong and earnest supporter of the anti-convict movement.

After the separation from New South Wales the Legislative Council of Victoria, of which Mr. Mackinnon was a member, passed a Convicts Prevention Act, and he took a leading part with those who insisted that the law should he maintained. He took, indeed, a strong interest in all the public affairs of the day, was a member of the original council of the University of Melbourne, and was the first chairman of the building committee of that body. Mr. Mackinnon was much attached to the University project, and he continued to be a member of the council until July, 185?. Many years later a well-executed bust of the benefactor was presented to the University by Mrs. L. C. Mackinnon. It stands in the Wilson Hall to-day. Mr. Mackinnon passed the last years of his life in England. He had a stroke of paralysis on February 19, 1888, and died

Sourced from :

Image of The Argus building, corner Latrobe St and Elizabeth St, Melbourne and a W2 class tram, December 1959 :


The Argus newspaper masthead included the words :  I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list.   These same words were also embossed in large letters on the tiles on the back wall of the entrance foyer of the Argus Latrobe St building.   The words remain on the building wall, but today are covered in plaster.  This expression was first used by John Knox, founder of the Reformed Church of Scotland (1513-1572) in discussions with Mary Queen of Scots.  Further information on – The Argus Motto – is available at


The LKS Mackinnon Stakes
The LKS Mackinnon Stakes is a Victoria Racing Club Group 1 2000 metre (mile and a  quarter) Thoroughbred horse race run under Weight for Age conditions. The race is held at  Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia on the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup. The race is named after a former chairman of the VRC L.K.S. Mackinnon.  L.K.S. Mackinnon was a cousin of Lauchlan Mackinnon.

Sources : and

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