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Randal MacDonnell (1830–1877)

The announcement of the death of Mr. Randal MacDonnell will be received with sincere regret by a very large number of persons of all classes. During a period of sixteen years, his duties as Inspector of Schools, and for a considerable portion of that time, as Secretary to the Board of Education also, brought him into contact with people in all parts of the colony; and while he made many warm personal friends, he rarely failed to impress those whom he met with the conviction that his best efforts were given to the work of perfecting the administration of our education system and spreading its advantages. Mr. MacDonnell held a leading position in the Education Department of New South Wales previous to Separation, and on the passing of our Education Act in 1860 was recommended in the very highest terms by Sir Charles Nicholson, chairman of the Board of Education in that colony, as capable of "creating and administering a public school system worthy of the high aspirations of the first Parliament of Queensland." He received the appointment of General Inspector of Primary Schools, to which, on the death of Mr. Bourne, the duties of secretary to the Board of Education were added. He at the same time undertook the formation and supervision of a training school for teachers, and it is not too much to say that the whole force of his very energetic and practical mind was from 1860 to 1875, applied unreservedly to the work for which Sir Charles Nicholson pronounced him so competent, and that to his administration was mainly due the excellent working of our Primary School system during the period mentioned. Towards the latter end of 1875 Mr. MacDonnell, being then in rather delicate health, obtained leave of absence, and made a tour of the southern colonies, devoting much of the time at his disposal to making himself intimately acquainted with the working of the different educational systems of the places visited. After about eight months had expired he returned to Brisbane and resumed his duties in the Education Department. Differences of opinion, however, soon after arose between the Minister for Education and, Mr. MacDonnell as to the precise position and duties of the latter, which eventuated in that gentleman's resignation in March, 1876. Though his trip south had partially restored his health, the good effect thus produced was not lasting, and the mental worry and anxiety which arose out of the new order of things in the Education Department had a very injurious effect upon him. His health failed rapidly after his retirement from a life of official activity which so many years in harness had made almost necessary to him, and for some months previous to his death he had been in a very precarious condition and for weeks had not left his house. He was for some time past perfectly aware, as were his friends, that the disease of the lungs, from which he suffered, would before long terminate fatally, and early on Friday morning he died very peacefully. His remains will be brought in to St. Stephen's Cathedral this morning, where Requiem Mass will be celebrated at half-past nine o'clock, and his funeral will leave the Cathedral for the cemetery at a quarter to four o'clock.

Original publication

Citation details

'MacDonnell, Randal (1830–1877)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


22 June, 1877 (aged ~ 47)
Milton, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


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