Scrapbooks of Colin Ferguson Macdonald

Circa 1934-1968, MS Number 001811.01-07 (Boxes F025-F028)

By Ashley Smith.


Colin Ferguson Macdonald (1895-1969) was a respected radiologist who worked in the field for over 40 years. He was an honorary radiologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital from 1933-1949, and the director of Radiology at the Royal Women’s Hospital (1955-1963). He was also known for his skills as an orator, and a keen historian who was a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria from 1932 to 1968, including a stint as president (1959-1961).

Description of item

Amongst the archives, the Society holds a collection of scrapbooks relating to the life of Colin Macdonald. They provide insight into Colin’s personal and professional life, with the various photographs, articles, letters and other materials collected from the 1930s until shortly before Colin’s death.

Combined, the materials focus on Colin’s interests. It includes numerous newspaper articles relating to education, and newsletters and paraphernalia relating to institutions such as Scotch College, Melbourne University and Ormond College, reflecting the events and activities surrounding these institutions during the mid-twentieth century. There is also correspondence with other colleges and research subjects, and copies of articles he wrote for the Victorian Historical Journal. One of the folders consists of his research of notable Scottish-Australians and paraphernalia from the Clan Macdonald Society of Victoria, reflecting his interest in history and pride for his Scottish heritage. Also represented are numerous invitations to social events, giving insight to Colin’s lifestyle as well as the respect he received from friends or other colleges in the medical field.

Notable items

Anything in italics is quoted from the item, transcribed by Ashley Smith

(MS 001811.01/35, Box F025) Correspondence from a ‘Charlie Cameron’, dated 4th December 1951. This handwritten letter appears to be a reaction to a letter from Colin. In it, Charlie recalls his experiences with John Bernard O’Hara (1862-1927), a teacher from the South Melbourne College in the late 19th century.

(MS 001811.01/62, Box F025)– A reprint of an article written by Colin from the Victorian Historical Magazine, December 1941. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Ormond College (located at the University of Melbourne), it surrounds the life of its founder, Francis Ormond (1827-1889). This piece would have been a personal paper for Colin, as he had been a student at Ormond College and remained involved in the College’s activities for most of his life. It is one of three copies found in the scrapbooks (MS 001811.02/29, Box F025 and MS 001811.07/51, Box F028)

(MS 001811.02/18, Box F025) Correspondence between Colin and A.G. MacDonald  from 1963, where the former recounts his family history for the latter’s research.

Colin (6th July 1963): ‘My father, also Colin Ferguson Macdonald, came from Inverness in Melbourne in 1887 in the clipper “Loch Vennacher” of the well-known Loch line which sailed between Melbourne and Glasgow for many years.’

(MS 001811.03/02-03, Box F026) Two folders titled “Scottish Contribution to Victoria Development”. Amongst the materials are several drafts and copies of brief biographies of notable of Scottish-Australians and their contribution to Victorian history. Names mentioned include newspaper proprietor David Syme, bookseller George Robertson and Francis Ormond.

(MS 001811.03/04.01-16, Box F026) Correspondence, dated 1947-48, for research on a biography for the first Master of Ormond College, Sir John Macfarland (1851-1935). Here, Colin writes letters to several individuals in Ireland (including surviving relatives of Macfarland) in order to gain knowledge of Macfarland’s life before coming to Australia in 1881. Amongst the replies is a transcript for letters from MacFarland, dated 1881, and two transcripts of letters from 1850 (involving John’s father). This gives some insight into the way Colin approached historical research.

Some of these transcribed extracts were later featured in a 1954 article about Macfarland for the Victorian Historical Journal, written by Colin (MS 001811.07/08, Box F028).

(MS 001811.03/19, Box F026) An envelope consisting of a certificate of Gaelic Membership of the Celtic Society at the University of Edinburgh 1870, along with a list of members and a photo of the Society. Handwriting on the envelope indicates that this was presented to the Clan Macdonald Society of Victoria by Rev Alexander Macdonald in 1934 (possibly as a museum or display piece), yet appears to have been kept by Colin.

(MS 001811.04/46, Box F027) Letter from medical practitioner A.E Rowden White (1874-1963), dated 21st November 1958, praising Colin for an Oration at the Royal College of Radiologists of Australasia. This gives insight to the regard his colleges gave to his speeches.

“Doris and I were delighted with your good humour and your fine diction and splendid delivery. You had the whole audience in a state of expectancy not knowing what was going to turn up next….”

(MS001811.07/15, Box F028) Two used tickets (pictured right) from the 1956 Olympic Games, dated November 22nd (opening ceremony). Other than being an item from a significant event in Victoria’s history, these tickets indicates Colin’s love of sport. There are other Melbourne Cricket Club memorabilia in these scrapbooks, suggesting his membership with the MCC.

Further reading

Macdonald, C, ‘Early letters of John Macfarland, First master of Ormond College, University of Melbourne’, The Victorian Historical Journal, vol.25, issue 100, 1954, p.144-58.

Perry, W, ‘The Late Dr Colin Ferguson Macdonald’, The Victorian Historical Journal, vol.40, Issue 158, 1969, p.204-213.

The Royal Womens Hospital, ‘Colin Ferguson Macdonald 1895-1969’,

See this collection on the RHSV catalogue