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Richard Graves MacDonnell: Wikis


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Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell

In office
11 March 1866 – 16 April 1872
Preceded by Hercules Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead
Succeeded by Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy

Born 3 September 1814(1814-09-03)
Dublin, Ireland
Died 5 February 1881 (aged 66)
Hyères, France
Spouse(s) Blanche Ann Skurray
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin

Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell KCMG CB (Chinese name: 麥當奴) (3 September 1814 – 5 February 1881) was an Anglo-Irish lawyer, judge and colonial governor. His posts as governor included Governor of the British Settlements in West Africa, Governor of Saint Vincent, Governor of South Australia, Governor of Nova Scotia and Governor of Hong Kong.


Early life

R.G. MacDonnell was born in Dublin 8 September 1814, the second son of Rev. Richard MacDonnell, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and Jane (1793-1882), the second daughter of The Very Rev. Richard Graves. MacDonnell entered Trinity College, Dublin in 1830, elected a scholar in 1833, and graduated B.A. in 1835, M.A. in 1836, LL.B. in 1845, and LL.D. in 1862.[1][2]

Legal Career, Early Colonial Services

MacDonnell was called to the Irish bar in 1838, and to the English bar, at Lincoln’s Inn on 25 January 1841. On 20 July 1843, he was appointed chief justice of The Gambia, and on 1 October 1847, governor of the British settlements on Gambia.

While holding that post, MacDonnell (a relation of Richard Francis Burton) 'indulged his passion for exploration and organised punitive campaigns against unruly native tribes'. His expeditions opened up the interior of Africa from the Gambia River to the Senegal River. The military expeditions which he accompanied against native tribes who had long oppressed the traders of the river were a success.

In 1852 (when he was also gazetted C.B.), he was nominated as lieutenant governor of St. Lucia, but without taking up the post he was sent on 10 January 1853 to become administrator and captain-general of the island of St. Vincent. He was Lt.-General of St Vincent 1853-54.

Governor of South Australia

Described as a 'dominant personality' and having gained a reputation for forthrightness and intolerance MacDonnell was appointed the sixth Governor of South Australia, arriving on 9 June 1855, taking over from Boyle Finniss who had been acting since Henry Young left. MacDonnell was soon involved in the debate on the composition of the legislature; MacDonnell favoured a single chamber while the majority of colonists preferred a two-house system. Eventually a two-house system prevailed, although the upper house had a property franchise. Difficulties between the governor and officials led to several changes of government. In 1856 he had been knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

MacDonnell aided in opening up the Murray River and in developing the resources of the colony. He left South Australia on 4 March 1862.

Governor of Nova Scotia

On the recommendation of his predecessor, George Phipps, 2nd Marquess of Normanby, MacDonnell was appointed Governor of Nova Scotia from 28 May 1864 until October 1865. His arrival coincided with the formation of the new Dominion of Canada, making his appointement short lived.

Governor of Hong Kong

On 19 October 1865, MacDonnell was appointed as the sixth Governor of Hong Kong, a position in which he served until 1872. During his tenure, MacDonnell developed Victoria Peak, which would eventually become the premier residential quarters in Hong Kong, accessible only to rich European merchants. MacDonnell also ordered the construction of a hospital which catered to the needs of the local Chinese population. In addition, he legalized gambling in Hong Kong which led to social problems and was later made illegal once again. In 1871 he was gazetted K.C.M.G.

Finally, MacDonnell's administration was marred by a huge budget deficit, which resulted in the government asking the HSBC for a financial aid package. The administration was also damaged by the actions of the Canton Customs agency, who patrolled the waters off Hong Kong and boarded ships to search for smuggled goods. This was called by Hong Kong's British merchant community a blockade, and affected Hong Kong's economy for the next 20 years.

Marriage and Retirement

In 1847 MacDonnell married Blanche Ann, daughter of Francis Skurray of Beckington, Somerset, who lived at Stanhope Place, Hyde Park and Percy Cross Lodge, Fulham, before retiring to 5 Brunswick Square, Brighton. Sir Richard and Lady MacDonnell lived near Hyde Park in London and after his retirement they spent much time in Italy and France, dying at Hyères, on 5 February 1881. They are buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, and died without children.

Publications with his involvement

  • The Church of the Future, an address by the Rev. Thomas Binney in 1859
  • Christian Union, as discussed by the Bishop of Adelaide
  • "Sir R. C. MacDonnell, &c.,, 1859
  • A lecture on ‘Australia,’ Dublin, 1864

Places named after him

See also


  1. ^ "Richard MacDonnell". Dr. Chris Oakley. Retrieved 2007-10-31.  
  2. ^ "Jane Graves". Dr. Chris Oakley. Retrieved 2007-10-31.  


Serle, Percival (1949). "MacDonnell, Richard Graves". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.  

Government offices
Preceded by
Charles Fitzgerald
Governor of The Gambia
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy
Preceded by
John Campbell
Lieutenant Governor of Saint Vincent
Succeeded by
Edward John Eyre
Preceded by
Sir Henry Fox Young
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Sir Dominick Daly
Preceded by
Charles Hastings Doyle
Governor of Nova Scotia
Succeeded by
Sir William Fenwick Williams
Preceded by
Acting Administrator William Mercer
Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy


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