Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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McDONALD, Francis Neil

McDONALD, Francis Neil

Francis Neil McDonald, farmer and later, real estate agent, first specialized in the successful breeding of Poll Merino sheep on the family property in New South Wales. The extended McDonald family had land holdings across northern Victoria and southern NSW.

Neil was born at Koondrook in northern Victoria on the 8 August, 1938. His early years were spent on the family property, ‘Myrtle Downs’, 35 km west of Barham in southern NSW and his first six years of education occurred at Caldwell State School, a single teacher school. Attendance at school required driving a horse and cart 8 km each day to school. Weekends and holiday periods were occupied as full-time help on the family farm. The nearest secondary school was 35 km away at Barham, so like many children in remote Australia, Neil was sent to a boarding school - Geelong College. Several cousins were already at the College. Neil’s two brothers Graeme Charles McDonald (1937-1976) and Murray Letcher McDonald (1942-1976) also boarded at College. His sister, Janice, attended Morongo from 1958 to 1964.

'Ian' McDonald

'Ian' McDonald

Neil boarded at the College from 1951 to 1956 as a member, variously, of Mackie, Warrinn and Senior House. In 1955, a very successful year for Geelong College rowing, Neil stroked the winning 2nd VIII at the Head of the River on the Barwon River. On returning to College for his final year, full of expectation for academic and rowing successes, he was diagnosed with a rare illness, Murray Valley Encephalitis, a mosquito born disease, which often caused inflammation of the brain. He spent the next 10 days in a coma in Geelong Hospital and the remainder of term one in the College hospital. For him it was the end of a possible successful final year at school.

On returning home at the end of 1956, Neil became very involved in the family Merino stud breeding enterprise on the property ‘Old Cobran’ near Deniliquin NSW. On 30 July 1976, in a tragic aeroplane accident, his father and two brothers were killed in Central NSW. Neil, the remaining male member of the family, continued to operate the family farming business until the properties were sold in 1993 when the Estate was wound up.

In the 17 years prior to the sale of the property, the stud merino enterprise achieved great success, winning Grand Champion ribbons in state sheep shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Dubbo and Queensland. In 1983, Neil was presented with an 'Advance Australia Award' by the Governor of NSW in recognition of the successful breeding and development of the Poll Merino (a Merino ram without horns).

Following the sale of ‘Old Cobran’ in 1993, Neil, now known as 'Ian', moved to Cairns where he operated a Real Estate agency until his retirement in 2010. He now lives with his partner Merle in Cairns and attends the James Cook University as a full time student. With his first wife, Faye, he had 3 sons. Two became accountants and one works as a plastic surgeon in Geelong, his children attending Geelong College.

Sources: F N McDonald.
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