McARTHUR, Gordon Stewart (1896-1965)

Modified on Thu, 24 Aug 2017 12:15 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Collegians in the News 1911-1960, Biography - Students, Geelong College, Biography of Government, Administration and Politics, Biography of War - World War I

McARTHUR, Sir Gordon Stewart (1896-1965)

Sir Gordon Stewart McArthur (Pegasus, 1959).

Sir Gordon Stewart McArthur (Pegasus, 1959).

Sir Gordon MArthur, ‘parliamentarian, grazier and barrister, was born at South Yarra, Melbourne, third child of (Sir) William Gilbert Stewart McArthur, barrister, and his wife Margaret Rutherford, née Macpherson. He was educated at Geelong College from 1909 to 1915 where he excelled at sports. A member of the 1st Cricket Team from 1912 to 1915, the Athletics Team in 1913 and 1914, the 1st Football Team in 1915, the 1st Rowing Crew from 1913 to 1915 and Boat Captain in 1915, and the Shooting Team of 1913, Gordon was prominent across all sports. He was also a member of the Cricket, Rowing, Swimming and Tennis Committees and secretary of the Debating Society in 1915 as well as serving that year as a Lance-Sergeant in the Citizen Force Detachment. In 1914 and 1915, he was a School Prefect. Gordon left College during 1915 to go to England. He joined the Royal Field Artillery in June 1916 and, in August, 1916 gained a commission in the Officers’ Training Corps, in the 281st Brigade. Lieutenant G S McArthur crossed to France in September, 1916.

He ‘wrote numerous letters to his father who accompanied him to England after Gordon left Geelong College; and to his mother, who lived during the war at 19 Craven Hill Gardens, Lancaster Gate, London, along with several other Western District mothers who were based in the apartments there. The letters tell of his time in the Battery and the lead up to his wounding at Ypres on August 14th 1917. His leg was amputated at the Casualty Clearing Station. He then tells of his rehabilitation, and the fitting of his artificial limb and subsequent operations. In a letter dated 22nd January 1918 he described the circumstances of his wounding:

We were doing an SOS for our infanteers one night (when the infantry are being attacked they simply send back an 'SOS' to the gunners and we open fire in a prearranged barrage - our guns are always laid on this line when we're not firing so that we're able to open fire at a moment's notice) and the Hun opened up on us pretty fiercely as he knew where our battery was. I was running the show at the time as the Captain was at the wagon lines and the Major was temporarily commanding the Brigade while the Colonel was on leave. First of all I got a piece in the left leg which stung me a bit but felt alright till it got cold as 'twas only a flesh one, but about five minutes afterwards a 5.9 came along-it must have burst right beside No. 1 gun as it wounded eight men in A sub section but none badly -just little bits and I got my share in the knee which tipped me into a shell hole full of mud. Our Battery was then just along the Menin Road - we went up there on the 31st July which was the beginning of the Ypres stunt. We were covering Glencorse Copse and those places then. I had a fairly dicky time getting back to the CCS as the Hun made up his mind to shell the Menin Road like the deuce as they were carting me along. Thought I was going to get a few more pieces for luck -one of the bearers got a little piece but not much-got to the CCS about 3 am just about fed up.’

Gordon Stewart McArthur, 1913 (Shooting Team)

Gordon Stewart McArthur, 1913
(Shooting Team)

Following convalescence in 1918, he attended Jesus College, Cambridge graduating in Mechanical Science with 3rd Class Honours in 1921. In spite of his misfortune he stroked the Jesus College Eight for the Lent races, and rowed bow in the Head of the River races at Cambridge in 1919. After his return to Australia he commenced working as an engineer with Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd (BHP) at Newcastle and Whyalla. In 1926, he returned to England to study law and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, London in 1929. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1930. He did not however, practise law for long as in 1935, he inherited the family property Meningoort near Camperdown which he decided to manage. A year later, he married the daughter of Sir George Syme, Theodosia at Toorak. Despite his disability he was a dedicated horseman and became a keen golfer. One of his activities at Meningoort was thoroughbred horse breeding and his horse Chicquita was one of his more notable successes.

An affable easy-going individual he was elected to the Legislative Council for South-Western Province in June 1931 to become the third member of his family to enter parliament. He sat as a member of the United Australia Party, The Liberal Party and the Liberal-Country Party retaining his seat until 1965. He was created a Knight Bachelor in January, 1959.

In June 1955, McArthur's was appointed by the Premier (Sir) Henry Bolte, as a Minister without portfolio and the following year as Minister for Forests, State development and Decentralization. In July 1958, he was appointed President of the Legislative Council developing a reputation as a charming diffuser of dispute. He was knighted in 1959. He was a member of the Geelong College Council from 1945 to 1965. In 1965, he died in hospital at East Melbourne and received a state funeral and was interred at Camperdown. His eldest son Fergus Stewart McArthur, also a former Collegian, entered the House of Representatives in 1984.

Sources: Pegasus May 1920 pp29-30; Pegasus June 1959 p44; Obituary: Ad Astra September 1965 p6; Parliament of Victoria: R. Wright, 'McArthur, Sir Gordon Stewart (1896 - 1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000, pp 152-153; Extract from: James Affleck, Geelong Collegians’ at the Great War p247.