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McDonald, James Benjamin (Doctor)

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1813
Place of birth Ireland
Date of arrival 1841
Principal occupation Doctor
Date of departure 1851
Date of death 1878
Place of decease Blackrock, County of Dublin, Ireland

James Benjamin McDonald was born in Ireland circa 1813 and he married Emma Carmichael. His parentage, place of birth and date of marriage are unknown. It is also unknown if he had children. As he is a signatory to a letter to Governor Gawler expressing concerns regarding the finances of the colony, it is clear that he had arrived in Adelaide by March 1841.

By September 1843 he was living at Willunga, exhibiting dairy cattle in competition with Mr Edward Loud. Dr McDonald stated ‘both lots of cows had been selected from the same herd, (Mr E Sturt’s), the Cattle … had been culled from that gentleman’s herd in Port Phillip District’. After the exhibition, the men dined at the Old Bush Inn. In May 1844, Dr McDonald supported the formation of the Southern Races (horse racing) located at ‘a naturally formed course of ample extent near Willunga’ with the ‘Bush Hotel’ catering for the event.

In February 1845, Dr McDonald reported on the use of the Ridley reaper and thresher, stating that in seven weeks, ‘upwards of two hundred and sixteen acres of wheat in the most creditable manner at a cost of about five pence per bushel’ was completed. He charged ten shillings per acre for the use of the machine. Later, in March 1846, he was in dispute with John Holman, the latter complaining the doctor had shot his dog and called him ‘a blood-thirsty Irishman’. Holman grabbed the doctor but they were separated by others.

In 1848, McDonald purchased a portion of Section 257 in the Hundred of Willunga and erected a home with a frontage adjacent to St Andrew’s Terrace. This house, known as ‘Prospect Villa’, was noted as being at the top of Doctor’s Hill, later known as Sara’s Hill, overlooking the Willunga township. The house was described as comfortable, of English architecture and having a slate verandah. In March 1850 he was a judge at the Willunga races.

Dr McDonald appears to have attended medical requests across a wide area - he reported on the birth at Meadows of a child with extra digits that were successfully removed. He also had diverse business interests - in October 1850, he advertised as a money lender for sums ranging from five pounds to five hundred pounds and was a trustee of the newly formed Willunga Land and Building Society, along with Robert Atkinson. In March 1851, he was one of several electors of Noarlunga and Willunga who supported Major O’Halloran as Legislative Council representative. That same year, Dr McDonald was listed as one of two medical practitioners residing in Willunga, living in ‘a residence and garden, with land adjoining, lately the property of Mr. Evelyn Sturt’. At a Public Meeting held at the Bush Inn in February 1852, he and others protested to the removal of police from Willunga. In the same month, he identified bones as ‘those of a male native’ dug up during an excavation to expand Mr Bassett's residence in Willunga. Later, in October 1852, he was amongst others who protested to changes to the Constitution.

However, by August 1853, Dr McDonald advertised that he was leaving the colony. On 30 January 1854, as he had by then returned to Ireland, he engaged Messrs Duval and Bagot as Powers of Attorney to sell his property . The builder George Sara purchased the property. On 1 May 1878, aged sixty-five years, Dr McDonald died at his house, ‘Willunga’, at Blackrock in the County of Dublin and was buried at the Deansgrange Cemetery, Dublin. He left an estate valued at £1000 to his wife, Emma, who later died on 1 April 1883. She was buried with him.


  • Extracts from SA General Registry Office (GRO) Information GRO - <>
  • Deansgrange Dublin Ireland cemetery <>
  • ‘Address to Governor Gawler Present March 23’ Southern Australian 23 March 1841:1
  • ‘Willunga’ Adelaide Observer 16 September 1843:5
  • ‘Local Provincial Intelligence’ Adelaide Observer 18 May 1844:4
  • ‘Labour Market – Corn Growing – Ridley’s South Australian Register 22 February 1845:2
  • ‘Dr McDonald’s testimony to the Efficiency of Ridley’s Reaping Machines.’ South Australian Register 22 February 1845:3
  • ‘Court of the Resident Magistrate’ South Australian 3 April 1846:3
  • Willunga History News re Dr McDonald <>
  • ‘The Willunga Races’ Adelaide Observer 9 March 1850:2
  • ‘Local Intelligence’ South Australian Register 20 April 1850:3
  • ‘Advertising’ South Australian Register 11 October 1850:4
  • ‘Advertising’ Adelaide Observer 8 March 1851:2
  • ‘Advertising’ South Australian Register 16 October 1850:2
  • ‘Sketches of the Present State of South Australia. No. V. – Willunga’ South Australian Register 26 March 1851:3
  • ‘Public Meeting at Willunga’ South Australian Register 23 February 1852:3
  • ‘Discovery of Human Remains at Willunga’ South Australian Register 19 February 1852:3
  • ‘Advertising’ South Australian Register 14 October 1852:4
  • ‘Advertising’ South Australian Register 27 August 1853:2
  • State Records SA GRS 12162 Consignment 00002 Unit Id 2 Description 278 RDS 2003/23 v 1:1.4.1
  • Findmypast Ireland Wills
  • ‘Legal Notices’ Irish Times 11 June 1878:8
  • Martin Dunstan Willunga Town and District 1837-1900\ Lynton Publications Adelaide 1977:105. Photograph showing Dr McDonald’s house at the top of Sara’s Hill (St Andrews Terrace)

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