Donald MacDonald
Courtesy of State Library Victoria

The Australian journalist Donald MacDonald arrived in Auckland aboard the Wimmera from Sydney on 26 July 1908. His travel to New Zealand was as a special correspondent for the Argus newspaper – to report on the visit of the US Fleet.

A brief article on MacDonald’s visit was published under the Pars about People column of the Observer newspaper on 1 August 1908, ie.

DONALD MACDONALD, who arrived by the Wimmera on Sunday to represent the Melbourne Argus at the Fleet celebrations here, is perhaps the best known, the ablest, and the most versatile journalist in the Commonwealth. But he is something more. As a naturalist he has few equals, and in the field of ornithology be is far and away ahead of all competitors. His nature studies in the Australasian have been a specially attractive feature of that journal for many years, but the foundation of the author’s fame was firmly laid in a little volume which he published more than twenty years ago under the title “Gum Boughs and Wattle Bloom,” and which has now attained to the dignity of a classic.

Mr Macdonald, however, is better known to the general public as the representative of the Argus at the siege of Ladysmith, the accounts of which he subsequently published in his book, ” How We kept the Flag Flying”; and which also formed the subject matter of his interesting series of lectures delivered in Australia, this colony, and in England. He has also achieved some distinction as a novelist as part author of that characteristic and racy story ” A Warrigal’s Well.” His collaborates in this was a colleague on the Argus, the late John Frances Edgar, a talented young journalist, who gained his first experience in press work on the Waikato Times in the ‘eighties. Edgar succumbed to typhoid fever in a Melbourne hospital on the day his friend was liberated at Ladysmith. Mr Macdonald, besides all else, is a fine specimen of the Australian native, and, what is more to the purpose, one of the most loveable of men.

Aboard the Wimmera on the same voyage to Auckland as MacDonald was Commander Pethebridge (also in connection with the visit of the American Fleet) as well as the 104-strong Williamson’s Pantomime Company, returning members of the Maori football team, Annie Besant, Bert Gilbert & Mrs Gilbert and Harry Shine & Mrs Shine.