STUART Richard McDonald (pictured) was not just a pillar of the community, he was a veritable rock on which a lot of success and progress was built throughout the Campaspe region.
Born in Rochester in 1928 to Lily (nee Scurrah) and Angus McDonald, Stuart was the eldest of three brothers – followed by Russ (deceased) and Murray.
From his earliest days at Timmering East Primary School, where he started in 1934, it was clear he would be an exceptional scholar.
In 1940, soon after the outbreak of World War II, Stuart arrived at Echuca High School for five years and then completed his secondary education in 1945 at University High School before taking a place as a science undergraduate at the University of Melbourne.
He completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and then a Masters, majoring in chemistry and metallurgy.
He worked at CSIRO for a short time and was a resident tutor at his alma mater’s Trinity College.
Like many of his generation, who had come off the land, fate would intervene to change his life direction.
Stuart was preparing to relocate to England to do his PhD when his father became unwell and Stuart made the decision to forego his academic future and returned to Timmering to manage the family farm.
But there was a silver lining in this particular cloud – it was at this time he also met Barbara Sanders, from Birchip and teaching in Melbourne, who in 1954 would become his wife and they would have three children (Marie, Ian and Fiona).
Back on the farm Stuart focused his considerable intellect on a new set of problems, becoming a successful irrigation farmer producing cereals, sunflowers, hay and beef cattle.
His son Ian said Stuart’s interest in the welfare of all farmers led to his involvement in the Australian Primary Producers Union and Victorian Farmers’ Union.
It stirred an early interest in politics and with Country Party Federal Leader (and for 22 days Prime Minister following the disappearance of Harold Holt at Cheviot beach in 1967) Black Jack McEwen as a next-door neighbour his entry into the Country Party was a given.
“With McEwen as a mentor Dad joined the Country Party and then entered the Victorian Legislative Council in 1967 as one of two members for Northern Province (which stretched from Heathcote to Echuca),” Ian said.
“He was then elected leader of the Country Party in the Council some years after and held office until 1979 when his Province was abolished in an electoral review,” he said.
“Dad stood unsuccessfully for Bendigo Province as a result – but that did not slow down his determination to do everything he could to help others.
“In 1982 he became the National Party’s Victorian president and then federal president from 1987-1990.”
Stuart would also play a dynamic role with the Rural Finance Corporation, which under his 12 years of guidance as its chairman, became a significant and vital player in the support of rural populations.
In 1992 Stuart chaired a committee reviewing the rural water industry in Victoria, which led to the ‘Future Management Review’, known thereafter as the McDonald Report.
Three years later he was made a Member of the Order of Australia at which time he said his schooling at Echuca High School was the cornerstone for his career and achievements.
“I made good friends there and the education I received formed a good basis going into my university career,” he explained.
Stuart is survived by his children; Marie, Ian and Fiona, their partners; Sandy, Ann and Tony and grandchildren Jessica, Thomas, Xenia and Angus.