McDONALD, Margaret (1920-2018)

Honorary Life Member 1973


Margaret Edith Beatrice McDonald was a quiet stalwart of the Illawarra Historical Society.  She joined the Society in 1959 soon after moving to Wollongong.  Margaret had worked previously at the Mitchell Library in Sydney for 20 years.  It was there that she developed her extensive knowledge of historical resources and was in-charge of reading room services.  At the Wollongong Public Library, she worked with city librarian, Dolph Murray, to create a superb library service well ahead of most local government areas in NSW.

The city library service had commenced in 1946 and was located in the School of Arts building in Crown St adjacent to the Wollongong Hotel.  In 1959, the collection was moved into the former council offices across the road.  Margaret’s domain, the reference library, was located on the first floor.  She developed a comprehensive book collection that was a reliable source of information in a pre-Google age and assisted local students to excel in their studies.

Margaret’s brother, Bill, was a solicitor whose knowledge of local history was prodigious. He joined the Illawarra Historical Society in 1951.  Bill and other Society members were concerned that many local historical documents were in danger of being lost or destroyed.  They began to collect items and sought a safe place for them.  Margaret undertook to store and catalogue items so that they were preserved and available for research.  She also actively sought items for the local studies collection and it became a model for similar collections throughout NSW.

Her library knowledge and skills were put to good use within the Historical Society.  Margaret undertook research for the Society and wrote for the Society’s Bulletin.  When the Society decided to establish a museum, Margaret became an active volunteer.  She assisted with the establishment of the exhibits and researched donated items.  After she retired in 1978, Margaret volunteered on a Thursday to open the museum.  She continued to volunteer until 2016.

At the library, Margaret was always referred to as ‘Miss McDonald’ and her appearance could quell rowdy behaviour without a word being spoken.  Her reserved personality and upright bearing could be intimidating for young library users and junior staff members but they soon discovered her gentle nature, erudite knowledge and her willingness to help.  Her advice or comment was often delivered with a humorous note.

At meetings of the Society and at the Museum, Margaret quietly provided support wherever and whenever she thought necessary.  Margaret never sought public recognition for her contribution, but the Society showed its appreciation and respect by awarding her life membership.

John Shipp

6 Jul 2018

Margaret in 2013
Funeral card
Eulogy 6 July 2018