Donald Mackechnie

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Donald Mackechnie
Died 18 May 1920
Other names aka Edward Lawson
Occupation Soldier
Years active 1917-1919
Known for Old Racecourse Hotel
Home town Hepburn
Spouse(s) Edith Mary MacKechnie

Donald Mackechnie was a publican in Hepburn, 1917-1919.

History[edit | edit source]

Donald Mackechnie was granted the license for the Old Racecourse Hotel at Hepburn in March 1917. The hearing was contested by the Licensing Inspector who seemed to have doubts about the character of McKechnie and his wife. During the hearing McKechnie told the court he had used an assumed name, Edward Lawson, while serving with the army:

A V.C. SOLDIER'S APPLICATION. At the Licensing' Court, Melbourne, on Monday last, Donald Mackechnie. V.C., applied for a transfer of the license of the Old Racecourse Hotel, Hepburn, from Mrs Hayes. Mr H. A. M. Bromfield, solicitor,of Daylesford, appeared for applicant, and Superintendent Macmanamy, of Ballarat, district Licensing Inspector, appeared in opposition to the application. Inspector Macmanamy based his objection on two grounds. The first was that applicant's wife had been refused the license at a previous sitting of the court, and would be assisting applicant in carrying on the business if the license were granted to him, and the second was that applicant was not a fit and proper person to hold a license.

Constable McCall was called by the Inspector as a witness. He stated that he knew applicant, who used to frequent the Royal Hotel at Williamstown, when his (Mackechnie's) wife had been licensee of it. He had often seen Mackechnie intoxicated. Cross-examined by Mr Bromfield,Constable McCall admitted that the last time he had seen Mackechnie the worse for drink had been in November 1914. Inspector Macmanamy gave evidence that he had searched the records of the Army List and had been unable to find the name "Mackechnie " recorded as that of a V.C. winner. The only Mac on the list had been a soldier named MacKay.
Mr Bromfield, for applicant, suggested that it was of no importance to the matter of the application whether Mackechnie had obtained a V.C. or not. Applicant, how ever, would go into the box and give a full account of the matter. Mackechnie had been for 26 years in the service of his country as a soldier, and in the navy, and had been through six campaigns, the last one being the historic landing at Gallipoli, where he was wounded and incapacitated. After rendering the loyal and faithful services to the Empire, to which allusion had just been made, counsel added, Mackechnie had returned to his adopted country had married, and was now desirous of settling down and supplementing the small pension he was receiving by carrying on a little country hotel, and he hoped, counsel did also, that the court would be able, without interfering in any way with public interests, to grant the application and give him the opportunity he desired.

Mackechnie, on being called, gave evidence corroborative of his counsel's statement, and related that he had seen service in India, under Sir Bindon Blood, on the north western frontier, and had been with Colonel Younghusband in the advance on Lassa when the Llama came out and surrendered. He had also served in Somaliland and in the South African war, as well as at Gallipoli. He had obtained his V.C. at Dargai Heights for courageous conduct in carrying in wounded soldiers under a fierce fire. Mackechnie was pressed by Inspector Macmanamy to explain how it had been that he (the Inspector) had not been able to discover his name on the Army list as that of a V.C. recipient. Mackechnie replied that he had run away from home when twelve years of age, and had joined the Gordon Highlanders under the assumed name of Edward Lawson. He had won the V.C. under that name and its number was 42. Mackechnie further stated the color of the V.C. and other distinctive features of it and declared that he had embarked all the money he had in the venture and would lose it if the license were refused. The court, after a very short deliberation unanimously decided to grant the application.[1]

It appears the Licensing Inspector was correct in his belief that Mackechnie was a fraud. While he had served with the Gordon Highlanders as he claimed, he had not won a VC, and had served under his own name. Edward Lawson, winner of the Victoria Cross, was a real soldier in the same units as Mackechnie. Mackechnie's fraud had been discovered when he was wounded at Gallipoli and was being returned to Australia. By 1917, when he was granted the license, he was already suffering from alcoholism, and his quickly deteriorated both physically and mentally. Later in the year he was placed in an institution fort the insane in Ballarat, where he died on the 18 May 1920.

For the details of Donald Mackechnie's military service and life, read Donald MacKechnie, "The fraud"

For details of Edward Lawson, see Edward Lawson, VC.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1917 'A V.C. SOLDIER'S APPLICATION.', Daylesford Advocate, Yandoit, Glenlyon and Eganstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), 23 March, p. 3. , viewed 24 Dec 2022,

External links[edit | edit source]