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Biographical entry MacMahon, Philip John (1857 - 1911)

13 December 1857
Sandyford, Dublin, Ireland
12 April 1911
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia


Philip MacMahon was a horticulturist who received his training at the nursery firm of Dickson and Sons in Cheshire and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, before being appointed Curator of the Botanic Gardens in Hull, United Kingdom. He came to Australia in 1888. Appointed Curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in 1889, MacMahon revitalised the Gardens despite being hampered by few resources and a devastating flood in 1893. Many of his plantings were of indigenous plants, augmented by exotic species sourced through his international seed exchange program. MacMahon did much to popularise horticulture with his writings and lectures to the public and school children. In 1905 he became Director of Forests for the Queensland Government, in which role he pursued his long-standing interest in the propagation of trees and timber conservation. At the time of his death he was working on an inventory of Queensland timber reserves.



1881 - 1882
Career position - Gardener, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
1882 - 1887
Career position - Curator, Hull Botanic Gardens, United Kingdom
Life event - Arrived in Victoria
1889 - 1905
Career position - Director, Botanic Gardens, Brisbane
1905 - 1911
Career position - Director of Forests, Queensland Government

Published resources

Book Sections

  • Harrison, J., 'MacMahon, Philip John (1857-1911)', in Christopher Cunneen (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. Supplement, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2005, pp. 255-6. Details
  • Holzworth, P., 'Early Queensland forestry: George Board and Philip MacMahon', in Dargavel, J. Gaughwin, D. and Libbis, D (eds), Australia's ever-changing forests V: proceedings of the fifth National Conference in Australian Forest History, Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Canberra, 2002, pp. 342-56. Details

Journal Articles

  • Dowe, John Leslie, 'Philip John MacMahon: Brisbane Botanic Gardens curator 1889 - 1905 and his vision of Brisbane as a "City of palms"', Queensland History Journal, vol. 23, no. 8, 2018, pp. 507-21. Details
  • Harrison, Jennifer, 'An Irish horticulturist in Queensland: the Philip MacMahon story', Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, vol. 16, no. 1, 1996, pp. 31-7. Details


See also

  • Griggs, P. D., 'Creating shady places: street tree-planting in Queensland towns and cities', Queensland History Journal, vol. 22, no. 6, 2014, pp. 441-5. Details

Helen Cohn