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Fergus McMaster

Early in February 2020, Sir Fergus McMaster’s daughter-in-law, the widow of his son, Duncan, moved to a nursing home. During the clean-up, the family found, at the bottom a drawer, a document they thought had long been lost – a carbon copy of notes Sir Fergus had dictated to Duncan in the late 1940s about the genesis of QANTAS in 1920, starting with the meeting at the Gresham Hotel in the last week of July – Exhibition week. Many of those mentioned were in Brisbane for the Ekka which was opened that year by the visiting Prince of Wales. The following paragraphs are an excerpt from these notes.

‘While on a visit to Brisbane, and staying at the Gresham Hotel, McGinness and Fysh called on me and gave me an outline of a proposition for a Joy-flight and Taxi Air Work in Western Queensland, and the Northern Territory. As already stated, the close personal appreciation of myself for McGinness had been established, and when they put their proposition before me, I was quite prepared to assist – not only personally, but to raise sufficient capital to finance the venture. When they left me in that lounge room, I looked across and notices Mr A N Templeton, a wool-grower from the Longreach district – and Longreach was prosperous in those days with wool paying about somewhere between £25 and £35 a bale, a quite different proposition to today. I explained to Templeton the proposition put up to me by McGinness and Fysh, told him about the breakdown in the Cloncurry River (where he met McGinness), the good work that Fysh and McGinness had put up in Palestine, and that there was no doubt in my mind that – although the venture of an air service in the outback was not a gilt-edged investment – aviation should be (the next few words at the bottom of the page are missing).

‘Chance again probably played its part, for Templeton did not hesitate to say that whatever I put in, he would cover, and he was better than his word!

‘After finalising the discussion with Mr Templeton, and not having any business engagements for the afternoon, I strolled over to John Thompson’s Bookshop, 311 Queen Street. He and I had been in the AIF together, and I gave John the whole story. He parted up a “cool” £100! From Thompson, I went across to Eagle Street, and told the story to Mr Allan Campbell, Managing Director of the Queensland Primary Producers Association Ltd, and he also parted up, as well as undertook to act as Secretary pro tem until the venture got on its feet. Fortunately, after leaving Campbell, I met the late Mr T J O’Rourke in Queen Street, the largest storekeeper in Winton, and also a man with considerable personal interests. Generous to the needy, but with a reputation of being very careful regarding investments, I placed the proposition before him with little hope of support. To my surprise, he suggested that I walk back with him to his hotel, where he drew a cheque for £250, and said that there was another there for the same amount if required later on. I noticed that he marked his cheque butt “Donation” and I never heard the result regarding the Taxation Commissioner. (This may have  been directed at Duncan who was an accountant.)

It can be seen that, at this stage, very little trouble was experienced in securing the initial capital.’

After being assured of sufficient capital for this “Joy-flight and Taxi Service”, Fysh and McGinness left Brisbane for Sydney and Melbourne. In Sydney, they placed an order with the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company Ltd, for the construction at their Sydney Workshops of two Avro Dyak 504K Aircraft. That Company, for various reasons, was unable to complete the order, and perhaps it was just as well, for Q.A.N.T.A.S in those days, that only one machine was built.

Just about that time, the “Daily Mail”, London, offered a prize of £10, 000 for the best commercial aircraft. This prize was won by an Avro Triplane, and after making the fullest inquiries possible in both Melbourne and London, it was decided to purchase a triplane to operate a service between Longreach and Winton, a distance of 108 miles, to a schedule of one hour forty minutes. That triplane crashed in Sydney, and never saw the West, but about £3000 of the limited capital of the Company went west. With the letting of the above Contract to the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company Ltd., and the ordering of the triplane, the dye was cast, and troublous days overtook the new venture.

(Curators not – There is a little confusion here – the British Air Ministry, not the “Daily Mail” ran the competition and the Avro Triplane was rejected for not meeting the speed requirements and because the undercarriage collapsed while the aircraft was parked.)

I have no record regarding the registration of the Company, but it is evident that it was named in the first place “The Western Queensland Auto Aero Service Ltd.” For that name is in the agreement dated August 19th, 1920, entered into regarding the Contract for the construction of the two Avro Aircraft with the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Co. Ltd., Sydney.

The Certificate of Incorporation of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd. Was given under seal at Brisbane on 16th November, 1920, and numbered 146 of 1920. The name “Q.A.N.T.A.S” was later coined, with “Anzac” as its inspiring factor.

The original Memorandum and Articles reads:

“We, the several persons whose names and addresses are subscribed, are desirous of being formed into a Company in pursuance of this Memorandum of Association, and we respectfully agree to take the number of shares in the capital of the Company set opposite our respective names.

John Thompson, 311 Queen Street, Brisbane

Allan Campbell, Commercial Union Chambers, Eagle Street, Brisbane, Company Manager

Hubert Thorne Hill Weedon, Oondooroo Street, Winton, Solicitor

Fergus McMaster, Dagworth Street, Winton, Grazier

Charles James Anthony Brabazon, Elderslie Station, Winton, Grazier

Ainsley Neville Templeton, Acacia Downs, Grazier

Paul Joseph McGinness, Winton, Grazier and Aviator

Hudson Fysh, Winton, Aviator

McMaster’s bracketed comment (Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, even, gave their addresses as “Winton.”)


The provisional Directors were:

Fergus McMaster, Winton, Chairman

A N Templeton, Longreach

P J McGinness, Warrnambool, Victoria

Alexander Kennedy, Grazier, Brisbane

T B McIntosh, Wollongorang, Northern Territory, Grazier


Secretary, Pro tem

Allan W Campbell, Company Manager, Brisbane



Bank of New South Wales, Winton



Cannan & Peterson, Brisbane


By arrangement, Hudson Fysh was not on the Provisional Board, for it was felt that, as he and McGinness were the two pilots, only one should be on the Board. Hudson Fysh stood down.

It will be noticed that, with the exception of Mr McGinness, all the Provisional Directors were Graziers in the far west of Queensland and the Northern Territory. Out of these five Provisional Directors, two have passed to the Beyond, – Alexander Kennedy and T B McIntosh, both sturdy Scots and pioneers of the pastoral industry, but, even so late in their years, willing pioneers of aviation.’


Courtesy, Fergus McMaster (grandson of Sir Fergus)

Transcribed & annotated by Tom Harwood

Curator, QFM



For those who want to learn more about Fergus McMaster. Our Founders store is selling a new book by Elizabeth Fysh called “When Chairmen Were Patriots”

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