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Philip MacMahon

1857 - 1911
Kew gardener 1881
b. Dublin, Ireland, 13 December 1857; d. Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia, 14 April 1911

Curator, Botanic Gardens, Hull, 1882. On botanical exploration to Central America. In India 1887. To Victoria, Australia, 1888. Curator, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, 1889. Director of Forests, Queensland, 1905.

MacMahon left Ireland to work for a large agency in Chester, before gaining a studentship to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 1881. Upon the recommendation of Kew’s Director, Joseph Hooker, he was appointed as curator to the Botanic Gardens at Hull in March 1882.

After serving five years in Yorkshire (during which time he visited central America) he went on to work in tropical agriculture in India.  In 1888 he moved to Melbourne, Australia, where he first worked as a journalist for the newspaper, the Daily Telegraph.  In April 1889 he was appointed curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Queensland, the position later being upgraded to director.

Writing extensively during his sixteen years’ service at the Botanic Gardens, he made a significant contribution to Queensland horticulture.  On 1 November 1905 he was appointed Director of Forests, Queensland. While inspecting Fraser Island he was taken ill suddenly and died.

He ‘combined with a keen interest in scientific horticulture the poetic temperament, a lively imagination, and a ready tongue’.


Desmond, R. (1994), Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists, Taylor & Francis & The Natural History Museum, London, p. 458.

‘W.’ (1912), In Memoriam, Philip MacMahon, Journal of The Kew Guild for 1911, p. 49, portrait facing p. 47.