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explainer | margaret macdonald


The finer details of our stories explained.

explainer | margaret macdonald

Three Gates Media


Margaret spent her childhood in Wales, where her father began work in a coal mine aged 12. Coal mining was very important to Wales’ economic prosperity, once employing over 250,000 people, however the risks to the miners themselves were significant. This article states that Welsh coal mining saw horrors almost unsurpassed in peacetime due to the fragility of the geology around the mines.  Between 1851 and 1920 there were 3000 deaths in Welsh coal mines.  Margaret’s father himself survived a serious accident.


Margaret mentioned how images from the Hungarian Uprising in 1956 affected her as a child, as she recognised the loss for the Hungarian children and appreciated her own loving and stable home life.  The Hungarian Uprising happened when the Hungarians, frustrated by their government and the policies imposed by the Soviets, attempted to push Soviet forces out of the country.  The Hungarians were subsequently crushed by the Soviets and 200,000 fled the country. The UNHCR commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the uprising on 2006 with this recount.


When Margaret sat the Eleven Plus exams, she earned a scholarship to a private school Lewis School for Girls.  Eleven plus exams are still going in the UK – follow this link to see if you’d pass too.


Margaret and her family came to Western Australia as Ten Pound Poms . At the time of their arrival, they had intended to travel on to Melbourne, but heard about a community of Salvationists in Bunbury and decided to stay. 


Salvation Army began as the Christian Revival Society and originated in the UK, founded by Methodist minister William Booth .  Here is a recent snapshot of the Salvation Army's presence in Australia.
The music tradition in the Salvation Army came from the Fry Family brass quartet in 1878 who accompanied evangelists in the cathedral city of Salisbury in England. The musical tradition is very much alive in the MacDonald family.  Margaret mentioned her husband Alan is a pianist, and so are their three sons, who learned brass instruments too. Middle son Glyn MacDonald is a jazz pianist and composer and we used two of his original pieces in the production of this piece.

The Salvation Army has been before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse.  We deliberately didn’t ask Margaret about this matter as the interview is a personal journal and because she was limited in what she could say at the time of recording.  This link is to a conversation with Salvation Army Commissioner Floyd Tidd conducted by the ABC on October 15, 2015 after the Royal Commission hearings concluded in Adelaide.

Listen to the Rare Air podcast with Margaret MacDonald
See the photo essay taken at a Salvation Army Sunday Service