MacGregor, Sir William (1846-1919)
MacGregor was born on October 20, 1846 in Towie, Scotland. He studied medicine at the
University of Glasgow and the University of Aberdeen, and worked as a doctor in both
cities before joining the colonial service in 1872. He was first posted as a medical officer
for the Seychelles and gradually made his way up the ranks. He served as Fiji's chief
medical officer from 1875 until 1888, and then, moving out of the medical realm, became
administrator of British New Guinea. In 1899, MacGregor was appointed governor of
Lagos. He served there until 1904, when he became governor of Newfoundland.
MacGregor drew on his medical training to help stop the spread of tuberculosis on the
island. He was interested in Wilfred Grenfell's medical mission and was the first governor
to visit the northern coast and Labrador, on which he reported at length. MacGregor was
also one of the few governors who took an active interest in native peoples, visiting both
Inuit and Mi'kmaq settlements.
Though the premier, Sir Robert Bond, had supported MacGregor's appointment, the two
men soon became opposed to each other. Reflecting the view of the imperial government,
MacGregor was highly critical of Bond's action in precipitating a dispute with the United
States over access to inshore fisheries. This represented Bond's reaction to the rejection by
the American Senate of a Newfoundland - United States trade treaty. The crisis was
serious. MacGregor became increasingly frustrated by what he saw as Bond's inflexibility
and arrogance, and drawn towards the more reasonable attitudes of the Minister of
Justice, Sir Edward Morris, who left the government in 1907.
The 1908 election resulted in an even split between Bond's party and Morris' People's
Party. This situation gave the governor considerable personal discretion, which he used in
Morris' favour. That Morris was able to form a majority government in 1909 was due, at
least in part, to MacGregor, but it should not be forgotten that Bond made a series of
tactical errors. .
MacGregor's term ended in 1909. He became governor of Queensland, Australia, in 1910
and remained there until he retired in 1914. He died in Aberdeen, Scotland, on July 3,
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