NotesDonald George Mackay was born in 1870 at Yass, NSW, the son of Alexander Mackay, owner of Wallenbeen station and his wife Annie nee Mackenzie, both Scottish born. Donald was educated at Wallenbeen Public School and at Oaklands School, Mittagong, NSW. He left school at 17 and worked as an engineering apprentice at Waugh and Josephson's in Sydney. City life was unappealing to him and he returned to Wallenbeen and worked as a jackaroo. Donald's father died in 1890 leaving him a small fortune which he used to travel extensively throughout the world. He later tried prospecting for gold in western New South Wales where he came in contact with the bicycle as a means of inland transport. He used one to travel to various places including Milparinka, Tibooburra and Broken Hill, as well as Adelaide and Melbourne.
By the 1890s suppliers of bicycles could not keep up with the demand for popular maker. Manufacturers of frames, tyres and other fittings were keen to prove the superiority of their products and sponsored bicycling racing and racers. When the spate of endurance trips appeared in the mid to late 1890s, manufacturers were approached for financial assistance for using and advertising their products. However, the cycling industry was not always forthcoming and usually only agreed to reimburse or retrospectively sponsor unknown amateur cyclists such as Mackay if, and when, they completed their rides.
In 1899 Mackay heard about Arthur Richardson's proposed attempt to ride around Australia on a bicycle and began planning his own trip. Richardson had already achieved notoriety in 1896 when he was the first to ride west to east across the continent over the Nullarbor Plain. Mackay arranged to ride with Frank White, another well known overland rider, who had cycled around Australia from Perth to Rockhampton and back in 5 months. They were to start in Melbourne and travel anti-clockwise via Queensland, round and down to Perth, and then back to Melbourne. Richardson, who had started about a month before them, had travelled north from Perth in a clockwise direction.
At the last moment Mackay pulled out of the trip due to mining commitments and Frank White teamed up with his brother, Alex, and started the ride from Melbourne on 30 June 1899. Mackay managed to curtail his mining activities and joined the party in Brisbane. The three riders set out from Brisbane on 30 July 1899.
They reached Darwin on the 20 October after nearly perishing in the desert outside Powell Creek. Alex contracted a persistent case of dysentery and this slowed the progress of the party. They then met Richardson travelling in the opposite direction and were able to swap notes about the conditions they could expect along the way. Unfortunately an expected shipment of tyres and inner tubes had not arrived in Darwin and after an unsuccessful search of the town the cyclists proceeded on their journey with their already fraying tyres. To remedy this situation they cut untanned calf hides into strips and wrapped it around the tyres with lashings of rubber solution. This seemed to work quite successfully but outside Darwin Frank White's bicycle suffered irreparable damage to the pedal crank and he had to withdraw from the expedition.
The two remaining cyclists, Mackay and Alex White, arrived in Perth on 5 February 1900. Two days before their arrival Arthur Richardson arrived in Perth becoming the first person to circumnavigate the country by bicycle. Richardson had completed his ride in 243 days which meant that Mackay had to pedal from Perth to Brisbane in under 50 days to better this time.
Donald Mackay arrived at the Brisbane GPO at 5.15 pm on 25 March 1900 and set a new around Australia record of 240 days 7 hours and 30 minutes. In the process he also set new records for the Perth to Sydney and Perth to Brisbane legs.
Mackay financed the trip himself but was presented with two trophies at its completion. After his ride Mackay referred to his Dux bicycle as the "best little wheel I ever rode" and "although I humped it over rocks, through great swamps, and crashed into stumps and logs on a thousand occasions it stood up every time and never needed the slightest repair".
During the ride Mackay carried two water cans, attached to the bicycle weighing about 15 lbs (7 kg) which were in fact a failure, a revolver, ammunition, a set of tools and bicycle parts (that were never needed), a camera, a waterproof cloak, diary, time book and food bag. During the trip he wore out two pairs of cycle pants and four pairs of cycle shoes, all of which had extra heavy soles.
In 1902 Donald settled in Sydney and built 'Wallendbeen Lodge', an Edwardian Federation house with a boatshed and servants' quartes for his bride, Amy Little. Named after his family's merino sheep station, it was located on the waterfront of Burraneer Bay, Port Hacking.
Donald went on to undertake aerial surveying in Western Australia in 1930s and was one of the first to use an aircraft for inland exploration and map making on a large scale. He was awarded a CBE in 1937 for his exploration achievements but was a quiet and shy man who shunned publicity and the limelight of public acclaim. Amy Mackay died in 1956 at the age of 76 and Donald in 1958 at the age of 88.