Peninsular and Oriental
Steam Navigation Co.

Macdonald Hamilton and Co Pty Ltd. .

BLUE to the mast
RED to the fly
YELLOW to the deck
WHITE to the sky


The P and O groupsí main Agents in Australia, up until about 1960, were Macdonald, Hamilton and Co. Pty Ltd., (known within the company as MacHams) who had offices in the main cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Although there were offices in Adelaide P&O's agents there were Elder, Smith and Co. Ltd.

In my day the Melbourne office was headed by three Partners, Neville Drake Pixley (Commander )RANR, who was the Senior Partner and oversaw the whole business( and who transferred to Sydney in 1957); Alistair Mackinnon. His responsibilies, when I was there, was mainly looking after the passenger side of the business and he was the middle Partner. It was Mr. Mackinnon who chose to use my middle name, Ian, and so that was how I was known in Melbourne shipping and travel agency circles thereafter; the junior Partner was Mervyn Karrasch .

The Passenger Manager was Mr. Peter Kimber, and the Asst. Passenger Manager was Mr. Ernie Olssen, a lovely man and good artist. The article at the bottom of the page was printed in the Company Newsletter.

The other group companies that MH and Co Pty Ltd., represented, at this time, were British India Steam Navigation Co. (BISN); Eastern and Australian Steamship Co., (E and A); Australasian United Steam Navigation Co. (AUSN); New Zealand Shipping Company;

Outside the Group the company were agents for Cie. des Messageries Maritimes and, I believe, Royal Interocean Lines (RIL)

P and O Other Companies

Click on these flags to take you
to their respective pages

P and O Other Companies - BISN
British India
Steam Navigation Co.

P and O Other Companies - NZ Shipping Co
New Zealand Shipping Company

Melbourne Office Passenger Dept. mural. C1959
Macdonald, Hamilton's Melbourne
Passenger Department, complete with mural C.1959
I have since heard from two of my former colleagues, and fellow juniors after 40 years, Peter Lucas and Bruce McBain, both of whom became the Company's Accountant. The information they have given me appears on Page 2, with acknowledgements. In addition other former members of the Company, mainly from Sydney, have made also made contact and have given me additional information, corrections and assistance. Their names appear on the staff lists ( via Page 2) with acknowledgements and my sincere thanks.

When I started as a junior in the Despatch Department ( i.e. the postroom) I had a task at 9.00am in the morning and at 5.00pm at night which was raising and lowering the P and O company houseflag and to ensure that it was done correctly I was taught the little rhyme which appears above beneath the Company flag.

One of my jobs as a junior,(then when I became a clerk after the age of 21 years) , which actually continued until I left the company in 1962, was to deliver the ships passenger and crew mail,
often at very unsociable hours.

Because I, and one or two others, were willing to meet ships at all hours, on weekends or early morning/late evenings AND in our own time, ( something that the majority of the other "rostered juniors" would not do) we were given preference.

In my case this meant that I got to meet most of the ships as they came in. The mail was taken by me out in the Customs Launch, down Port Philip Bay at a point opposite Frankston, where we would await the liner's arrival.

It would slow down to about 5 knots and we would board her via the Jacobs Ladder let down from one of the "gun ports".

I would then stay aboard, being given a meal (breakfast), until we were secured alongside Station Pier at Port Melbourne.



In November 2001 I was put in contact with Mr. Stephen Rabson (with whom I have since met ) who is the P and O Archivist and Historian as I wanted to find out what had happened to 'MacHams'. When I had transferred to the former Orient Line building the agency still retained its name, outwardly at least until certainly 1962 when I left P and O. He passed on the following details:

"The P and O Annual Report for 1960 states: "In Australia the former P and O agency organisation, Macdonald, Hamilton and Co Ltd, was acquired. This has been merged with the former Orient organisation in Australia, and combined administration is now carried out under the name P and O-Orient Lines of Australia Pty Ltd which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of P and O."

In fact Macdonald, Hamilton had only been incorporated as recently as September 1959. My notes show that it was acquired and renamed on 1 July 1960, renamed P and O Lines of Australia Pty Ltd in October 1966, and further renamed P and O Australia Ltd in September 1972. It still exists under that name, as P and O's holding company in Australasia".

This now corresponds with information given by Malcolm Longstaff in January 2004, where he confirms the above as shown in N.L.McKellar's history of the AUSN, and quotes from page 620:

"In September 1959, the partnership of Macdonald Hamilton and Co., largely an Inchcape concern, was dissolved, and its place was taken by a private limited company of the same name".


Mr E. Olssen details

Mr. Ernie Olssen became my 'mentor' after my Father died, and it was through him that I was able to obtain a transfer to the Passenger department.

Peninsular House at 311 Collins Street, Melbourne,
photographer and source unknown but acknowledged
Our Office Buildings in other States
MH Sydney Office

Macdonald, Hamilton and Co Ltd - Sydney Office - situated in Union House at 247 George Street , (left) circa 1950s and in Naldham House, Brisbane, (below left and right).

These latter photographs as the building appears in 2003, though now owned by the Brisbane Polo Club. The building was restored with an Indian theme, to reflect its earlier Maritime history as agents for British India Steam Navigation Co., as well as Burns Philp and Co who were the original agents of BISN in Brisbane. ( B.I.S.N. History 1856 : 1956 George Blake, Published by Collins in 1956 ) Photographs supplied by Derek Tigwell, December 2003.

Naldham House, Brisbane
Naldham House Brisbane 2

Bowen Office in sepia tone
Sepia Toned photograph of Macdonald, Hamilton's Bowen Office in Queensland circa late 1920s. Photo courtesy of
Judy Gale Rechner in Brisbane (2008)

MH Bowen Office
Macdonald, Hamilton's Bowen Office, in Queensland,
built in 1921 and sold about 1930.
Photo courtesy of
Judy Gale Rechner in Brisbane (2008)

Bowen Harbour Trust Building. ex MH Bowen Office
The Bowen Harbour Trust building in May 2006 now the
Bowen Queensland Transport Office.
Photo courtesy of
Judy Gale Rechner in Brisbane (2008)

Old Bowen Office Black and White
Photo courtesy of Judy Gale Rechner
in Brisbane (2008)

MH Bowen Office now Harbour Trust
An interesting, beautiful and unusual building.
The Bowen Queensland Transport Office.
Photo courtesy of Judy Gale Rechner
in Brisbane (2008)

AUSN Houseflag engraved on glass front door
The AUSN Houseflag engraved on the glass front door of what is now the Bowen Queensland Transport Office.
Photo courtesy of Judy Gale Rechner
in Brisbane (2008)

 P and O House Port Adelaide
P and O House at 33 Commercial Road, Port Adelaide
(Photo courtesy contact "Fairsea" 2012)

P and O House, Fremantle 2013
The splendid P and O Building in Fremantle, (2013)
The Company also had offices in Adelaide (one in Grenfell Street and later at 33 Commercial Road, Port Adelaide see above, photo obtained in 2012 and acknowledged), and in Fremantle (photo obtained 2013), Perth, Newcastle (New South Wales) and Bundaberg (Queensland). My thanks to Malcolm Longstaff (MH Sydney) for this information.

Macdonald, Hamilton and Co Pty Ltd Melbourne Page 2

Macdonald, Hamilton and Co Pty Ltd Page 3 (Pictorials)
Macdonald, Hamilton and Co Pty Ltd
- Other Shipping Agencies

The History of Macdonald, Hamilton and Co,

by the author of this website who holds the copyright, can be found deposited in the State Libraries of Queensland - John Oxley Library, Brisbane [Ref: Q387 5065 BYA], New South Wales, Sydney [Call: MLMSS 7720], Victoria, Melbourne [MS BOX 3995/3 Accession No. MS13532], and South Australia, Adelaide McGuire Collection [Call no. 387.5 B9936b (Large Books)].


For individual vessels click below

P and O

P and O
P and O
P and O
P and O
P and O New Oriana
P and O Liners of the Past
P and O Other Companies
Return to Gallery
P and O Line