Basic Biographical Details

Name: Charles McLay
Designation: Architect
Born: c. 1860(?)
Died: 2 May 1918
Bio Notes: Charles McLay was born c.1860 in St Ninians, Stirlingshire, the son of James McLay, a nail manufacturer, and Isabella Colquhoun. Nothing is known of his training. He emigrated to Australia where he found employment as a draughtsman in the Colonial Architect's Office on 21 July 1885, a post made permanent at 250 a year in October, by which month he had undertaken the design of the asylum at Toowoomba. In December the Colonial Architect John James Clark was dismissed as the work of his department had run behind schedule. In March 1886 his design for the Brisbane Customs House was accepted and, under Clark's successor George Connolly, McLay became the lead designer in the office, being appointed to the newly created post of Chief Draughtsman in July 1889.

In 1889 McLay won the competition for the Queensland Museum in association with John Jacob Cohen, resigning from the Colonial Architect's Office in the following year to undertake the commission. The project was, however, deferred; McLay was obliged to remain in private practice, opening a branch office in Toowoomba in 1897, but he did obtain appointment as Queensland's Chief Inspector of Factories and Shops in April 1897. In 1900 McLay took leave to make a tour of the UK and of Europe. On 1 July 1906 he was appointed Director of Labour but resigned after only six months to commence private practice with his former colleague Henry Wallace Atkinson on 31 January 1907.

McLay was an accomplished classical designer, suggesting that his initial training had been in one of the best Glasgow offices. He was active in public life as President of the Brisbane School of Arts and an officer in the Queensland Naval Defence Force, from which he retired as commander in 1910. The Brisbane artist James McLay was his brother.

McLay married Eva A B Hockings on 19 December 1914 at St Phillips, Coorparoo, Brisbane. His brother-in-law, Eva's brother, was Edwin Morton Hockings who was also a well known Queensland architect practising in Rockhampton, where he designed the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School, and the Rockhampton Town Hall, among many well known buildings.

McLay died on 2 May 1918 as a result of a level crossing accident in the previous year.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3St Ninians, Stirlingshire, ScotlandPrivatec. 1860Before 1885Place of birth
Item 2 of 3Brisbane, AustraliaBusiness1885  
Item 3 of 3Toowoomba, Queensland, AustraliaBusiness1897 Branch office

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3Queensland Colonial Architects Office21 July 1885July 1889Draughtsman 
Item 2 of 3Queensland Colonial Architects OfficeJuly 1889August 1889Chief Draughtsman 
Item 3 of 3Atkinson & McLay31 January 19071918Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Edwin Evan Smithc. 18901897Assistant 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 1Watson, Donald and McKay, Judith1994Queensland Architects of the 19th Century Brisbane: Queensland Museump119

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Courtesy of Professor John Hockings, great uncle-in-law of McLayInformation sent via 'Contact' page on website Sent March 2016