Officers Stories 2 – David Douglas McKee

David Douglas McKee

First Senior Warder HM Prison (Females) Brisbane

David Douglas McKee

Appointed:  10th November 1885

Age : 24

Born:  Ireland

Religion:  Presbyterian

Status:  Married

Previous Employment : Grocer


Transferred Toowoomba to Brisbane 08/10/1903

Previously – St Helena 01/05/1892

David Douglas McKee was born in County Armagh, Ireland to Thomas and Susannah McKee.  He immigrated to Australia with his family and sought a job with the prison service having previously been a grocer.

Appointed on the 10th of November 1885 his official record is lacking in a great deal of detail.  Notations made indicate that he was a Warder at St Helena Island, appointed there in 1892.

McKee was transferred to Toowoomba Prison 1895. There are several newspaper articles relating to his time there; with the most notable article detailing the moment he was promoted as Acting Chief Warder after the retirement of Chief Blaney in 1901. It seems Chief Henry Blaney was never fully replaced.

Toowoomba Gaol officially closed its doors in October of 1903. Chief Warder David Douglas McKee and his family were transferred to Brisbane in order for McKee to take up the position of Senior Warder, Clerk and Storekeeper at the new HM Prison (Females) Brisbane (later known as 2 Division Boggo Road Gaol). He arrived with 19 prisoners in his charge; he officially commenced duty at HM Prison (Females) Brisbane on the 8th of October 1903.

The journey to Brisbane via rail was a smooth one; the ladies behaved well and no incidents on the journey have been recorded. The transfer of belongings from Toowoomba to Brisbane was not so smooth. All of the possessions of the prisoners and staff of the Toowoomba prison were lost on the Toowoomba range when the truck carrying them overturned.

When he arrived, it seemed McKee’s new quarters at HM Prison were a vast improvement on the Toowoomba residences and would have proved to buoy his spirits.

McKee served in many roles in the prison service rising to Acting Superintendent of the HM Prisons (male and female) Brisbane and eventually Superintendent of the Thursday Island Prison.

He officially retired from his post as Chief Warder of the HM Prison Brisbane after over forty years in the service. He retired to his home at Hawthorne Road, Hawthorne, where he resided until his death in 1945.

David Douglas McKee is buried in the Balmoral Cemetery with his wife; he left behind a substantial war-time estate to his surviving children.


Unfortunately, There is no surviving image of David Douglas McKee.  It is thought that the officer in the photograph above could possibly be him.  The evidence being – he would have taken up residence in these quarters and he had a small child (as can be seen in the photograph on a tricycle) at the time.  It is also more likely that the Senior Warder would have posed for this photograph being the Senior Officer.  In any case, it gives an accurate representation of the officers of the time.

This photograph is one of a series printed in the Queenslander Newspaper on the 28th of November 1903 relating to the opening of the new female prison.


Do you know more about David Douglas McKee?  We would love to hear it! You can contact the research team here

 Sadly, we can’t hear about the Gaol from David McKee’s point of view.  You can, however, hear from another officer this Sunday on our officer tour!  Be guided through Boggo Road Gaol by former officer Kevin Hayden; hear from him all about some of the most terrifying riots, thrilling escapes and infamous prisoners! Click here to book.

This article was contributed by Research Coordinator Sue Olsen as part of the ongoing research program for Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd. The aim of the program is to bring to light and share articles relating to Boggo Road for the purposes of review and study. Do you have a story to share or something you would like us to know about? You can contact the research team here

Boggo Road Gaol
Boggo Road Gaol