Evan MacGregor

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SIR Evan MacGregor, G.C.B., I.S.O. (31 March, 1842 – 21 March, 1926), Admiralty official, was for many years the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty during a time of unparalleled change within the Royal Navy.

Early Life and Career

MacGregor was born on 31 March, 1842 at Fernie Castle, Fife, the third son of Sir John Atholl Bannatyne Murray MacGregor, Third Baronet (d. 1851/2), of Lanrick and Balquhidder, and his wife, Mary Charlotte, youngest daughter and coheir of Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, First Baronet. The clan MacGregor had been under a ban during most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the use of the name was forbidden by penal statutes, finally repealed in 1774. The members of the clan acknowledged General John Murray as their chief, and he was created a baronet in 1795, resuming the name of MacGregor in 1822.

When Evan MacGregor was nine years old his father, then Lieutenant-Governor of the Virgin Islands, died at Tortola in the West Indies. His mother was given by Queen Victoria a residence at Hampton Court and went to live there with her young family and her twice-widowed mother. MacGregor was sent to Mr Walton's school at Hampton, and afterwards as a boarder to Charterhouse, London. On 13 August, 1860 his father's first cousin, Captain the Hon. James Drummond RN, procured for him a nomination from the Duke of Somerset (then First Lord) to a temporary clerkship in the Admiralty.

MacGregor entered the Admiralty service thoroughly imbued with the traditions of the navy. Captain Drummond himself joined the Admiralty board as Junior Sea Lord in June, 1861, and in the following year he appointed his young cousin as his private secretary. On Drummond's going to sea in 1866 Lord John Hay and Sir John Dalrymple Hay, who in succession filled the post of Junior Sea Lord within a few months, both appointed MacGregor as their private secretary. In January, 1869 he became private secretary to the Senior Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Sidney Dacres. During the next ten years he continued as private secretary to successive senior sea lords Sir Alexander Milne, Sir Hastings Yelverton, and Sir George Wellesley. In the meantime he advanced through the various ranks of the department until, in January, 1880, he was promoted principal clerk in the secretariat and was appointed head of the Military, Political and Secret Branch (or M. Branch) which dealt with fleet operations and political work, and came directly under the supervision of the Senior Sea Lord. Having reached this important position at the early age of thirty-seven, MacGregor soon had the opportunity of proving his merit.

In 1880 a combined naval demonstration by the principal naval powers, commanded by Sir Beauchamp Seymour, was undertaken off the coast of Albania in order to compel Turkey to surrender Dulcigno to Montenegro, in accordance with the treaty of Berlin. At the end of the year the Anglo-Transvaal War broke out, and naval assistance was rendered by the landing at Durban of a naval brigade which served throughout the war. In 1882 the British navy bombarded Alexandria, landed a naval brigade, and manned steamboats on the Nile. The headquarters' administration of all this under the direction of the Admiralty board was by MacGregor's branch, and his energy and efficiency were rewarded by a C.B. in 1882.

Permanent Secretary

On 21 April, 1884 Lord Northbrook selected MacGregor as Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty, and he held the office for twenty-three years under Lords Northbrook, Ripon, George Hamilton, Spencer, Goschen, Selborne, Cawdor, and Tweedmouth. In 1884 he married Annie Louise (d. 1922), daughter of Colonel William Alexander Middleton; they had one daughter.

He was appointed an Honorary Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, of the Civil Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) on 9 November, 1906.[1]

He retired in May, 1907, having reached the statutory age under civil service regulations, and spent his retirement at his home, Aynsome, Cartmel, Lancashire, where he died on 21 March, 1926. A memorial to him was erected in Cartmel Priory. His long service as permanent secretary, in a period of dramatic change for both the navy and its administration, reflected both ability and commitment.


  • "Sir Evan MacGregor" (Obituaries). The Times. Tuesday, 23 March, 1926. Issue 44227, col B, p. 21.

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
George Tryon
Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty
2 Apr, 1884[2]
Succeeded by
Sir C. Inigo Thomas


  1. The London Gazette: no. 27965. p. 7551. 9 November, 1906.
  2. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 120.