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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


McKINNON, Quintin McPherson



Quintin McPherson McKinnon was born in 1851 in Argyllshire, Scotland, where he came of a good family. He was well educated, probably at the local parish school, and served as a volunteer with the French forces during the Franco-Prussian War. In the early 1870s he emigrated to Otago, where he became known as an athlete and sportsman. He was a member of the Otago rugby team which toured New Zealand in the late 1870s. About this time he qualified as a surveyor and, being fond of exploring, lived for some years in a hut near Lake Te Anau. In 1887, with G. Tucker, he made his way up the Doon River from the South West Arm of the Middle Fiord of Lake Te Anau and crossed over to Caswell Sound, discovering the two lakes which bear their names. They also discovered the white marble deposits at Caswell Sound. This was the first recorded overland crossing to the sound. On 17 October 1888 McKinnon and E. Mitchell, of Manapouri, discovered and crossed McKinnon Pass, thus finding the first practicable overland route to Milford Sound, now known as the Milford Track. Later in the same year he took part in the search for Professor Mainwaring Brown, who lost his life while exploring the region to the west of Te Anau. During the next three years McKinnon devoted much of his time to improving the Milford Track and in guiding tourist parties to the sound. In 1892 he obtained a Government contract to carry mails between Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound – a trip which then took six days. On 29 November 1892 he left the lower end of Lake Te Anau to cross the lake on a routine trip to Milford. It was not until 27 December that concern was felt for his absence. A search of the lake was organised, but, although his wrecked boat was located, McKinnon's body was never discovered.

Apart from the McKinnon Pass and Lake McKinnon, his name is perpetuated in the Quintin Huts on Milford Track and the St. Quenton (sic) Falls in Clinton Valley. The latter were named by Thomas MacKenzie, who organised a public subscription to build the Quintin McKinnon Memorial Cairn which now stands near the summit of McKinnon Pass.

On 22 March 1879, at Dunedin, McKinnon married Barbara Sinclair, of Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. He was survived by at least one son.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

NOTE – As there appears to be some doubt about the correct spelling of McKinnon's names – particularly because his son preferred the version Quinton McKinnon – those used in this biography are taken from McKinnon's marriage and his son's birth certificates.

  • History of Northern Southland, Hamilton, G. A. (1952)
  • Otago Daily Times, 29 Oct 1888; 11, 23 Jan, 21 Feb 1893.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.