He attended Alfred Crescent State School until he was 12,after which he held various jobs as a shop-assistant, before working as a bookkeeper on a Riverina station in 1910-12.
In 1921 Macartney went to Darwin as an assistant to the administrator of the Northern Territory, Frederic Charles Urquhart, and to the government secretary. Appointed public trustee in 1922, by 1924 he was the 'legal Pooh-Bah' of the Territory: sheriff, clerk of courts and judge's associate, registrar of companies, bankruptcy, and births, deaths and marriages, and returning officer.
In 1929, Macartney wrote A Sweep of Lute-strings, Being the Title Excusing a Very Few Love-rhymes. In 1945, he co-authored Papers. In 1947, he published Australian Poetry, a collection of twenty poems by Australian poets.
In 1956, he edited and updated E Morris Miller's Australian Literature from its Beginnings to 1935, under the title Australian Literature, a Bibliography to 1938, Extended to 1950. Also in 1956, he wrote the foreword to The Sonnet in Australasia, a Survey and Selection.
In 1957 he wrote A Historica Outline of Australian Literature. In 1961, Selected Poems of Frederick T. Macartney was published by the Commonwealth Literary Fund. In 1967, Macartney wrote and provided the illustrations for Proof Against Failure. In 1973, he wrote Australian Literary Essays.
Macartney's works and commentary have been published in The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse; Southerly: The Magazine of the Australian English Association, Sydney; The Australian Quarterly (by Australian Institute of Political Science); The Collins Book of Australian Poetry; Critical Essays on Kenneth Slessor (by Andrew Kilpatrick Thomson - 1968); Meanjin Papers (by Melbourne University Press); An Australian Anthology by Percival Serle; Birth: A Little Journal of Australian Poetry; Path to Parnassus: Anthology for Schools; Dream and Disillusion: A Search for Australian Cultural Identity; The Australian Librarian's Manual; British Book News; Lines of Implication: Australian Short Fiction from Lawson to Palmer; Catalog of the South Pacific Collection; and The Humanities in Australia: A Survey with Special Reference to the Universities.
- Serle, Geoffrey. "Australian Dictionary of Biography, online edition". Adb.online.anu.edu.au. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
- Google Bookshelf. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
- Australian Literature a Bibliography to 1938 Extended to 1950 (Angus and Robertson, 1956), Preface, page v., by Miller and Macartney.