Early life and education
Hastings was born in Camberwell, South London, the son of journalist and playwright Basil Macdonald Hastings. He was sent to Stonyhurst, a Jesuit boarding school, at age seven. (His grandfather and his father also attended Stonyhurst.) At one point he contracted pneumonia, but his troubles went greatly unnoticed. The school matron reportedly waved him off and ignored the issue while a priest gave him the last rites. He had some positive experiences, such as uncovering a natural faculty for public oration. Mac's father was a journalist and a playwright.
Hastings's father died at age 46, leaving young "Mac" and his mother essentially poor. He returned home from boarding school, no longer able to pay his tuition. Despite offers from family friends such as Lord Beaverbrook and Edgar Wallace who wished to help him complete his schooling, Hastings refused and went in search of work to support himself and his mother. He worked briefly as a clerk at Scotland Yard, but disliked the position. After several months, he moved on to J. Lyons, a catering company where he worked in the publicity department and remained for the next nine years.
While working at Lyons, Hastings began to branch out, writing journalistic pieces and freelancing them to various news corporations, including the BBC. After nine years at Lyons, he left to pursue freelance journalism.
His career took off in 1939 when he was hired by Picture Post, a magazine known for on location reporting and live-action photography. During World War II, he was a reporter for the magazine, embedded in torpedo boats to Channel convoys. He notably covered Operation Overlord, earning a reputation simultaneously for courage and for rashness.
From 1945 to 1950, Hastings edited The Strand Magazine from 1945 until its closing in 1950, when he became a freelance journalist again. Over the next ten years or so, he wrote many articles, ten novels, and broadcast with the BBC. In 1951, he served as "Special Investigator" for the Eagle. Reportedly making around 5,000 pounds a year by 1952, Hastings was doing very well for himself and his family.
Macdonald "Mac" Hastings occasionally contributed fictional work to Lilliput, a literary magazine, under the pseudonym of Lemuel Gulliver. Hastings was editor of the Strand Magazine between 1946 and 1950, after which he was recruited by an Anglican priest, Marcus Morris, to write for a new boys' comic, The Eagle. He joined in 1951, and filed reports from far-flung parts of the world under the title of Eagle Special Correspondent. He was a co-founder/editor of the fortnightly Country Fair.
He married Anne Scott-James, a columnist and later magazine editor. They had two children: Max and Clare. Max followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a journalist. Macdonald and Anne Hastings divorced in 1964.
After his divorce, he married the influential publisher the Hon. Anthea Joseph, daughter of Charles Hodson, Baron Hodson. They had one daughter, Harriet, who became founder and managing director of Biscuiteers.
Macdonald Hastings described himself as a "lapsed" Catholic but added that "[S]aintly men and women in my family outnumber the sinners." He recalled that his great grandfather had taught in the Jesuit foundation at Georgetown, Virginia. Two brothers of his great great maternal grandmother were also Jesuits in the United States. His favourite uncle, Major Lewis Hastings, MC, was there, too, and also contributed to the other family tradition as a famous BBC military commentator in World War II.
- "Mr. Macdonald Hastings". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 6 October 1982. p. 14.
- Hastings, Sir Max (21 February 2010). "Selfish and reckless – but Max Hastings' daredevil father was a hero to him and every other schoolboy in Britain". London: Associated Press Ltd.
- Victor Morrison, 'Joseph , Anthea Esther (1924–1981)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 9 April 2017
- Profile, catholicherald.co.uk. Retrieved 2 April 2014.