The Honourable
Sir James Whiteside McCay
James mccay
Minister for Defence
In office
18 August 1904 – 2 July 1905
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister George Reid
Preceded by Anderson Dawson
Succeeded by Thomas Playford
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Corinella
In office
29 March 1901 – 12 December 1906
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by Division abolished
Personal details
Date of birth (1864-12-21)21 December 1864
Place of birth Ballynure, County Antrim, Ireland
Date of death 1 October 1930(1930-10-01) (aged 65)
Place of death Melbourne, Australia
Protectionist Party
Spouse(s) Julia Mary O'Meara (1896–1915; her death)
Children Margaret Mary ("Mardi") McCay
Beatrix Waring ("Bixie") McCay
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Occupation Solicitor
Religion Presbyterian Church of Australia
Military service
Allegiance Flag of Australia.svg Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1884–1926
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands AIF Depots in the United Kingdom
5th Division
2nd Infantry Brigade
Battles/wars First World War:
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Mentioned in Despatches (4)
Légion d'honneur (France)

Lieutenant General Sir James Whiteside McCay KCMG KBE CB VD (21 December 1864 – 1 October 1930) was an Australian general and politician.

A graduate of the University of Melbourne, where he earned Master of Arts and Master of Laws degrees, McCay established a successful legal practice, McCay & Thwaites. He was a member of the Victorian Parliament for Castlemaine from 1895 to 1899, where he was a champion of women's suffrage and federation. He lost his seat in 1899 but became a member of the first Australian Federal Parliament in 1901. He was Minister for Defence from 1904 to 1905, during which he implemented long-lasting reforms, including the creation of the Military Board.

As a soldier, McCay commanded the 2nd Infantry Brigade in the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, during the Gallipoli Campaign of the Great War. He was later wounded in the Second Battle of Krithia and invalided to Australia, but returned to command the 5th Division, which he led in the Battle of Fromelles in 1916, dubbed "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history." His failures in difficult military operations made him a controversial figure who earned the disfavour of his superiors, while his efforts to succeed in the face of insurmountable obstacles earned him the odium of troops under his command, who blamed him for high casualties. In the latter part of the war he commanded the AIF Depots in the United Kingdom.

After the war, McCay resumed his old job as Deputy Chairman of the State Bank of Victoria and also served on a panel that deliberated on the future structure of the Army. He was chairman of the Fair Profits Commission, the War Service Homes Scheme of the Repatriation Commission, and the Repatriation Commission's Disposals Board. He commanded the Special Constabulary Force during the 1923 Victorian Police strike.

Education and early lifeEdit

McCay was born on 21 December 1864 in Ballynure, County Antrim, Ireland, the oldest of ten children to the Reverend Andrew Ross Boyd McCay, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife Lily Ann Esther Waring (née Brown). Although he was christened with the surname McCay, James usually signed his name as "M'Cay". The family emigrated to Australia in 1865, settling in Castlemaine, Victoria. Boyd McCay continued his theological studies while he was a minister in Castlemaine, earning a Master of Arts (MA) from the University of Melbourne in 1882 and a Doctor of Divinity from the Presbyterian Theological Faculty Ireland in 1887. Esther could speak seven languages.

James attended Castlemaine State School. At the age of twelve he won a scholarship to Scotch College, Melbourne to the value of £35 per annum for six years. He was dux of the school in 1880. At Scotch College McCay first met John Monash, who would be dux the following year, and would later become a close friend. McCay entered Ormond College at the University of Melbourne in 1881, the year that the college first opened, and commenced studying for his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. McCay left the university without completing his degree in 1883 and took a job as a teacher at Toorak Grammar School. In 1885, he bought Castlemaine Grammar School. The school was co-educational; McCay believed that girls should have the same opportunities as boys. Among its students who attended university with McCay's encouragement and support was Sussanah Jane Williams, who later became principal of Janet Clarke Hall at the University of Melbourne, and The Women's College at the University of Sydney. The job of running the school was soon delegated to McCay's mother and brother Adam.

He returned to the university in 1892 and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree. He then embarked on a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree. In 1895, he was awarded an MA degree, majoring in mathematics. He completed his law degree the next year, with first class honours, in spite of rarely attending the lectures due to his work, political and military commitments. In 1895, he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and established a legal practice in Castlemaine. His practice had the first telephone in the town. He was awarded his Master of Laws (LLM) degree in 1897. In 1898, he went into partnership with William Thwaites, whose brother Walter married his sister. The firm's name was then changed to McCay & Thwaites. It would later hire one of the first women to become an articled clerk in Victoria. On 8 April 1896, McCay married Julia Mary O'Meara, the daughter of a Roman Catholic Kyneton police magistrate. Sectarianism in Australia made such marriages uncommon, and the marriage was opposed by both their families. It produced two daughters, Margaret Mary ("Mardi") and Beatrix Waring ("Bixie"), born in 1897 and 1901, respectively.

Political careerEdit

Victorian parliamentEdit

In August 1890, McCay was elected to the local council of the Castlemaine Borough. When the prominent local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Sir James Patterson, died in 1894, McCay ran for his seat of Castlemaine in the resulting by-election. After a hard-fought campaign, McCay won by just ten votes. McCay devoted his maiden speech to what would be his defining cause as a state politician, women's suffrage:

I believe the principle applies to woman by virtue of her citizenship as applies to man. As she has to bear her share of the duties of citizenship, she is entitled to vote unless good cause can be shown to the contrary; and I submit that good cause has not been shown to the contrary.

On other issues, McCay supported Federation, and was one of a number of young politicians who rallied around Alfred Deakin, threatening to bring down Sir George Turner's government if it attempted to block federation. McCay opposed sending Victorian troops to fight in the Boer War, calling war in general an "anachronism". In 1899, McCay was one of the young radicals who supported Allan McLean and crossed the floor to bring down the Turner government. McLean gave McCay the portfolio of Minister for Education and Customs in his new ministry. At the time it was the custom for members who had accepted a ministerial appointment to re-submit themselves for election. In the subsequent by-election, McCay's opposition to the war in South Africa became an election issue. The war was now going badly for Britain. Feelings ran high and McCay lost his seat. McCay attempted to win his seat back at the general election in 1900 but lost again.

Federal parliamentEdit

With Federation in 1901 came the opportunity to run for the new Parliament of Australia. McCay contested the 1901 election as a Protectionist Party candidate for Corinella, the Federal electorate that encompassed the Castlemaine area. McCay, who characterised himself as a liberal, supported the widest possible enfranchisement of women, the protection of industry and revenue through tariffs, and the White Australia policy. The war in South Africa was now in its final stages and the electorate forgot or forgave McCay's "treason", electing him to the first Australian Parliament.

Formal group portrait of nine men, four sitting at the front and five standing behind. Three are wearing suits; the others are wearing formal double breasted military uniforms with sashes.

Group portrait of Commonwealth Headquarters Staff. Identified left to right, back row: Captain P. N. Buckley; Mr S. Petherbridge; Surgeon General W. D. C. Williams; Mr F. Savage. Front row: Colonel H. Le Mesurie; Colonel J. C. Hoad; Lieutenant Colonel J. W. McCay; Colonel W. T. Bridges, Mr J. A. Thompson.

As a backbencher, McCay opposed amendments to the Defence Act 1903 proposed by Billy Hughes of the Australian Labor Party that called for peacetime conscription. He accepted its necessity in wartime, but only for service within Australia. McCay believed that volunteers would always be plentiful, and he feared that peacetime conscription would result in militarism. He was re-elected unopposed in the 1903 election, the first in which Victorian women were eligible to vote. In 1904, McCay moved an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 to remove the clause that empowered the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to give preference to trade unions. The debate became unexpectedly heated and resulted in the fall of Chris Watson's Labor government. The Free Trade Party's George Reid became Prime Minister and offered McCay the post of Minister for Defence.

Military careerEdit

McCay's military career began in 1884, when he enlisted in the 4th (Castlemaine) Battalion, Victorian Rifles. He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 29 October 1886, and was subsequently promoted to captain on 5 March 1889 and major on 13 March 1896. Following the forced resignation of the commander of the 8th Regiment for making a political speech touting McCay, McCay was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assumed command of the regiment on 12 January 1900.

Director of Military IntelligenceEdit

On 6 December 1907, on the recommendation of the Chief of Intelligence, Colonel William Throsby Bridges, the Minister for Defence, Thomas Ewing appointed McCay as Director of Military Intelligence, with the rank of colonel. In turn, McCay turned to his former schoolmate, John Monash, whom he had appointed to the command of the Victorian section of the new Australian Army Intelligence Corps (AIC), with a promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel on 28 March 1908. The AIC set about compiling information such as the suitability of lighthouses for signalling, the availability of railway rolling stock, and the number of civilian motor vehicles suitable for military use. A concerted effort was put into creating sets of detailed maps. McCay and Monash became close friends. In 1912, McCay & Thwaites moved into offices at 360 Collins Street, where businesses associated with the Baillieu family were located. Monash moved his offices into the same building, and the two addressed each other as "Jack" and "Jim". On 5 March 1912, McCay was appointed a commissioner of the State Bank of Victoria.

In 1911, McCay delivered a lecture at the Victorian United Services Institution entitled "The True Principles of Australia's Defence". He suggested that the Australian Army should be equipped to the same standard as the British Army and should be prepared to fight an enemy overseas rather than waiting for an invasion of Australia. On 11 April 1913, he resigned his position as Director of Military Intelligence and was placed on the unattached list.

Great WarEdit

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