In 1908 James McColl was a senator in the Federal Parliament when in October and November first the House of Representatives and then the Senate voted on where the federal capital city should be built. In the House Yass/Canberra won by a wombat’s whisker from Dalgety. Then this decision went to the Senate for ratification or for ambush.
There were several days of hyperbole-packed debate. Colourful things were said for and against Canberra and Dalgety.
In his speech Senator McColl, as a Victorian senator expected to be robotically pro-Dalgety, scoffed at it. He thought the best possible site was Tumut but that Canberra, too, would be terrific.
“I took a trip last week and had an opportunity of seeing the Dalgety and Canberra sites. At Dalgety I learnt that winter there lasts more than six months … But we want an Australian, not a Siberian capital. I believe that the selection of Dalgety for the federal capital of Australia would be a blunder that would be worse than a crime … I say this with regret, because, as a Victorian, I should like to vote for Dalgety. It would be in my political interest to do so. But I cannot conscientiously do so and consider myself an honest man.
James McColl’s daughter, Sadie Hogg remembers her father as ”quite a quiet man, but pretty strict”. She remembers his ”soft voice”, with which he loved to sing. He was a cricket fanatic and used to take her Test matches (to all five days!) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with Sadie’s mum showing up every day with their lunch. He was a Presbyterian and taught Sunday school at St Andrew’s in Bendigo (pictured) for 55 years. He’d been a strong federationist and a member of Federal Parliament from the very start until his defeat at the federal election of 1914 and it’s Sadie Hogg’s belief that his defeat was because he wasn’t forgiven in Victoria for voting for Canberra.
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