McCOLL, Hugh (1819-1885)

McCOLL, Hugh (1819-1885)
pioneer of irrigation
eldest son of James McColl, was born at Glasgow on 22 January 1819. In 1836 he went to North Shields, Northumberland, and in 1840 opened a business as bookseller and printer at South Shields. He was appointed secretary of the Tyne conservancy committee, which probably led to his interest in the conservation of water, and in 1852 left for Australia, arriving in January 1853. From 1856 he resided mostly at Bendigo where he had a business as a printer and newspaper proprietor. In 1865 he became secretary of the Coliban water supply committee until it was taken over by the government. For many years he was a commercial traveller, and on his way through the country in dry seasons became convinced of the value of irrigation. In 1874 he became associated with Benjamin Hawkins Dods (1834-1896), civil engineer, and the North-western Canal Company was projected with a capital of £1,500,000. Government after government was approached, but for one reason or another the promoters were put off. In April 1877 permission for a survey was given and this was carried out in 1878. It showed that so far as the configuration of the country was concerned the scheme was practicable, but it was another matter to raise the large capital required, and in this the promoters were not successful. In 1880 McColl was elected a member of the legislative assembly for Mandurang, and for the next five years in season and out of season continued to bring the water question before parliament. He was often derided, but eventually succeeded in impressing the Service (q.v.)-Berry (q.v.) ministry with his views, and in 1884 a royal commission was appointed with Alfred Deakin (q.v.) as chairman. Part of the inquiry was that the commission should endeavour to ascertain "whether provision can be made for the conservation and distribution of water for the use of the people". Deakin went to America, Europe and Asia to make inquiries, but, before the report was completed McColl died on 2 April 1885. He had done a great piece of work for his country. He was married twice (1) to Jane, daughter of Joshua Hiers, and (2) to Mary, daughter of Adam Guthrie, who survived him with his eight children. His son, James Hiers McColl, is noted below.
The Age and The Argus, Melbourne, 4 April 1885; Men of the Time in Australia, 1878; James H. McColl, The Victorian Historical Magazine, June 1917, pp. 145-63.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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