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Hugh McClelland (1873–1958)

by Charles Fahey

This article was published:

Hugh McClelland (1873-1958), farmer and politician, was born on 27 December 1873 near Smeaton, Victoria, fourth son of Andrew McClelland, farmer and selector, and his wife Jane, née McGowan. McClelland attended Cope Cope State School and in 1892 took up land in the Mallee shire of Berriwillock. He later moved to Sea Lake, where he acquired a large wheat property. On 14 June 1904 he married Janet Crothers at Birchip. For twenty-seven years he served on Wycheproof Shire Council, becoming further involved in rural politics as chairman of the Victorian Wheat Growers' Corporation Ltd, president of the Victorian Chamber of Agriculture, councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society and chairman of the Bendigo Co-operative Freezing Co. Considered an expert on marketing wheat, he attended the International Co-operative Wheat Pool Conference in 1929.

McClelland narrowly won the Federal seat of Wimmera in December 1931, entering parliament in the aftermath of the Scullin government's 'grow more wheat' campaign and a world-wide slump in the price of the commodity. As the representative of an important wheat district, McClelland ventilated the plight of growers, showing in November 1932 that the price in 1930 was already less than half the cost of production. Following his call for an investigation of the industry, the Lyons government in January 1934 set up a royal commission on the wheat, flour and bread industries, under the chairmanship of Sir Herbert Gepp. It reported in 1934-36, recommending a home consumption price for flour, the establishment of a Commonwealth Wheat Board to direct overseas sales, and a plan for debt adjustment for wheat producers. At a conference convened by (Sir) Earle Page in October 1935 to discuss the industry, where McClelland represented the Wheat Growers Corporation of Victoria, he called for more consideration of the recommendations of the wheat commission, requesting in particular a ballot of growers on a compulsory pool which he strongly advocated. He supported several Wheat Growers Relief Acts in 1933-36 but cautioned against 'placing farmers on what may be called the dole'.

He spoke against the Commonwealth Land Tax Act as the 'most obnoxious' on the statute book. In December 1934 he believed that the problem of employment was linked to a 'solution of the difficulties confronting the wheat industry' and advocated the imposition of a wheat tax, continually emphasizing the employment-creating value of the industry.

McClelland's infrequent contributions to debates led one journalist to observe, in 1934, that he was 'retiring enough to be forgotten on occasions in the rush and bustle of the political struggle'. That year, with many of his Federal colleagues, McClelland refused to sign the United Country Party pledge to follow caucus decisions and, forfeiting U.C.P. support, barely held his seat. In 1937 he was defeated by the endorsed Victorian Country Party candidate. He tried unsuccessfully to regain Wimmera in 1940.

In 1948 McClelland retired from farming and settled in Melbourne. He died on 14 December 1958 at Caulfield and was cremated. Three daughters and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 5 June 1929, 13 Jan 1934
  • Age (Melbourne), 1 Apr 1932, 16 Dec 1958
  • Star (Melbourne), 14 Mar 1936
  • Herald (Melbourne), 15 Dec 1958.

Citation details

Charles Fahey, 'McClelland, Hugh (1873–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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