Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James McCulloch (1841–1904)

by Samuel Clyde McCulloch

This article was published:

James McCulloch (1841-1904), businessman, was the third brother of William McCulloch. Educated at Douglas Academy, Newton-Stewart, he migrated to Melbourne in 1863 and joined the carrying company named after and directed by William. James worked first in Castlemaine but early in 1865 was sent to Echuca to open a branch of the firm. Although capital and guidance came from the Melbourne headquarters, James's energy, persuasiveness and diplomacy helped him to negotiate contracts with squatters for the carriage of their wool clips. He also acquired a small fleet of riverboats and barges. The company soon commanded most of the forwarding business from stores and offices opposite the wharf. On 27 February 1867 James married Alice Bolton, only daughter of Henry Hopwood.

McCulloch visited Europe in 1873 and then settled in Melbourne to help his brother with the rapidly expanding company. He was a member of the board of directors and played a major role in its success. When business declined in the 1880s, James played a crucial role in attempting a merger with (F. A.) Wright, Heaton & Co. of Sydney and joined their board of directors. After William stepped down as director of his company in 1886, James carried on as the key member and was finally successful in merging with Wright, Heaton & Co. in 1898. The McCulloch Carrying Co. became the Victorian subsidiary, and James remained a director until 1904. He also had large interests in the Colonial Mutual Fire Insurance Co. and the Outtrim Coal Co., serving on their boards.

McCulloch drove into Melbourne each day from his home, Barholm, Oakleigh, where he bred Jersey cattle famous for the quantity and quality of their milk and for butter production. His pedigreed herd began with a bull and seven cows selected for him in 1888 by William in England and said to be the finest ever to leave the country. Three cows calved on the voyage to Melbourne. In 1889 McCulloch first showed his Jerseys in Melbourne and won first prize for a cow in milk. He later won many awards; for example, eight firsts and several other prizes at the Royal Melbourne Show in 1900. Descendants of his stock were scattered throughout Australasia. McCulloch was a member and sometime councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society and in municipal affairs at Oakleigh served as a shire councillor. Predeceased by his wife in 1895, he died on 9 June 1904; they had no children. A staunch member of the Australian Church, his funeral service was conducted by Dr Strong.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • I. Mudie, Riverboats (Melb, 1965)
  • S. Priestley, Echuca: A Centenary History (Brisb, 1965)
  • A. Morris, Rich River (Colac, 1970)
  • McCulloch Carrying Co. papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Samuel Clyde McCulloch, 'McCulloch, James (1841–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




9 June, 1904 (aged ~ 63)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.