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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McGibbon, James Sinclair (1875–1943)

by Harry C. J. Phillips

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

James Sinclair McGibbon (1875-1943), accountant, political fund-raiser and tennis administrator, was born on 10 August 1875 at Kew, Melbourne, son of Scottish-born parents James McGibbon, a warehouseman who turned his hand to accountancy, and his wife Margaret Euphemia, née Nicol. Educated at Camberwell Grammar School and Auburn College, Sinclair worked with Gilmour & McGibbon until 1896 when he moved to Perth and joined the accounting firm, O. L. Haines & Co. In 1898 he established his own practice. At St George's Anglican Cathedral, Perth, on 7 August 1900 he married 20-year-old Rettie Paltridge Paterson; they were to have five children.

Although he resigned as a director of Westralian Farmers Ltd in 1915 so that McGibbon & Co. could become the firm's auditors, he maintained his rural links. In the 1917 elections for the Legislative Assembly McGibbon unsuccessfully contested the seat of Toodyay for the Country Party. The Western Australian Consultative Council was formed in 1925; McGibbon soon became its chairman. Also known as the National Union, the same name as its Melbourne counterpart, the council sought to raise funds and hold them in trust as a means of combating communist activity and industrial lawlessness. Due to its assistance to conservative political parties, the council was alleged to carry undue influence in pre-selection and policy issues. At the 1943 Federal election a public battle over these matters, with McGibbon a target, was fought on the front pages of the Sunday Times and West Australian.

State and Federal governments had made use of McGibbon's expertise. In 1909 he was appointed assistant-commissioner to Martin Edward Jull, the Western Australian public service commissioner who was then investigating the State's book-keeping methods. He later served as Western Australian growers' representative (1919-20) on the Australian Wheat Board. On 29 December 1939 (Sir) Eric Harrison, the postmaster-general, announced McGibbon's appointment as a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a selection deplored by John Curtin, the leader of the Opposition, because of McGibbon's financial links with anti-Labor organizations. (Sir) Robert Menzies' government chose McGibbon in 1941 to be its business and financial representative abroad on matters relating to the armed services; he spent much of the next two years travelling overseas.

President (1927-28) of the Rotary Club of Perth, McGibbon was a director of Rotary International. While he enjoyed golf and motor-boating, his favourite recreation was tennis. He had joined the King's Park Tennis Club in 1903, and was president (1924-38) and a life member (1926) of the Western Australian Lawn Tennis Association. Practical, if domineering, he organized visits to Perth by ranked Australian players and leading teams from France, Japan, Britain and Germany. The King's Park Tennis Club named its gates and a public stand after him.

En route to New Zealand, McGibbon died of hypertensive coronary vascular disease on 8 November 1943 at the Menzies Hotel, Melbourne, and was cremated; his wife, two sons and three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC (Melb, 1983)
  • H. C. J. Phillips, Tennis West (Syd, 1995)
  • Sunday Times (Perth), 18, 25 July 1943
  • West Australian, 9 Nov 1943
  • D. W. Black, The National Party in Western Australia, 1917-1930: Its Origins and Development With an Introductory Survey of 'Liberal' Party Organisation, 1901-1916 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1974).

Citation details

Harry C. J. Phillips, 'McGibbon, James Sinclair (1875–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 13 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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