Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Shackell (1833–1899)

by Susan McCarthy

This article was published:

James Shackell (1833-1899), politician, auctioneer and agent, was born on 12 January 1833 at Twerton-on-Avon near Bath, Somerset, England, son of James Shackell, farmer, and his wife Ann, née Mills. In August 1852 he migrated to Victoria in the Winchester, went to the Ovens goldfields and took up a claim on Woolshed Creek, but became mainly a buyer of gold and stream tin. In 1858 he sold his business to the Oriental Bank and visited England, where at Gravesend, Kent, he married Annie Susannah Littlewood; they returned to Melbourne in the Royal Charter on 22 July 1859 and settled at Beechworth. Elected to the Municipal Council in 1861, he was a partner in J. H. Gray & Co., agents and auctioneers, until 1862. He then went to Forbes, New South Wales, and set up his own agency.

Late in 1863 Shackell transferred to Echuca, Victoria, buying valuable business property. Vigorous and ambitious, six months later he became clerk, valuer and treasurer to the Echuca Road Board (later Shire Council). He resigned as shire clerk in 1876 but was elected a councillor in 1877-82 and was president in his first year of office. As well, he was a councillor of the Borough of Echuca, serving as mayor in 1878-82 and as president of the Echuca Water Trust.

Tall, handsome and debonair in dress, Shackell dominated most aspects of local life. Successful in amateur theatricals, he also sang in concerts; he was president of the race club, a foundation member and later president of the football, cricket and rowing clubs, organizer of a young men's social club, patron of the horticultural society and the Australian Natives Club, and a committee-man of the Agricultural and Pastoral Society and of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1876 with his brother-in-law, H. T. Littlewood, he purchased Madowla Park station, east of Echuca, and next year stood against Duncan Gillies for the seat of Rodney in the Legislative Assembly. Narrowly defeated he appealed, but a re-election secured Gillies's position. Suffering heavy financial losses, Shackell sold his Madowla Park interest and concentrated on his agencies. In June 1878 he gave evidence to the royal commission into the progress of settlement under the Land Act of 1869, defending his dealings under the 1865 Act and refuting accusations that he had been a 'dummy-monger'.

In February 1883 Shackell won the seat of Rodney on the retirement of (Sir) Simon Fraser and in 1884 was a member of the royal commission into water-supply. A. W. H. White became his partner in 1885 and three years later he left Echuca to manage the Melbourne side of Shackell, White & Co. and to pursue his parliamentary career, which included membership of the 1890-91 royal commission into the coal industry of Victoria. In 1891 he visited England and failed in launching a company to develop by irrigation the Wharparilla estate near Echuca. Made a freeman of Bath, he returned to Victoria only six weeks before the 1892 elections in which he lost his seat to a local farmer, Timothy Murphy. Appointed assignee of insolvent estates in August 1893, he combined the post with mining and general agencies. A conservative free trader in politics and an Anglican, Shackell died at his home at Armadale on 25 April 1899 of debilitation caused by gout from which he had suffered for some twenty years. He was survived by his wife, four of their six sons and three of their four daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Priestley, Echuca: A Centenary History (Brisb, 1965)
  • Riverine Herald, 1865-99
  • Town and Country Journal, 29 Oct 1887
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Apr 1899
  • private information.

Citation details

Susan McCarthy, 'Shackell, James (1833–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 January, 1833
Twerton-on-Avon, Bath, Somerset, England


25 April, 1899 (aged 66)
Armadale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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