James Whiteside McCay
Lieutenant General Sir James Whiteside McCay, KCMG, KBE, CB, VD was an Australian general and politician. He commanded the 2nd Infantry Brigade in the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, during the Gallipoli Campaign of the Great War. McCay was a champion of women’s suffrage and federation. He was Minister for Defence from 1904 to 1905.
About James Whiteside McCay in brief
Lieutenant General Sir James Whiteside McCay, KCMG, KBE, CB, VD was an Australian general and politician. A graduate of the University of Melbourne, he earned Master of Arts and Master of Laws degrees. As a soldier, McCay commanded the 2nd Infantry Brigade in the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, during the Gallipoli Campaign of the Great War. McCay was a champion of women’s suffrage and federation. He was Minister for Defence from 1904 to 1905, during which he implemented long-lasting reforms, including the creation of the Military Board. His failures in difficult military operations made him a controversial figure who earned the disfavour of his superiors, while his efforts to succeed in the face of insurmountable obstacles earned him the odium of troops under his command, who blamed him for high casualties. He commanded the Special Constabulary Force during the 1923 Victorian Police strike. In 1898, he went into partnership with William Thwaites, whose brother Walter married his sister. It produced two daughters, Margaret Beatrix and Mary Beatrix, who later became an articled clerk in Victoria. On 8 April 1896 McCay married Julia Mary O’Meara O’Neill, the daughter of a Roman Catholic police magistrate. It was the first marriage in Australia to be opposed by both families, and made such marriages uncommon in Australia by the time of McCay’s death. He is buried at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, next to his wife, Julia O’Cay, a former schoolmistress who he married in 1896.
He died on 9 November 1913, aged 80. He had a son, James, who was born in 1864, and a daughter, Mary Beatrice, who became a teacher. He also had a daughter-in-law, Sussanah Jane Williams, who went on to become principal of Janet Clarke Hall and The Women’s College at University of Sydney. In 1895, he was awarded an MA degree, majoring in mathematics. He completed his law degree the next year, with first class honours, in spite of rarely attending the lectures due to his work, political and military commitments. In 1896, he established a legal practice in Castlemaine, Victoria, which had the first telephone practice in the town. In 1897, he married his brother, Walter, whose name was then changed to McCay & Thwaite. He later became Deputy Chairman of the State Bank of Victoria and also served on a panel that deliberated on the future structure of the Army. He served as chairman of the Fair Profits Commission, the War Service Homes Scheme, and the Repatriation Commission’s Disposals Board. In 1899, he became a member of the first Australian Federal Parliament in 1901. He lost his seat in 1899 but became a Member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1903. In 1903, he won a seat in the Victorian Parliament for Castlemain, where he was elected to the Victorian House of Assembly.