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John McKellar (1881–1966)

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John McKellar (1881-1996) engineer, trade union official, editor and author 

Birth: 25 January 1881 at Greenock, Scotland, of John McKellar (1844-1912), cooper, and Isabella, née McNamee (1852-1906). Unmarried. Death: 19 November 1966 at his residence in Kew, Melbourne. Religion: buried in Presbyterian cemetery. 

  • Arrived in Victoria about 1888, probably with parents and his sister Martha, a dressmaker. All four were living at Footscray by 1903. Educated at state schools and at V. E. E. Gotch’s Technical College, Footscray.
  • Worked as an engineer to 1918. Joined Victorian Public Service. Secretary of the Australian Public Service Association, Victorian branch, from 1924 to 1939. Appointed justice of the peace.
  • Editor of the Public Service Journal of Victoria from 1924 to 1937. Editor for a few years of New Economics (Douglas Credit).
  • Contested as selected Labor candidate elections for Legislative Assembly seats of West Gippsland in June 1924 and November 1925 and Nunawading [against R. G. Menzies] in 1929, and for the federal seat of Balaclava in 1925.
  • Associated with the Jindyworobak movement, he was the author of a book of essays, Digging at Roots (1951), and of Tree by the Creek (1961). He also wrote historical articles, including a paper in 1946 on the Gippsland Community Settlement, a Christian Socialist commune set up in Drouin, Victoria, by Rev George A. Brown in 1890-1891, with which his father was associated.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s he was connected with the Christian Mission or Church of God in Victoria, associated with the Seventh-day Adventists, and published a pamphlet Concerning the Belief in Immortality in 1955.
  • Other publications included Sheep without a shepherd, a novel, What is Unitarianism? and Maurice Blackburn and the Struggle for Freedom, published by the Anti-Conscription Campaign Challenge Press Pty Ltd, 1946. He was a councillor of the Historical Society of Victoria. His Who’s Who in Australia entry gave his recreations as "books, motoring, walking, anything but sport" and recorded his membership of the Melbourne and Athenaeum clubs. He lived for many years at Toorak with his sister.
  • Cause of death: uraemia, cerebral atherosclerosis and generalised atherosclerosis.

H. G. Gibbney and Ann G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987), p 58; photo, appointed secretary of PSA, Labor Call (Melbourne), 12 March 1925 p 7; G. Featherstone, ‘Co-Workers with Christ: George A. Brown and Christian Socialism in Victoria 1885-1894’, Victorian Historical Journal, vol 77, no. 1, 2006, pp 16-33; Who’s Who in Australia (1950), p 462; and William H. Wilde, Joy Hooton and Barry Andrews (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (Melbourne, 1994) p 495.

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Citation details

'McKellar, John (1881–1966)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

John Mckellar, 1929

John Mckellar, 1929

Herald (Melbourne), 27 November 1929, p 16

Life Summary [details]


25 January, 1881
Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland


19 November, 1966 (aged 85)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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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.

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Political Activism