Royal Reels: Gambling


The H.V. McKay Pty. Ltd. Famous Farm Implements of Australian Manufacture advertising cover had 3 printed views of horse-drawn farm machinery, and it was addressed to Champion Foundry & Machine Co., 3018 West 21st Place, Chicago, Illinois, USA. The pair of red 1½d KGV head stamps had a SUNSHINE/ ( ) FE 27/ VIC postmark (Figure 1).

The reverse had a return address of the company at Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Melbourne, Australia on the flap as well as a diagram of a country farm wire gate (Figure 2).

Hugh Victor McKay was born on 21 August 1865 at Raywood, Victoria, the fifth child of Nathaniel McKay and his wife Mary from Monaghan, Ireland who arrived in Victoria in 1852. After mining for gold at Ballarat, Stawell and north of Bendigo, the family settled at Raywood, moving to a selection at Drummartin in the early 1870s. All eight sons became successful business men, tradesmen or farmers and had limited education but a definite religious upbringing. Four of them were closely associated with Hugh’s manufacturing enterprises.

The government of Victoria gave prizes for developing a harvester combining stripping, threshing, winnowing and bagging and Victor with other family members developed a stripper-harvester prototype which was completed in January 1885. McKays harvesters were made under contract in Melbourne, Sandhurst and from 1888 at Ballarat, where they opened an office. In 1891 Hugh married Sarah Irene Graves and in 1893 he built an improved harvester which he marketed as the ‘Sunshine’, shown as the model and in an advert in Figures 3 & 4.

The business grew rapidly from 12 harvesters built in 1895 and 500 built in 1901. McKay established agencies in the capital cities and the harvesters were sold in South Africa and North and South America. By 1904 the firm was the largest manufacturing exporter in the Commonwealth. The Sunshine Harvester Works was for many years the largest factory in Australia and it grew prodigiously to cover 30 acres, employ 2,500 workers and in 1926 distribute £600,00 in wages and salaries. McKay while in London during 1919 chaired the Australian War Materials Disposal Board and for these services he was appointed a Companion of the British Empire. McKay left his Sunshine home in 1922 when he achieved his long-held ambition of owning Rupertswood at Sunbury, Victoria, where he died of cancer on 21 May 1926, survived by his wife, a daughter and 2 sons. A picture of Hugh Victor McKay is shown in Figure 5.

He left an estate of £1,448,146, and a codicil vested the income from 100,000 shares in the H.V. McKay Charitable Trust. His two sons followed him as managing director, Sam up to 1932 at his death, and then Cecil as the managing director of the H. V. McKay Massey Harris Pt Ltd from 1937 and as chairman from 1947 when the McKay name disappeared, when Massey Harris purchased the remaining family interests in 1955.

This paper was abstracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which displayed five pages of text on Hugh McKay.