McGill was born in 1834 at Boston, USA, and arrived in Victoria on 11 August 1853. Upon arrival he almost immediately went to Ballarat. McGill made a speech at the dinner for Consul Tarleton in November 1854. Raffaello Carboni called him short and said “what’s up” was his motto.
McGill returned to Ballarat in 1857 and married Eliza Rose Walt Carlington at Ballarat. He was living in Skipton St Ballarat in the 1880s. He died in 1883 in Victoria.
Goldfields Involvement, 1854
McGill was a participant in the Eureka uprising and Commander of the Californian Rifle Brigade, who claimed to have attended Westpoint. McGill was appointed second in command because of his military experience and arrived at Eureka with 200 men. He organised the Stockade sentry system. The Californian entered the Eureka Stockade on 02 December 1854, and left the Stockade to intercept Major Nickle’s men. After the battle McGill fled to Creswick wearing women’s clothes furnished by Mrs Hanmer.
McGill wrote to friends at Fiery Creek regarding the whereabouts of Joseph Little, whose whereabouts were unknown after the battle. McGill was present in January 1856 for the discussions involving a monument.
Post 1854 Experiences
- Wednesday Evening - An old identity of Ballarat has just gone to his long home after a chequered and of late years an unfortunate career. He name of James McGill was as familiar as a household word to the diggers of your district in the early days of the goldfields; but it will now perhaps be remembered by very few of the inhabitants of Ballarat of the present era. He arrived from the United States of America with a considerable sum of money - it is said as much as ₤0,000 - in his possession, and shortly afterwards took up his abode at Ballarat, where he made himself actively useful in many ways in connection with his local mining interest. He became much regarded for his strict integrity and excellent social qualities, but as years rolled on he lost all his capital through unsuccessful speculation, and eventually left the district a ruined man. Like too many others of his class, he sought consolation for his misfortune in the “flowing bowl,” and his face gradually got to be as familiar in the hotels of Melbourne as it had once been in the Main road of the Golden city. Recently he had been living at Sandridge, where he died on Sunday last, his end having probably been somewhat accelerated by the habits of “nipping” which had unfortunately taken possession of him.
Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
- Ballarat Courier, 13 December 1883.