North-Western Canal. Return to an Order of the Legislative Assembly, dated 2nd December 1880, for Copies of the North-Western Canal Papers. (Mr. McColl.)

Melbourne, Robert S. Brain, Acting Government Printer, 1881.

Foolscap folio, 72 pages with an illustration.

Drop-title, stab-sewn as issued, all edges uncut, top edges unopened; edges lightly foxed; thin strip along the top and right-hand margins of the last page a little foxed and dust-stained; an excellent copy.

Victorian Legislative Assembly Paper Numer C20; one of 775 copies. Hugh McColl (1819-1885), irrigation promoter, 'became secretary in 1874 of the Grand Victorian North West Canal, Irrigation, Traffic and Motive Power Co. Ltd. This visionary project, evolved by Benjamin Hawkins Dods in 1871, was to supply water and provide transport for six million acres (2,428,180 ha) of Victoria's northern plains through a canal running westerly from the Goulburn River near Murchison to the Wimmera; in their enthusiasm the promoters saw it linking the Wimmera with the Murray and even the Gulf of Carpentaria. McColl's "water-on-the-brain" was apparent first in England while secretary of the Tyne Conservancy Committee which advocated navigation improvements and then in the goldfields of northern Victoria where he sought the building of dams for miners and farmers. From 1865 he was honorary secretary of the Sandhurst and Castlemaine Water Supply Committee which supported development of the Coliban River. His fame grew as he stumped the country seeking support for his canal company, preaching the need for water conservation and publicizing overseas projects. Public notice was mostly critical, often derisory. Support came mainly from only five country towns but the government rejected his plea for a grant of three million acres (1,214,070 ha); protection of survey-pegs along the proposed canal-course was granted only in 1877. The promoters were over-optimistic in estimates of rainfall, river-flow and costs, and the canal project gradually fizzled out except for McColl's continued pressure for a canal across the northern plains, later the main feature of the Goulburn irrigation system.... When a royal commission on water supply was granted in 1884, it investigated his arguments for government ownership of all watercourses and the development of water resources based on a hydrographic contour survey with canals on high ground irrigating by gravity. He was less of a prophet in dismissing the problem of drainage with irrigation. Although critical of rural waterworks trusts using diversions along effluent watercourses from unregulated rivers, he declared himself satisfied by Deakin's 1883 Water Act. The commission met first only a few days before he died at his home in St Kilda on 2 April 1885. The outcome was the Act of 1886 which laid the foundation for Victorian irrigation development a generation earlier than any other large-scale irrigation in Australia' ('Australian Dictionary of Biography'). His numerous contributions to this paper readily give life to the ADB's description: 'enthusiastic, irresistible and "perpetually jolly", McColl was a Presbyterian of liberal-radical sentiments to whom "nothing came amiss in the way of enterprise"'.

Item #112180

Price: $330.00

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