George McCulloch (mine owner)

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George McCulloch

George McCulloch (Glasgow 23 April 1848 – 12 December 1907 London) was a British businessman and art collector. He was the mastermind behind the formation of the Broken Hill Mining Company, a precursor of BHP Billiton.[1] He was the son of James McCulloch, a contractor, and Isabella Robertson, a farmer's daughter. George's father died of cholera in January 1849 when George was one year old.[2]

As a young man George went to Uruguay, South America where his brothers John and Allan were stockmen and then, following a failed business venture,[3] to Australia in 1872, where his cousin Sir James McCulloch was a prosperous merchant and politician.[4]

About 1875, his cousin gave him a job as Manager of the Mount Gipps Sheep Station in New South Wales.[5] and he was given a 2/16 share in the Mount Gipps Pastoral and Mineral Company.[6] By chance, in 1883 one of his boundary riders, Charles Rasp, discovered mineral samples on the property and pegged out a claim. George McCulloch immediately held a meeting with the station hands and it was agreed to form a Syndicate of Seven pegging out a further six blocks which were amalgamated to form the privately owned 'Broken Hill Mining Company'. In 1885, in order to bring in more capital for the development of the mine, this was floated into the Broken Hill Proprietary Mining Company Ltd.[7]

George McCulloch retired to the UK a rich man about 1891. He married Mary Agnes Mayger, the widow of an employee at Mount Gipps, in 1893 and they went to live at 184 Queens Gate, London.[8]

Between 1893 and his death in 1907 George became an internationally known art collector and was a patron of the artist John Singer Sargent. At the time of his death he owned one of the finest collections of paintings by modern British artists in the world. He made it his rule not to acquire a picture unless it was painted in his own lifetime.[9]

He died in 1907, the year before his son Alexander McCulloch won a Silver Medal in the Single Sculls at the London Summer Olympic Regatta in 1908.

George's widow Agnes married the Scottish painter James Coutts Michie in 1908. The house at Queens Gate was used as a British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital during the Great War and was known as the Michie Hospital. For her war work Agnes Coutts Michie received the CBE in 1920.


  1. ^ Curtis, 1908 and Camilleri, 2006.
  2. ^ Glasgow Herald, 1849
  3. ^ Glasgow Herald, 1871
  4. ^ Camilleri, 2006.
  5. ^ Oxford DNB.
  6. ^ Probate, George McCulloch, Victoria 8th July 1908
  7. ^ Camilleri, 2006 and Curtis 1908.
  8. ^ England Census 1891 and 1901.
  9. ^ The Times, 1907.
  • The History of Broken Hill, Its Rise and Progress, compiled and edited by Leonard Samuel Curtis, Frearson's Printing House, Adelaide, South Australia, 1908.
  • The Times, 13 December 1907 and other obituaries of George McCulloch.
  • Into the Broken Hill Paddock, published by Jenny Camilleri, printed by Openbook Australia 2006, ISBN 0-646-46245-8
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography