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McMillan, Sir William (1850–1926)

Sir William McMillan died at his home in Edgecliff-road, Woollahra, early yesterday morning, in his 77th year. He was born at Londonderry, Ireland, in 1850, being the son of Rev. Gibson McMillan, a Wesleyan Minister.

His education was received in Dublin and London, and, at the age of 19 years, he was sent by his uncle, William McArthur, a North of Ireland merchant, to Australia to develop the Sydney end of the business of W. and A. McArthur, Ltd., merchants and Importers, of York-street.

Sir William was best known as a figure in the political life of New South Wales in the turbulent days when Federation and the tariff occupied the foremost places in public questions. He entered the Legislative Assembly as a member for East Sydney in February, 1887, and at the next election, on February 2, 1889, he was returned by the same constituency. In order to take office in the last Ministry of Sir Henry Parkes, which was sworn-in on March 8, 1889, he had to resign, as the electoral laws of those days required, and recontest the seat. He was again elected by East Sydney, and continued to fill the portfolio of Colonial Treasurer and Minister for Railways until he resigned on July 27, 1891, three months before the expiration of the life of that Parliament, which was succeeded by the second administration of Sir George Dibbs.

The surviving members of the last Parkes Ministry are Sir Albert Gould, Sir Joseph Carruthers, Mr. Sydney Smith, and Mr. Bruce Smith, the last named succeeding Sir William in the portfolio which he resigned.

Sir William McMillan continued to represent East Sydney in the Assembly, and at the election in 1894 he successfully contested the Burwood electorate, where he was defeated at the elections held in 1898. As he had always identified himself with the Federal movement it was natural that he should have been a candidate at the first elections held throughout the Commonwealth in 1901, and he was returned as the representative of Wentworth, in New South Wales. He remained in the Federal sphere only for the term of the first Parliament, and, owing to pressure of business, he did not seek re-election in 1903.

Sir William McMillan's name will ever be connected with the body of stalwarts who fought whole heartedly for Federation; and he was a keen Freetrader. He was a member of the Federal Conference in 1890, of the Federal Convention in the following year, and of the momentous Federal Convention in 1898, which framed the first constitution of Australia. He did a great deal to advance the interests of commerce, and held many public positions, among them being the presidency of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce in 1886. In that year he also represented the Chamber at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition held in London. The honour of K.C.M.G. was conferred upon him in 1901.

Besides Lady McMillan a family of five survive. Mr. W. M. McMillan (Sydney) is a son, and the daughters are Miss Elizabeth McMillan (director of the Australian Mothercraft Society), and Mesdames Ernest Owen (Wollongong), H. F. Gunnar (Chicago, U.S.A.), and Frank Harvey, the lastnamed being the wife of the well-known actor. She is now in London.

The interment will be made at the Waverley Cemetery to-day, the cortege leaving the cemetery gates at 3.15 p.m. Dr. Prescott, principal of Newington College, and Rev. H. E. Andrews, will officiate at the graveside, and conduct a short service at the home prior to the funeral.

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'McMillan, Sir William (1850–1926)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mcmillan-sir-william-1105/text1100, accessed 21 April 2019.

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