James Scullin – A Man of the People

Day 266 of Colourisation Project – January 28

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Timing is everything in politics.

Australia’s ninth Prime Minister, James Scullin was unlucky in his timing. Having won office for Labor in a landslide swing against Stanley Bruce’s Nationalist Party in 1929, just a week before the stock market crash in Wall Street, Scullin faced the world economic crisis and the ensuing global depression head on, while trying to implement Labor reforms.

James Scullin

Photographer Unknown ~ James Scullin c 1930s ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Scullin refused to take up residence in The Lodge, instead offering to rent it out to defray the costs of the Prime Ministership! Hotel Canberra was the prime ministerial residence for the duration of his term.

Plagued by the extremely tough economic conditions and internal bickering of the Australian Labor Party, his nightmare reign came to an end on 6 January 1932, barely 26 months after taking office and for the next three years he was Leader of the Opposition. He remained in parliament for a further 14 years before retiring in 1949 due to ill health.

Fiercely nationalist, he set a precedent by becoming the first Prime Minister to install an Australian-born Governor General – Sir Isaac Isaacs (1931). This initiative had met with furious opposition from the British Government – King George V was not amused. Up until then the Governor-General was appointed by the King and was a position held exclusively by British aristocrats.

Born in the small town of Trawalla in Western Victoria, Scullin was also Australia’s first Roman Catholic Prime Minister and the first to be of Irish descent. Having left school at 12, he was a former grocery store manager and union organiser in Ballarat between 1900-1910. A teetotaller and non-smoker, he was regarded as a “man of the people.”

Until Julia Gillard came along in 2010, Scullin held the distinction of being Australia’s only red haired Prime Minister.

James Scullin died this day, 28 January 1953, at his home in Hawthorn, Melbourne


“Justice and humanity demand interference whenever the weak are being crushed by the strong. ”   –  James Scullin (the inscription on his gravestone at Melbourne General Cemetery)

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