Stirring the Possum
A Political Autobiography
"'Stirring the possum: to liven things up, create a disturbance; raise issues that others wish left dormant.'
- GA Wilkes, Australian Dictionary of Colloquialisms
"From his days as a young Trotskyist in the 1940s - secretly in love with an enemy Stalinist - to his role in the 80s as commissioner in an enquiry into the Maralinga nuclear tests, Jim McClelland has been known as a stirrer.
"In his autobiography he offers us a perspective on Australina politics that spans 50 years. His critial assessment of public figures and events is both humourous and acerbic; his account of a distinguished and varied career reflects his energy, his sharp mind and his unfailing capacity to 'liven things up.'"
"Witty, earthy and outrageously irreverent" - Wayne Crawford, Mercury
"I couldn't put it down until I had reached the last word" - Clyde Cameron, Herald
About the Author:
James McClelland was born in Melbourne in 1915 and studied at Melbourne and Sydney Universities. He describes hmself as 'a child of the Great Depression and a fugitive from religion and Marxism...a former lawyer who is clear-sighted about the lawyers; a former judge who is clear-sighted about the judiciary and a present journalist who is clear-sighted about the media.'
As both participant and spectator of one of the most interesting periods in Australia's history, he survived a brief political career as a minister in the Whitlan government to become the first chief judge of the Land and Environment Court of NSW in 1980, and in 1984, commissioner for the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests at Maralinga.
James McClelland died on 18th January 1999. You can read an obituary published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Robert William McClelland married Florence Ruby O'Connor behind the altar of St Ignatius Church in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond some time in 1912. He also did what was expected of all non-Catholic spouses who were willing to go along with the wish of the Catholic partner to have the union blessed by the church: he undertook to allow any children of the marriage to be brought up as Catholics. Although no actionable contract was signed on such occasions I know my father felt bound by his promise and, in his honourable way, lived up to it.
His own father had been what was known in those days as an Orangeman. From what I was told as a child about him he savoured the bile of Ulster's hates and nothing pleased him more than to go into town on 17 March and jeer at the Micks in the annual St Patrick's Day procession. If he came home with a bloodied nose he regarded it as a glorious wound earned on the field of sectarian battle.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1989.
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Last modified: January 30, 2001.