The Sunshine Harvester Works were orginally established in Ballarat in the early 1890s, by Hugh Victor McKay, inventor of the 'Sunshine Harvester'. In 1906, McKay moved his manufacturing operations from Ballarat to Braybrook Junction (later known as Sunshine) on the western outskirts of Melbourne. The new site offered dual benefits to the rapidly expanding manufacturing business which was already selling its products throughout Australian and into export markets in South America. It was adjacent to a major railway junction providing easy access to Victorian farming districts and the Port of Melbourne, while its location in a then rural shire on the outer urban boundary of Melbourne was beyond the juristiction of the Wages Board.
Anticipating the need for a localised workforce, and aspiring to create the "Birmingham of the future", McKay secured 400 acres of land at Braybrook Junction with the aim of subdividing the land and encouraging his workers to settle locally. The company contributed to the development of housing, electricity supply, gardens and public facilities. These were important investments in supporting McKay's growing enterprise and fostering a stable and loyal workforce.
In 1906 Braybrook Junction was a rural settlement with fewer than 20 homes within a mile radius of the factory. Within a few years it had grown into a small township to support the rapidly expanding factory. In July 1907, Braybrook Junction was renamed Sunshine in recognition of the contribution of the Sunshine Harvester Works to the development of the district and its potential future prosperity.
H.V. McKay's entrepreneurial vision and industrial skill created the largest industrial enterprise in the southern hemisphere at Sunshine by the 1920s. In 1921 the company was reformed as H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, with H.V. McKay and his family retaining a controlling interest. By the time of H.V. McKay's death in 1926, the factory was employing over 3,000 workers and covered 76 acres (30.7 hectares).
In 1930, H.V. McKay Pty Ltd merged with the Australian operations of the Canadian farm machinery manufacturer Massey-Harris Co Ltd., under the title under the title H.V. McKay Massey Harris Pty Ltd, but the McKay family retained a 55% interest in the new enterprise and continued to oversee management of the Australian operations, including the Sunshine Harvester Works, until 1955.
1. F.J. Kendall, H.V. McKay Pioneer Industrialist, Monograph No.2, Council of the Science Museum of Victoria, 21 Nov 1979.
2. John Lack, 'McKay, Hugh Victor (1865 - 1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol.10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp 291-294.
3. Owen Ford, Harvester Town - The Making of Sunshine 1890 - 1925, Sunshine & District Historical Society Inc, 2001, reprinted 2011.
4. Prue McGoldrick, When the Whistle Blew: A Social History of the Town of Sunshine, 1920-1950, Gippsland Printers, Morwell, 1989.