Allan McLean was born on the Isle of Coll, Scotland in 1782. The Isle of Coll is one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides, an archipelago off the west coast of Scotland. Thirty-six islands in the area are currently inhabited. Although the population of Coll is currently less than two-hundred, when Allan was alive the population was significantly greater.
Allan’s father, John McLean was a boat-builder and carpenter, while his mother, Isabella McDougall presumably worked at home. At the time of his marriage on the nearby Isle of Tiree, Allan was listed as working as a carpenter.
It was on May 23, 1816 at Scarinish, the main village on the Isle of Tiree that Allan married Janet McFarlane, a waitress living in the village.
On the Old Parish Registers, her place of residence at marriage is listed as Scarinish, while Allan is listed as residing on Coll, where he worked as a carpenter. According to the Shipping Records, Janet (who was born in 1790) was a native of the County of Argyll, Parish of Kilmore, District of Lorne, and her father John McFarlane worked as a “Coast Waiter”, meaning he supervised the loading and unloading of ships for the customs service. Her mother was Ann Sinclair.
Allan and Janet raised a large family, including two daughters Isabella and Ann who were “in service” at the time of their departure for Australia in 1838. The shipping records also indicate Janet who could speak a little English had been living with her parents at the time of departure. The records further indicate although some of the family, including Allan, could read and write English, they were, for the most part, speakers of Scottish Gaelic.
Around the time of their immigration to Australia, Scotland had been going through difficult economic conditions. A number of newspaper articles document the difficulties being faced by people in the both the Highlands and the Islands of Scotland, including a lengthy article in “Bristol Mercury” on Saturday 15 April 1837…
The Right Worshipful the Mayor presided at a meeting held on Thursday last, for the purpose of raising a fund in aid of the suffering population of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, when the resolutions which appear in another part of our paper were agreed to. The severe and urgent distress, which so strongly claims the benevolent and active sympathy of the British public, extends over districts containing a scattered population of 167,000, of whom it is computed, that not less than 86,00 are in absolute want of food, clothing, and fuel. These accumulated evils have not been occasioned by the imprudence or misconduct of the sufferers. The greater part of the population on the western coasts of Scotland ewere formerly employed in the manufacture of kelp, some in the herring fishery, and others in agriculture. The kelp manufacture has necessarily been abandoned as no longer profitable, and for several years the herring fishery has been very unproductive, and the harvest has nearly failed. The people being thus deprived by unforeseen and inevitable causes of every resource, and reduced to the last extremity of want, have been compelled to sustain life by consuming the corn and potatoes they had reserved as seed for the next year’s crops, and even by gathering shell fish from the shore. A defective supply of unwholesome food has produced disease among them in various forms ; and their present misery is aggravated by their hopeless prospects for the future. Still, they patiently endure their dreadful privations. So peaceable are they, and obedient to the laws, that there is neither a constabulary, nor a military force throughout all the districts visited by this great and extensive calamity. Nor can we forget that they contributed to form those Highland regiments, which were so eminently distinguished during the late war for their discipline and bravery, and who bore so conspicuous and important a part in its dangers and its victories.
The following extracts are selected from a great number of letters from the Scottish clergy, and other gentlemen of local influence and respectability, and they unhappily leave no room to doubt, that the atmost amount of public and private liberality that can be anticipated will afford onry a partial and temporary relief to the distress in which upwards of 80,000 persons are involved, many of whom it is believed must eventually be forced to quit their native country as emigrants:-
“Last harvest the grain crops in the Lewis did not ripen at all, owing to the lateness of the spring, and the cold ungenial summer. The potatoe crop, the people’s chief support, was a general failure. To add to their misfortunes, there has been no herring fishery on the coast for several years vast. Two-thirds of the whole population of 15,000 souls may be said to be in the condition here imperfectly described -a condition which promises nothing but starvation to thousands, unless the calamity is averted through public or private charity. To my certain knowledge there are hundreds families, many of them in the town and neighbourhood of Stornoway, who are at this moment without one particle of food being entirely dependent for support on the benevolence of the few who are able to help them. “-Lewis Mac Ieer, of Grace.
“In Tobermory the population is 1520, of whom 200 are in necessitous circumstances at present, about the end of spring it is expected the number will be increased to 500; and before harvest, to 700. I know well that several families in this place had not a single morsel offood in their houses some months ago, neither had they money wherewith to purchase any; and besides, potatoes are so very scarce here that the little that can be got are sold at 4s. the barrel, which is double the price they bring in ordinary times at this season.-One poor man, who lately died of influenza, was obliged to keep on his day-clothes on his death-bed, as there was only a single blanket in the house.”-Finlay McPherson Minister.
“‘Thepopulation of Snizort in 1831 was 8487. The wants of the inhabitants of this parish were never known to be so early l pressing. About one-third of the whole population are in im-mediate want.”-Donald M’Donald Esq., Berriedale.
“The population of Duirinish is between 4000 and 5000. 1 consider that at least four-fifths of the population a-lb in needy ; circumstances.”-Edward Gibbons, Factor to McLeod of McLeod. , The parish of Sleat embraces a population of 3000 souls, of whom 250 are presently destitute, and upwards of 1500 will be- i come so beforeharvest. The population ” have no resources from I either fishing, manufacture, or day labour, by which immediate I relief can be afforded ;” while families to the number of 242 will t require to be furnished with seed for next crop-none of whom I have wherewithal to purchase it. Mr. McIver, the minister of Sleat, concludes the above statement thus-” To add to the distress so prevalent, disease to an unprecedented degree prevails in the parish. Within the last fortnight, twenty-two deaths have t taken place from influenza and small-pox,-an extent of mortality not within the recollection of the oldest inhabitant, and fears are apprehended that typhus may ensue from the unhealthy nature of C the food on which the sick subsist.”
The parish of Ullapool is represented by Mr. Alexander Ross, as consisting of 2500 individuals-600 of whom are destitute of food and fuel, and from 1OO to 200 comparatively destitute of clothing. By harvest time about 2100 will be similarly situated as respects food, and no portion of the above have any resources of their own on which to rely for procuring the means to purchase s food or clothing..
The Rev. Thomas Ross, of Lochbroom, Dingwall, states the a population of his parish at 5400 souls-1000 of these, though not destitute, are yet “in great-distress, and the whole will he in a similar situation by next harvest. They have no resources (by employment or otherwise) of their own,” by which immediate relief can I be afforded, and about 1060 families will require assistance in the shape of seed corn for next harvest.
“The population of Barvas is 1840, of whom one-fourth will be in want of the necessaries of life by the end of March one-half by the end of May, and the whole by the end of June. A few families are now almost in a state of absolute destitution. Without foreign aid, more than the half of thepopuadtion must inevitably perish of absolute starvation.”
Assisted Passage to Australia
In this context, the McLean Family (along with many others) decided to come to Australia. That said, there was also a movement to “clear” the Scottish Highlands.
At about this time, the short-lived “Bounty” assisted passage immigration scheme existed to encourage people to move to Australia.
Between 1837 and 1846 assisted emigrants, largely working-class people, greatly outnumbered the unassisted emigrants. The Scottish emigration for the ten years numbered about 12,000 persons, of whom about 10,000 were brought out under either the government or colonial bounty systems, so that the proportion of Scots among the incomers rose to about a sixth, as against a tenth in the six years before 1838. For the first time, there was a considerable influx of working-class Scots.
1837 : Travel on “The Brilliant”
Allan, Janet and their children left from nearby Tobermory on September 27, 1837 travelling on the “Brilliant”. According to the Keith Dash website about Coll Genealogy
The Brilliant, a copper-sheathed wooden-hulled ship of 428 tons, was built in Montreal, Canada, in 1834. It made at least two voyages to Australia, the first as a Bounty Scheme ship under the command of Captain Gilkison departing from Tobermory, Isle of Mull, on 27 September 1837 and arriving in Sydney on 20 January 1838. In a letter to Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, Lord Glenelg explained that the original intention had been to send the Brilliant to Van Dieman’s Land (i.e. Tasmania), but because of reports of poor prospects for immigrants there the ship had been sent to Sydney instead. The departure of the Brilliant from Tobermory was reported in some detail in an article in the Inverness Courier, and after its arrival in Sydney a committee of passengers wrote a letter of thanks to Captain Gilkison.
According to the Inverness Courier Index 1837, p212…
A large body of emigrants sailed from Tobermory on the 27th of September for New South Wales. The vessel was the Brilliant, and its size and splendid fittings were greatly admired. “the people to be conveyed by this vessel are decidedly the most valuable that have ever left the shores of Great Britain; they are all of excellent moral character, and from their knowledge of agriculture, and management of sheep and cattle, must prove a most valuable acquisition to a colony like New South Wales.” The Rev. Mr Macpherson, of Tobermory, preached a farewell sermon before the party sailed. The total number of emigrants was 322, made up as follows:—From Ardnamurchan and Strontian, 105; Coll and Tiree, 104; Mull and lona, 56; Morven, 25; Dunoon, 28; teachers, 2; surgeons, 2. A visitor from New South Wales presented as many of the party as he met with letters of introduction, and expressed himself highly gratified with the prospect of having so valuable an addition to the colony. A Government agent superintended the embarkation.
The “Caledonian Mercury” of Saturday 14 Oct 1837 reported the event in these terms…
In his book, “The Long Farewell: the Perilous Voyages of Settlers Under Sail in the Great Migrations to Australia” Don Charlwood notes conditions on board the vessell would probably have been reasonably cramped. In her diary, Jessie Campbell, who emigrated to New Zealand in 1840 wrote…
Captain Grey and the doctor complaining woefully about the filth of Highland emigrants, they say they could not have believed it was possible for human beings to be so dirty in their habits, only fancing using their dishes they have for their food for certain other purposes at night poor as I am no considerations on earth would tempt me to trust my little family in a ship with Highland emigrants if I still had the voyage before me.
The ship arrived in Sydney on January 20, 1838. Interestingly, this was the same vessell that transported the father of Mary McKillop. The Sydney Herald of Monday 22 January 1838 reported the arrival of The Brilliant in these terms…
1830s-1840s Conditions in Australia
A few days later, a letter appeared in The Sydney Herald Monday 29 January 1838, page 3 which responded to then idea the immigrants were “distressed”…
In February 1938, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser Thursday 1 February 1838, page 2 reported further about the conditions of highland immigrants. The article indicates there was probably a significant debate going on about whether or not this type of immigration was a good thing…
NSW South Coast
Soon after arriving in Australia, Allan and Janet settled at Broulee, near Moruya, on the NSW South Coast, where the historian Gibbney notes, there was already a singificant Scottish population. Their daughter, Isabella, for example, spent the early years of her marriage at “Glenduart”, the third-largest estate on the Moruya River, owned by John Leyburn Maclean, a retired Scots infantry captain.In the 1850s,their son Donald visited the Californian Gold Diggings. In 1854, Donald, Alexander, Hector, John and Archibald moved to the Shoalhaven to settle and build ships and farm. Allan McLean died on December 20, 1858 (3097/1858) at Moruya Heads and is buried in the Presbyterian Section of the Moruya Cemetery.
The McLean brothers punted farm produce down the Crookhaven Creek to Greenwell Point from as far as the junction of Eelwine Creek, near the Graham Family graves. With the bridging of this creek the distance was shortened for residents south of Crookhaven creek who needed to travel to Pyree school or Greenwell Point. It was below the Crookhaven bridge on Pyree Lane that the McLean brothers built the Janet McFarlane; a sailing boat that was noted for her speed. She was later lost at sea in a gale off Newcastle.
NZ-based descendant, Alec McLean notes…
The brothers Donald and Alexander McLean settled at Shoalhaven/Crookhaven NSW where they built and operated boats running freight up and down the river. They had neighbouring farms in the area, at Pyree, “The Orange Grove” (Donald) and “Violet Bank” (Alexander). Violet Bank was incorporated in 1951 I understand into the Orange Grove property. The homestead at the Orange Grove was (as at 15 or so years ago – I have no up to date information on this) still in the hands of Donald’s descendant Gordon McLean who never married. Donald’s wife was Catherine Finlayson, Alexander’s Annie Robertson. Donald and Catherine had four daughters and two sons, and I have details of their descendents. Alexander and Annie had four boys and four girls.
Sudden Death of Mrs McLean
Twenty years later, Janet McFarlane died, aged 78, on December 5, 1868 (6557/1868) at Crookhaven. Given the sudden nature of her death, a coronial inquiry before a jury was held on Monday, December 7. Once completed, she was buried on Monday evening.
I have obtained another obituary, although I am unaware of the source for the following quote.
On Saturday evening, after an absence of between three and four years, Archibald paid her a visit, arriving at about 8.30pm. He said “You look as well as when I saw you last”, to which she replied that she was very well, thank God. They had tea. At nine o’clock, however, she is reported to have said to her daughter-in-law, “Dear me Ann, I don’t what is come over me, give me a mouthful of water.”. Janet asked for her walking stick and then appeared to faint. She was placed on the sofa, some water was applied to her face, but she died instantaneously. There was an inquiry into her sudden death. The jury after some consideration returned the following verdict: “That the deceased Janet McLean, died at the residence of Alexander McLean, at Crookhaven, Shoalhaven, on Saturday the fifth day of December, instant, and that the death of the deceased was the result of natural causes. The Minister for the funeral was William Grant and undertaker was John Mason.
* Isabella McLean was born August 9, 1818 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. She married James Laing on October 16, 1841 at Glenduart, MORUYA, NSW (V18411211 76/1841). She died July 29, 1890 (5798/1891) at Towamba, near EDEN, NSW. You can read more about her here. http://jamesobrien.id.au/genealogy/james-laing-isabella-mclean/
* Ann McLean was born 1820 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND.
* Archibald McLean was born May 31 1821 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. He married Euphemia McIntosh on October 13, 1854 at Scots Church, Sydney (V18541486 73B/1854). He died July 31, 1877 at Moruya (death not registered in NSW).
* Donald McLean was born 1823 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. He married Catherine Finlayson in 1864 at Shoalhaven (3109/1864). He died on December 19, 1899 (2755/1900) at Crookhaven. He is buried in the Presbyterian Portion ROW/SECTION 02B of the Nowra Cemetery. Allocation 8. According to researcher, Norma Ward, Donald was born on April 15, 1823, though she does not have the source for that information.
I have received the following information from NZ-based descendant, Alec McLean who writes…
The brothers Donald and Alexander McLean settled at Shoalhaven/Crookhaven NSW where they built and operated boats running freight up and down the river. They had neighbouring farms in the area, at Pyree, “The Orange Grove” (Donald) and “Violet Bank” (Alexander). Violet Bank was incorporated in 1951 I understand into the Orange Grove property. The homestead at the Orange Grove was (as at 15 or so years ago – I have no up to date information on this) still in the hands of Donald’s descendant Gordon McLean who never married. Donald’s wife was Catherine Finlayson, Alexander’s Annie Robertson. Donald and Catherine had four daughters and two sons, and I have details of their descendents. Alexander and Annie had four boys and four girls, and I have some details of their descendents. If anyone wants further information from this side of the Tasman, happy for you to pass on my email address.
I have also received the following information from descendant, Catherine Ring who writes…
My name is Catherine Ring, nee McLean, and I have been reading your article on Allan and Janet McLean.
Allan and Janet were my great great grandparents.
My great grandparents were Donald and Catherine McLean of Crookhaven and my grandparents were Allan and Muriel McLean.
My parents were Eric and Thelma McLean.
I was raised on the family property at Pyree, on the Crookhaven River which had been in the McLean family since the 1860’s. (Sold in 1998).
My sister Janet Perks, wrote a family history, prior to her death in 2003 and I have been adding bits and pieces since. Only in the last 18 months have I got to know Beryl Longman whose great grandfather was a brother of Donald.
I still keep in touch with Elizabeth McLean, from Forbes. Her father was Dr. Ivan McLean. His father actually owned part of the McLean farm at Pyree on the Crookhaven river.
Donald McLean’s son, Duncan, and daughter, Janet, stayed on the farm. However, as Duncan did not marry, upon his death, my father, Eric came to run the dairy farm at Crookhaven. Eric’s father, Allan, had left the area and moved to Bellingen, then to Tamworth and then Scone. However, when Duncan died my father came to Crookhaven to run the McLean dairy farm. Auntie Janet lived with us for many years and was a great one for our Scottish history!!!
Donald McLean’s other children were Isabella, Ann and Margaret and Catherine and Mary (known as May). I remember Aunty May very well. Catherine married Robert Aberdeen and I have contact with his granddaughter and I also have recently meet some other Aberdeen family connections (by unusual circumstances).
My sister Janet Perks, lived in New Zealand after marriage, and she had regular contact with Jean Winter whose father was John McLean and had moved to NZ. Jean’s brother Jock was the father of Alex McLean but since my sister’s passing there has been no contact with Alex.
I live in Nowra so still go past the old family farm from time to time. It is now a working farm with robotic milking machines – a lot different from when my father milked the cows!!
I hope you may find something of interest from the above.
Kind regards, Catherine.
* John McLean was born May 30, 1825 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. According to fellow researcher, Beryl Longman (see comment below), “He had a relationship with a Bridget Randell (nee Gleeson) and had a son John, born in 1860, who was my Grandfather, also a daughter Margaret, born in 1862 and there was possibly a third child.” He died July 31, 1911 at Crookhaven (11459/1911). I believe he is buried in the Presbyterian Portion ROW/SECTION 02B of the Nowra Cemetery along with his brothers, though this is unconfirmed.
* Mary McLean was born August 19, 1830 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. She married Christopher Brown on November 24, 1846 at Scots Church, Sydney. She died October 30, 1881 at Brogo, NSW (death not registered in NSW)
* Alexander McLean was born November 1, 1832 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. He married Ann Robertson in 1856 at Numbaa (2625/1857). He died February 6, 1907 at Crookhaven (2283/1907). He is buried in the Presbyterian Portion ROW/SECTION 02B of the Nowra Cemetery. Allocation 10.
I have received the following information from NZ-based descendant, Alec McLean who writes…
Alexander and Annie had four boys and four girls, and I have some details of their descendents. One of Alexander and Annie’s sons John (my grandfather) came to New Zealand in late 1890s and settled in Rotorua where he had a farm, and also ran two of the large hotels for a period, until the depression of the 30s hit him hard. He was Mayor of Rotorua and very prominent in introducing poultry industry legislation in New Zealand. John married Sarah McEwen and they had four children. Sarah died after the birth of one of the children and her sister Agnes McEwen moved in to look after the family. John later married Agnes, and they had twins Jack (my father) and Jean, and Donald. I have details for most of John and Sarah/Agnes’ descendents. Would be very interested in any more information re the Australian side of the family. Beryl Longman’s information re her grandfather John was fascinating as John is showing on my family tree as “never married” . Any information re Archibald and Euphemia would be appreciated. I understand they had eight daughters and one son. Their daughter Euphemia married Andra Johansen, and they had Edwin, Alister and Alma. Edwin had a son Jeffery I believe. Hope this is helpful. If anyone wants further information from this side of the Tasman, happy for you to pass on my email address.
* Hector McLean was born September 13, 1837 on the Isle of Coll, SCOTLAND. I cannot, at this stage, locate a marriage record. He died in 1924 at Goulburn, NSW (3042/1924)
* The confirmation of Alan and Janet’s marriage date comes from Isle of Tiree Genealogy, a tremendous site which has a number of downloadable spreadsheets, including the Old Parish Records of the Church of Scotland.
* Large Scale Emigration to Australia after 1832 from Electric Scotland.
* The reference about The Brilliant from The Inverness Courier comes from Electric Scotland
* There is an account of life on board a later voyage of The Brilliant, including a sketch of the ship itself on The Highland Clearances website.
* Don Watson, “Caledonia Australis: Scottish Highlanders on the Frontier of Australia”. Publisher: Harpercollins (January 1985)ISBN-10: 0002173220ISBN-13: 978-0002173223
* Don Charlwood, “The Long Farewell: the Perilous Voyages of Settlers Under Sail in the Great Migrations to Australia” Ringwood, Vic, 1981
* “Behind Broulee Central South Coast New South Wales”, Eurobodalla Shire. Council, Moruya. Gibbney, H.J. (1980)* F.W. Caffery, “The Crookhaven: An early history of Numba and the surrounding district”, published in 1999 by Effie Caffery, 31 Colyer Avenue, NOWRA, NSW 2541
* Shoalhaven Family History Society Inc, PO Box 591, NOWRA, NSW 2541, “Index To The Birth, Death, Marriage and Obituary Notices from the Shoalhaven Nrews 1867-1873″.
* Drawing of Donald McLean from “Greenwell Point: An Early Shoalhaven Port” compiled by R.J. Walliss for The Greenwell Point Bi-Centenial Sub-Committee
Sharing Around: Please feel free to copy any of the information on this page which may help you in your own research. My feeling is that family research is hard enough, without the need to constantly re-invent the wheel. It would be great, however, if you’d leave a comment below just to say “hi”.