Object #1013075 from MS-Papers-0032-0732

7 pages

From: Letters, clippings and other papers relating to McLean's death, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0732 (31 digitised items). Contains clippings, letters and notes published or written after McLean's death.

A transcription/translation of this document (by ATL) appears below.

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English (ATL)

COPY (from Newspaper Cutting -- "The Inverness Courier" August 21st. 1879.


(Instead of our usual "Nether-Lochaber we give the following notice of the late Sir Donald Maclean, along with a translation by "Nether-Lochaber of a Gaelic elegy which formerly appeared in our columns.

This distinguished Highlander was a native of the Hebrides, having been born in the island of Tiree on the 25th. October 1820. He was the fourth son of John Maclean Esq. of Kilmaluag and of Margaret Maccoll, daughter of the Rev. Archibald Maccoll, minister of the parish of Tiree and Coll. From about his eleventh year he was brought up with his maternal grandmother, who was of the family of Ardincaple, in Lorn. Under her supervision chiefly it was that he received the elements of his education, which, if not exactly what would satisfy the requirements of some of the specialists of the present day, was such as was fitted to cultivate the intellect, improve the heart, and foster habits of manly self-reliance. Finding no congenial career open to him in his native land the future Sir Donald emigrated in 1839 to New South Wales, which at that time held out encouraging prospects to young men of energy and perseverance. After labouring for a few years in this colony with a fair measure of success he passed over to the North Island of New Zealand, where he embarked on commercial pursuits. Coming into constant contact with the native population he soon acquired a knowledge of their language, manners and customs -- a knowledge which was destined to affect so powerfully his own future career and that of his adopted country. Moreover, the address he showed at this early period in dealing with the natives and settling their disputes brought him under the notice of the Colonial Secretary, Dr. Sinclair, a Scotchman, and, if we mistake not, a Highlander. A friendship sprang up between the two men which issued in Mr. Maclean's accepting an appointment under Government in connection with native affairs. Mr. Maclean was at this time but twenty-three years of age. "His first appointment" (we quote from an authorised document) "was designated 'Protector of Aborigines', which, though abolished by Sir George Grey in 1845, was a title which none could deny him through his whole career. From 1845 to 1850 Mr. Maclean occupied the post of Inspector of Police (having under him some of the best men in the colony), his duties being of much the same character as those which devolved on him in his previous capacity. After rendering important services in connection with the settlement of disputes arising from native land purchases and in the acquisition of valuable blocks of land Mr. Maclean in 1850 received the appointment of Chief Native Land Purchase Commissioner, and soon afterwards the title of Native Secretary. In 1863 he was elected Superintendent of Hawke's Bay, and from 1866 to 1876 he represented Napier in the General Assembly. On the resignation of the Stafford Government, and at a time when the war threatened the annihilation of the North Island settlements, the Fox-Vogel Ministry obtained the direction of public affairs, and Mr. Maclean joined that administration as Native and Defence Minister. Through the anxious period that then followed, a period during which no settler outside a township, from Cook's Strait to Auckland, could feel sure of his life. Mr. Maclean conducted the defence, and eventually secured the peace of the colony. In 1874 he received the honour of knighthood, and thus honoured, and in the possession of considerable wealth, he might reasonably have hoped for many years' enjoyment of a well-earned retirement. But a malady contracted while employed in the arduous duties devolving on him in his younger years had insidiously undermined his apparently strong constitution, and at a period when few statesmen have reached their prime Sir Donald died." This sad event occurred at Napier, Hawke's Bay, on the 5th. January, 1877, and produced profound grief among all classes throughout the colony, both native and European.

Among the many testimonies born to Sir Donald's high character there is none more gratifying than the following from the Marquis of Normanby, Governor of New Zealand. In his despatch to the Earl of Carnarvon, dated 6th. January 1877, the noble Marquis says:-- "It is with sincere regret that I have to announce to your lordship the death of Sir Donald Maclean, which took place at Napier. When I reported to your lordship, by last mail, the retirement of Sir Donald from the office of Native Minister, I had no reason for expecting that the illness from which he was then suffering would so soon prove fatal. Although, from the able and judicious manner in which he has for some years conducted native affairs in the colony, the loss is not now likely to produce the same results as it might have done a few years ago. I still look upon his death as a serious loss to the colony, as, even when out of office, the great influence which he possessed among the Maoris would always have been available to smooth down and mitigate any little difficulty that might arise. There is, in my opinion, no public man in this country to whom the colony owes a deeper debt of gratitude than to Sir Donald Maclean, and respect and esteem by all parties in New Zealand.

It will be interesting to Highlanders to know that Sir Donald could both speak and read Gaelic, and that his last words on earth were in that language. Sir Donald was married, and has left a son, who is in this country at present studying for the English Bar.

We give below a beautiful translation into English of a Gaelic elegy by "Aillseach" on Sir Donald's death. The translation is by our gifted and esteemed friend "Nether-Lochaber" who has done more than any man living to popularise the literature, music and traditions of the Highlands. The original Gaelic version of the elegy appeared in the "Courier" in 1877, a few months after Sir Donald's death. It is almost unnecessary to say that "Aillseach" is the non de plume of Mr. F.D. Macdonald at one time of Plockton, Loch Alsh, now of New Zealand.

D. Mc I.
Oban August 1879


Part of:
Letters, clippings and other papers relating to McLean's death, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0732 (31 digitised items)
Series 13 Other papers, Reference Number Series 13 Other papers (451 digitised items)
McLean Papers, Reference Number MS-Group-1551 (30238 digitised items)

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