Hello, Lesley and listers,
interesting to note that the head of the New South Wales convict system was one of many
prominent identities who went into bankruptcy in the wake of the economic depression of
the 1840s. I will say something here about John McLean, Principal Superintendent of
Convicts from 1838 until the 1850s. The man in question was a retired army officer from
the Inverness area in Scotland.
His full name was John Leyburn McLean. He was a retired captain
when he came to Sydney in 1838 to take up the management of the convict department. You
see him mentioned as "Captain McLean" in the introduction to the 1837 Muster.
He established himself at an estate in the Balmain area which he called "Birch
Grove". In 1838 he was granted a holding a long way from there on the north side of
the mouth of the Moruya River which was originally surveyed as 900 acres but is later seen
as 890. That property was acquired at a reduced price available to retired military
officers. McLean bought a neighbouring parcel of 640 acres the same year from one Boulter
Raye, who apparently was a member of the party in Joseph Hawdon`s acclaimed 1838 cattle
drive to Adelaide.
taken stock to Melbourne in 1836 via the area where Canberra now stands. Moruya people
assert that the 1836 and 1838 expeditions commenced at the local farm "Kiora" on
the north side of the river belonging to Joseph Hawdon`s brother John, who had a grazing
run on the south side called "Bergalia". The Moruya River formed the southern
boundary of the "limits of location" proclaimed by Governor Darling in 1829.
The beautiful mountain skyline at Moruya has a way of making me think of intrepid horsemen
urging mobs up the slopes towards distant places a very long time ago.
John McLean named
his 890 acres "Glenduart" and installed his son Mordaunt as manager.
"Glenduart" was quickly developed as a farm. Nothing in particular seems to
have been done with the nearby 640 acres.
The Legislative Council passed the
Insolvency Act 1841 in response to the economic depression. I have not read the act. I
cannot say how tough the bankruptcy system was. I have the impression that a lot of
people who on paper lost their shirts were fairly soon doing well again.
have a paper copy of John McLean`s deed of assignment in bankruptcy dated 8th October,
1845. The schedule of real estate declared "Birch Grove", "Glenduart"
and the 640 acres obtained from Boulter Raye. Those properties were seized by mortgagees.
I have been told that John McLean had various other properties around Sydney
Harbour. I have not looked into that.
I have seen John McLean mentioned as
Principal Superintendent of Convicts in "The Sydney Morning Herald" in the
1850s. It is said in "The Australian Dictionary of Biography" that he remained
in the position until 1855. He went back to England.
It is said that the north
coast town of Maclean was named after his son Alexander, who became Surveyor-General of
New South Wales and apparently came in 1861 to oversee the marking out of the settlement
which became the town said to be named after him. Alexander`s brother Harold became head
of the prisons department.
I have an idea that "Birch Grove"
encompassed the land at Ballast Point where the derelict Caltex refinery stood until the
New South Wales government`s announcement in 2002 that the site would be acquired for the