John McLEAN , 18321923 (aged 90 years)

John /McLEAN/
Given names

This is his probable birth location.


On board the "Brilliant" with his parents and three siblings.


On board the "Brilliant" with his parents and three siblings.



The "Brilliant" was a copper-sheathed wooden-hulled ship of 428 tons. It was built in Montreal, Canada, in 1834. It made at least two voyages to Australia. The first was under the command of Captain Gilkison departing from Tobermory, Isle of Mull on 27 September 1837 and arriving in Sydney on 20 January 1838.

Extract from the Inverness Courier Index 1837, p.212. ''A large body of emigrants sailed from Tobermory on the 27th 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 that have ever left the shores of Great Britain; they are all of excellent moral character, and from their knowledge of agriculture, and the 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 Iona, 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.''

In a letter to Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of the then colony of New South Wales, Lord Glenelg explained that the original intention had been to send the "Brilliant" to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania), but because of reports of poor prospects for immigrants there the ship had been sent to Sydney instead.

Historical Records of Australia. Series 1. Volume XIX. July 1837- -January, 1839. Sailing of ship Brilliant with emigrants. Lord Glenelg to Sir Richard Bourke * (Despatch No 582, per ship Upton Castle.) 4 Oct. Sir, I have the honor to acquaint you that the Ship “Brilliant” has lately sailed for New South Wales with a Party of Highlanders from the Hebrides. The vessel was originally destined for Van Diemen’s Land; but in consequence of the unfavorable advices received from Sir John Franklin of the existing prospects for Emigrants in that Colony, her destination has been changed. As two other vessels have so recently proceeded to New South Wales with Emigrants of the same description it has been determined not to dispatch the “Brilliant” to that Colony; but Sir John Franklin’s representations were such as to render it absolutely necessary to give up the original intention of sending her to Van Diemen’s Land, while at the same time the undertaking was too far advanced to be entirely abandoned.

Under these circumstances, she has sailed for Sydney. The Colonists will, I have no doubt, be glad to receive the Emigrants who have been selected on this occasion; but I have thought it right to explain the reason of their being dispatched in such apparently rapid succession. I have &c., GLENELG

The voyage of the "Brilliant" took 116 days. It did not sail direct, but put in at the Cape of Good Hope on the 28th November 1837. She departed there on the 2nd December 1837.

On arrival in Sydney a committee of passengers wrote a letter of thanks to Captain Gilkison. This letter was written by James McLaurin. James and his wife Mary from Dunoon in Argyle, brought their twelve children, four sons-in-law and their 10 grandchildren, amounting to 28 passengers in all.

To Captain Gilkison of the 'Brilliant'. Sir, We beg leave before quitting your ship to express our gratitude for the kindness and indulgence we have experienced from you and the officers under your command during our voyage. While we would with humility and thankfulness recognise the hand of providence in preserving and guiding us on our perilous way and in bringing us in safety to our destination; we at the same time consider ourselves bound to acknowledge our deep obligations to you for your vigilance and activity as commander of the ship, and your unremitting attention and readiness to forward every measure calculated to promote our comfort.

When we thus testify our own feelings we have much pleasure in assuring you that we likewise convey those of all our fellow emigrants each of whom most cordially concurs in those sentiments which we now express.

We beg that this may be understood not as the empty language of mere compliment, but as the sincere, honest and spontaneous expression of heartfelt gratitude. To your crew our heartfelt thanks are also due for their orderly and civil behaviour to us and our children throughout the voyage.

We are sir, Your obedient and obliged servants. James McLaurin Chairman of Committee. Sydney Harbour January 24, 1838.

The "Sydney Herald" reported on the Brilliant's arrival in Sydney:

"The Brilliant from Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland arrived on Saturday with 312 distressed Highlanders."

The term "distressed" used here is thought to be about the general living conditions of the emigrants in their homeland and not as a result of their journey.


John's younger brother, Donald Hugh, married Mary's younger sister, Eliza.



"The Scot We Know". Scottish Australian. Highland Society of NSW. 1913.

"Selecting a large block of red soil land contiguous to what is now Alstonville, in the very heart of the "Big Scrub", the "Scot We Know", with the fine courage of his race, set to work to clear his selection, and endured many privations, known alone to the early stout-hearted pioneers. Bags of flour or sugar, and all the stores and necessaries of life were carried on the settlers' backs over weary miles. Mr. McLean entered into the timber industry as the readiest method of making money as well as clearing his land. Logs were drawn over miles of sodden tracks to the nearest creek, so that the first freshet or flood would carry them to the main river, where booms and chains secured them. At one period Mr. McLean planted cane, but soon discovered that the cost of land carriage was prohibitive. Some of the South Coast farmers had by this time introduced dairying, and Mr. McLean at once perceived the possibilities, so with his usual energy he at once set about clearing his whole estate on McLean’s Ridges, so named after him. The scarcity and dearness of stock rendered the selection of a herd a work of time and great difficulty, but by persistent effort this eventually was accomplished. Here rapid settlement took place, and neat farm steadings arose as if by magic.

Butter Factory Erected:

A few of the more enterprising settlers banded together and erected a butter factory at Springhill, near the Wollongbar Experiment Farm, of which the late Mr John MacLean was elected managing director and chairman. The manner in which the business was conducted, and all the details thought out, ensured its success, and it only closed down when the large central factories became general. The initial difficulties of the early settlers were such that only the finest and most resolute type of men could surmount them. Subsequently roads replaced bush tracks, and villages grew into existence known as Ballina, Alstonville, Tintenbar, Newrybar, Eltham, Bangalow, Byron Bay and Lismore.

For 36 years Mr. MacLean steadily toiled his way to affluence. He lived to see the present work-a-day generation born, become adolescent and wedded, and the majority of that brave band of pioneers who plied the axe and held the plough and bore the burden of settlement "called home". An array of grand men and women with stout hearts, noble and true, the simple-minded giants of a day that is gone "Tae the Land O' the Leal," where there is neither dawning nor gloaming.

Rearing a Family:

Amid this scene of work and thrift and wholesome discipline his family was reared to become patterns of well-doing. By diligence and integrity his sons are among the leading lights of Lismore, foremost in loyalty and patriotism, and his daughters have arisen to call him blessed. By diligence and integrity his sons Sam and Allan, of the Central Stores, are among the most prominent of the citizens of Lismore, foremost in loyalty and patriotism. Eight years ago his loving wife was called hence, after which the good old man leased his estate and retired with one daughter to Lismore. With the activities of this entirely modern town he has been connected since its inception. He took an active interest in the affairs that appeal to a retired veteran. He it was who sent round the "Crian Tariga" (fiery cross), when a round up of Celts became desirable. He is a supporter of local institutions and of his church, and until the failure of his eyesight, of the local bowling club, than which few finer can be found.

His cup of happiness overflows when some considerate Highlander calls at his happy and hospitable home and to hold conversation with him in his beloved Gaelic.

There is nothing mean or small in John MacLean’s Celtic nature, nor had his mind or temperament been cramped by his long… (missing the rest of article in the Northern Star) …life of honorable and arduous toil. He is beloved by all, especially by young people, who long to hear the life story of this unassuming good man, the difficulties that beset his path and were surmounted, the men and women of a past day, whose sufferings modern society may never know, but whose heroic deeds and works must live for ever.

With fearless hearts and eager eye, They strove a wider world to gain. What if perhaps their names may die The imprints of their feet remain.

He belongs to a sturdy race, whose almost superhuman labors may never be revealed, who in communion with the great solitudes, with pure souls cleaned from the cities’ abominations, never for a day neglected their duty to their family or to their God. They were the very salt of this earth, among whom none deserves more honorable mention than John MacLean "The Scot We Know."