Coll The Coll Magazine

Article by Bruce MacLeod (1989)


Bruce MacLeod

Bruce Macleod is a direct descendant of Catherine MacLeod (nee MacLean), she being the third daughter of Alexander MacLean of Coll and Catherine Cameron. She and her husband, Donald MacLeod, lived in old Coll Castle with her parents for a short period before emigrating to Australia in 1820. Bruce MacLeod's great grandfather, Hugh Lawrence MacLeod (Catherine's fourth son) was born in the old Castle in 1818 and was possibly the last of the MacLean connections to be born there. Bruce founded the Clan MacLeod Society in New South Wales some 35 years ago, and apart from ten years as Foundation President, has been co-ordinator of the four Clan MacLeod Societies in Australia. This article comes all the way from the Antipodes despite great vicisstudes. (CalMac and the P.O. rest easy - transportation was not the problem) In an accompanying letter, he describes a nightmare event that all researchers must dread. After lengthy perusal of books and files in his newly decorated study re Coll connections and assembling notes in sensible order prior to typing out, a set of newly built 7 by 7 heavy wooden shelves full of books and research material crashed to the floor leaving not a thing unscathed in the room. "Thank goodness, I was not working beneath it" recounts Bruce, simply. We thank him for his retrieval endeavours in the midst of such depressing chaos.

Alexander MacLean of Coll had succeeded his father, on the latter's death in 1786 and lived in the new Coll castle. Also known as Alasdair Ruadh he became a Lieut-Colonel in the Breadalbane Fencibles by 1794, and married Catherine (who died in 1802), the daughter of Captain Allan Cameron of Glendessary. They had a son, Hugh, and six daughters who were brought up in their early life in the new castle. Hugh MacLean and his family continued the lineage of the male line of the MacLean of Coll but that became extinct after his children's generation and Hugh lived on the Isle of Mull.

But what became of the descendents of the six daughters? Two daughters contributed much to the history of Australia. Two daughters did not marry, namely Sibella MacLean and Breadalbane MacLean, with the latter having a school in Dervaig on the Isle of Mull in that little village planned by her father, who lived nearby in Quinish House. Another daughter, Marion Christine MacLean married George Lloyd of Clifton, Yorkshire in 1820: whilst Jane MacLean married the Hon. George Vere Hobart, the second son of the Earl of Buckinghamshire and whose daughter Vere Louise Catherine married Donald Cameron of Locheil, the 23rd Chief of the Camerons.

Yet another daughter of the six, was Catherine MacLean, born 1787, and married in 1806 Major Donald MacLeod the sixth of Talisker, on the Isle of Skye. Before they emigrated to Australia in 1820, they lived for a few years at the new castle with her father the fourteenth MacLean of Coll. Old MacLean of Coll handed his estates to his son Hugh by 1828 and died at Quinish house in 1835, his body being brought to Coll for burial.

Whilst living at the New Castle, Catherine had her fourth son, Hugh Lawrence MacLeod, born in 1818 and named after her brother. In 1820 in a small ship, named "Skelton", the MacLeod family sailed from Leith to Hobart Town in Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania). The ship, built in 1818, had three masts and one and a half decks with the highest height between decks being only five feet five inches. The length of the ship was 86 feet and 26 feet wide.

Yet in this small confine, the ship carried 81 passengers, a crew of 18 as well as a substantial cargo. Another MacLeod son was born on the journey to Tasmania.

Catherine lost her husband in 1838 and their farms and houses in Tasmania were leased or sold and Catherine moved about the mainland of Australia, staying with some of her 13 children who by this time were settled on their own land. She eventually decided to live in a country town called Bacchus Marsh, about 60 miles out of Melbourne in Victoria. She died in 1863 after a visit back to Scotland and is buried in the churchyard in Bacchus Marsh, where she gave land to that church and the windows behind the choirstalls are in her memory. Also a street called MacLean Drive was recently named in her honour as an early pioneer of the district.

Catherine's third son became a member of the Victorian Parliament as did his son and a son of the next generation. These three covered a period between 1859 and 1958.

Hugh Lawrence, the son born at the New Castle on Coll eventually built a large homestead of similarly coloured stone, in the western district of Victoria and called this 35,000 acre sheep station ‘Benyeo'. This is an Aboriginal word for 'the act of throwing' but also said to mean buttercup' for such flowers predominated on the land of the station. It must have reminded him of the spring wild flowers that carpet the ground about the castles on Coll, for Breacachadh, as the early castle is called, means 'spotted or dappled field'.

The sixth daughter, tho' not in that order, was Marion MacLean born 1789 and died 1862, married in 1810 Alexander Hunter, a Writer of the Signet in Edinburgh. Their sons migrated to Australia in 1838. They became known as the 'Goulburn Boys' for they settled by a river of the same name in Victoria. They became well known, not only for their pastoral persuits, but with sporting activities and were high spirited, fearless, adventurous, popular and excellent horsemen.

Who were these individual Hunter brothers, grandsons of Alexander MacLean of Coll?

There was Alexander MacLean Hunter who was involved in the Watson and Hunter Pastoral Company which included investments from a group of Scottish aristocrats including the Marquis of Ailsa and Lady Flora Hastings. The company collapsed in 1842 because of the Depression. He became an officer in the mounts of the Victoria police and also spent some years in South Africa as a sugar planter. He died in 1892 at sea returning to Australia after a visit to Scotland.

Another was John Hunter, known as 'Jack the Devil' who eventually left Victoria for South America. He died in 1868 in Buenos Aires. For a bet be would jump hurdles on a horse with his face towards the horses tail. Even his marriage was said to be the result of a bet.

There was James Arthur Carr Hunter, the quietest of them all, who eventually owned a sheep station in South Australia of 56 sq miles with his MacLeod cousins. He went to Fijii, then returned to Scotland but came back to Australia and died in 1889.

The fourth, Frank Hunter, joined the Victorian Police, but was obliged to resign after punching a police trooper for impertinence. He was accidentaly killed by a bullock in a stockyard on his brother James' station in South Australia.

Then lastly there was William Hunter, the delicate son of the family. He was a cripple from the age of twelve though he was the last of the sons to die in 1906. On two occasions he was clubbed insensible by natives in Fijii and left to die. He lived on that island for 23 years and on his return to Australia nearly died yet again from starvation as the drunken skipper of the ship he was returning on had forgotten to bring aboard enough supplies for the journey which was elongated because of bad weather. And so it is that descendents of that early MacLean family now living in Australia return to Coll for a holiday to see from where their forebears came.
Coll Magazine - Article by Bruce MacLeod

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