Sir Donald McLean was born in Kilmaluag, Scotland in 1820, He was the third son of Margaret and John McLean and was educated by his uncle, the Rev. Donald McColl, studying history, literature and divinity.

In 1838 he sailed to New South Wales with relatives and in 1840 he arrived in Auckland.

In March 1844, McLean was appointed as Sub-Protector of Aborigines in Taranaki. He insisted on settlers honouring agreements with Māori but he also shared much of the settler's 'loathing of Māori'. Along with Land Commissioner William Spain, he was part of an investigation into the New Zealand Company's purchase of Taranaki land. Subsequently McLean supported Taranaki settlers angered by Governor Fitzroy's refusal to accept Spain's award which validated the company purchase.

During the 1840s he travelled widely in the North Island investigating land issues and in 1846, Governor George Grey appointed him Police Inspector and Magistrate in Taranaki. 

He was very sociable, often being seen about town in the company of young ladies and attending balls and dinners. He married Susan Strang in Wellington but, tragically she died in 1852, shortly after giving birth to their son, Douglas. 

As Land Commissioner, McLean was responsible for many of the purchases of land in the Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa in the 1850s and he became owner of several sheep runs in the Hawke's Bay. 

In March 1860, the war in Taranaki began over disputed Waitara land and McLean assisted with mediation attempts in Taranaki and Waikato. 

He was elected as Superintendent of the Hawke's Bay Province in 1863, and three years later won a seat in the General Assembly. He later resigned as Hawkes Bay Superintendent and moved to Wellington.

In 1874, McLean received a knighthood and in 1876 he resigned as minister, and retired to the Hawke's Bay. After an influenza attack Donald McLean died at Napier on 5 January 1877, aged 56.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.


Related Information


A changing land: Sir Donald McLean's Maraekakaho, 1857 to today (2013), Alan Scarfe. Collection of Puke Ariki (993.465 SCA)


The best man who ever served the Crown? : A life of Donald McLean (2007), Ray Fargher. Collection of Puke Ariki (NZ993.022 FAR)


Sir Donald Maclean: the story of a New Zealand statesman (1940), James Cowan. Collection of Puke Ariki (TRC923.2 MAC)



Proclamation by Donald M’Lean, Esq., Superintendent of the Province of Hawke’s Bay. (5 June 1865), Hawke’s Bay Times, Volume 5, Issue 274


Death of Sir Donald McLean. (6 January 1877), Waikato Times, Volume X, Issue 711


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