Maclean family

Blisland, Cornwall


The family history of the descendants of Robert Lean is well documented in the publication The Macleans of Howick and Tamaki.

St. Proteus and St. Hyacinth Church, Blisland, Cornwall

This publication is a history of the Macleans in New Zealand and Australia, who are the descendants of Robert Lean of Trehureth,

Blisland near Bodmin in Cornwall

His eldest son, Sir John Maclean, remained in England, while his younger sons, Robert, Benjamin and Every emigrated to New Zealand. All four resumed the prefix ‘Mac’ to their name in the firm belief that the family were Macleans, although they had been farming as Cornish yeoman under the name Lean for many generations.

(Source: The Macleans of Howick and Tamaki, EVAGEAN Publishing in 1997; ISBN 1877194158,1877194166,1877194174; extract from the Introduction written by Helen Maclean and John Raglan Maclean, p.3)

The Tradition of Maclean Descent

It was in 1845 that the four sons of Robert Lean, John Robert, Benjamin and Thomas Every, restored Mac to their name. It was Sir John who firmly claimed descent from the Macleans of Dochgarroch, but unfortunately no written record has so far been found of his reasons for this belief. As the link with Scotland was hard to establish, some people have believed that Sir John was romancing.

An article by Alan Kent puts forward a strong case for discounting the Scottish connection.

Robert Lean memorial

However, Sir John was a meticulous historian and it seems likely that he would not only compromise his own reputation but also manage to persuade his three brothers, who were grown men who all came to be highly respected, if the story was a figment of his imagination. Moreover, they would have been a laughing stock among the many Lean relatives, but quite the opposite is the case. Indeed, Lean is an acknowledged sept of the Clan Maclean.

There are a number of family stories that support this belief, although none are supported by substantiated evidence.

  • Distantly related branches of the Lean family in Australia, USA and Cornwall have prefaced their family histories with a link the Clan Maclean.
  • There is the story of a 16th century feud over an attempted or real drowning of a wife, with three brothers who fled to Cornwall, one to Blisland.
  • There is the story of two sons whose father was slain in the Battle of Flodden Fields in 1553, and one brother made his way to Bodmin, Cornwall.
  • The first Lean records appear in Blisland in 1597, which links to these stories dating from the 16th century and the belief that the family had been in Cornwall for about 300 years.

Benjamin Maclean

Benjamin Maclean emigrated to New Zealand with his family departing from London in 1860 on the SS Rob Roy. Their youngest child Blanche remained in England and was adopted by John and Mary Maclean. Geoffrey, son of Thomas Every Maclean accompanied them on the voyage.

Benjamin was appointed Auditor-General of Public Accounts for the Province of Auckland, on 15 January 1863. Several other appointments followed, including Justice of the Peace. With his brother Every, he undertook extensive farming operations in the Tamaki District.

Christopher Haydon Maclean – probably taken in 1875
Photographer J Oliver White
Source: Family photo
Margaret Ellen Williams, in 1875,
aged 18 years old
Photographer G Redfern
Source: Family photo

Christopher Haydon Maclean

Christopher came to New Zealand with his father Benjamin Maclean and family. He was educated at St John’s College, Auckland, then joined the Inspector’s Office of the Bank of New Zealand, Auckland in 1871. He was subsequently accountant at Napier, then held positions at Russell, Wairoa, Kaikoura South, Rakaia, Waipawa and Gore.

On 27th February 1878, he married Margaret Ellen Williams, daughter of William Williams.