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Lachlan Macquarie portrait

Lachlan MACQUARIE (1761-1824)

1761-1783 | 1784-1787 | 1788-1800 |

1801-1802 | 1803-1804 | 1805-1806 | 1807 |

1808-1809 | 1810-1821 | 1822-1823 | 1824 |

Lachlan Macquarie was born on 31 January 1761 on the Isle of Ulva, in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. His father, Lachlan Macquarie, was a cousin of the sixteenth and last chieftain of the clan MacQuarrie, while Macquarie's mother, Margaret (nee Maclaine) was the only sister of Murdoch Maclaine (1730-1804), 19th Laird of Lochbuy, in Mull.

Lachlan (Snr.) was a carpenter by trade, who lived and worked as a sub-tenant on the SW side of Ulva, near Ormaig. In 1772 the family moved from Ulva to a small farm at Oskamull (near the Ulva ferry crossing) on the Isle of Mull, where they leased 75 acres from the Duke of Argyll. Lachlan (Snr.) died of 'pleuratic fever' in c1775 when Lachlan was approximately 14 years of age. His mother, Margaret, survived until 1810 when she died at Oskamull at the age of 82.

Lachlan (1761-1824) was one of six brothers: Hector (d.1778); Donald (1750-1800); and Charles (1771-1835), and two other brothers for whom there are no details except that they were buried at Kilvickewen in Ulva. His only sister Elizabeth, or 'Betty', (c.1760-1833) married Farquhar Maclaine in 1771 and they had three sons and three daughters. Betty, and her husband Farquhar, shared the Oskamull property with her brother Donald (until 1801), and her mother, Margaret (until 1810).

Early Years (1761-1783):
Scotland, North America and the West Indies

There are few details of Lachlan's early years and education. He appears to have spent his boyhood on Ulva and Mull, and in his early teens he was sent to Edinburgh where he received a rudimentary education and learned to speak and write in English.

His army career began in 1776, when at the age of 15 he accompanied his uncle, Murdoch Maclaine (of Lochbuie) to North America as a volunteer. In April 1777 he obtained an ensigncy in the 2nd Battalion of the 84th Regiment of Foot (then known as the Royal Highland Emigrants) and performed garrison duty, first in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and later in New York and Charleston in the closing stages of the American War of Independence. His older brothers, Hector and Donald, also served in the British Artmy in North America. However, both of them became prisoners of war: Hector was captured by the Americans on 21 July 1776 and died in South Carolina on 7 January 1778; whilst Donald was captured by French forces in December 1778 and was eventually repatriated to Britain in 1780. Lachlan was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 71st Highland Regiment on 18 January 1781, and subsequently posted to Jamaica.

Scotland (1784-1787)
In February 1784 Lachlan returned to Scotland and was reduced to the half-pay list in the Army. Thereafter he worked as a factor on his uncle Murdoch's estate (at Lochbuie) on the Isle of Mull until November 1787.

India & Ceylon (1788-1800)
At that time he acquired a commission as a lieutenant in the 77th Regiment of Foot, and sailed for India in April 1788. While serving in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Lachlan was based principally in Bombay, but he saw active service in the south of the country and was present at the sieges of Cannanore (1790), Seringapatam (1791 and 1792), and Cochin (1795); the capture of Colombo and Point de Galle (1796), and took part in the campaign in Mysore in 1799 at the battle of Seedaseer (March) and the assault on Seringapatam (May).

His personal life during this period was highlighted by great happiness and immense grief. On 8 September 1793 he married Jane Jarvis (1772-1796), the youngest daughter of Thomas Jarvis, Chief Justice and Member of Council of the Island of Antigua. But their marriage proved to be all too brief - and childless. She died of tuberculosis at Macao, in China, on 15 July 1796. She was buried in Bombay on 16 January 1797.

Egypt (1801-1802)
In April 1801, while serving as Military Secretary to Jonathan Duncan, Governor of Bombay, Macquarie was appointed to the post of deputy-adjutant-general to the 8000-strong army, under the command of Major-General David Baird. This force was to be sent to Egypt to defeat Napoleon and expel the French. The expedition landed on the Red Sea coast at Cosseir and from here marched in intense summer heat across 140 miles of desert to reach Qena on the Nile. From here Macquarie sailed down the river to Cairo and finally reached Alexandria in September 1801, shortly after the surrender of the French army. At this time he was able to be reunited with his younger brother, Charles, who was serving in the 42nd Regiment and whom he had not seen since 1787. Charles had received a severe head wound during the British amphibious landing at Aboukir on 8 March 1801 but survived by the most remarkable good fortune. the brothers were able to spend several weeks together and discussed their future plans for purchasing land on the Isle of Mull from their uncle, Murdoch Maclaine. When Charles departed with his regiment Lachlan took the opportunity to send home with him his 12-year old Indian slave boy 'George' for the purpose of gaining an education.

Britain (1803-1804)
Macquarie eventually returned to England in 1803 to attend to financial matters and enjoy the social whirl of of regimental duty in London after so many years abroad. He was appointed as Assistant Adjutant-General for the London District under the command of Lieutenant-General the Earl of Harrington. He was presented to the King and Queen (on two occasions), dined with members of the royal family and peerage, attended balls and the theatre, and had his portrait painted by the noted Cornish artist, John Opie (1761-1807). Finally in June 1804 he returned to Scotland and the Isle of Mull on two months leave to visit family and friends, and to take possession of the 10,000 acres that he had purchased from his uncle Murdoch. Soon after his arrival Murdoch died at Lochbuie House, and Lachlan met for the first time his cousin, Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell of Airds (1778-1835), the younger sister of Murdoch's wife, Jane (1761-1824). Macquarie took formal possession of his estate on 16 July and named it 'Jarvisfield' in memory of his first wife, Jane Jarvis.

India (1805-1806)
In early 1805 Lachlan was advised that he was being sent back to India on regimental duty. In March 1805 he asked Elizabeth Campbell to become his wife, though after gaining her agreement, he entreated her to keep their engagement a secret, in the short term, and to wait until his return from India in approximately 3-4 years time. Again she agreed, though with obvious reservations.

In April 1805 Macquarie sailed to India on board the East Indiaman City of London and arrived in Bombay in August. Soon afterwards he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the 73rd Regiment, though initially he was required to serve in the field in Gujarat until January 1806. Lachlan had been appointed by Governor Duncan as his Military Secretary and enjoyed all the benefits of living in vice-regal lifestyle at Government House in Bombay.

Elizabeth became increasingly impatient with Lachlan's seeming delay in returning to Britain, particularly when she realised that the 73rd Regiment had left India already and returned to barracks in Perth, Scotland. No longer content to wait for four years she made it clear that if their wedding was to proceed he needed to return home soon.

Iraq, Iran, Russia & Denmark (1807)
After sailing from Bombay on 17 March 1807 on board the Bombay Marine ship Benares Lachlan, his manservant George, and two British officers (formerly French prisoners of war) travelled through the Persian Gulf to Bushire and Basra. After reaching Baghdad and acquiring an additional travelling companion, Major Robert O'Neill of the 56th Regiment of Foot they abandoned their plans to travel to Constantinople and home via the Mediterranean; and instead, they opted to travel by caravan into Persia (Iran), sail across the Caspian Sea to Russia and on to Moscow and St. Petersburg. After reaching St. Petersburg in September they sailed through the Baltic to Copenhagen (recently seized by the British) and home in the Royal Navy frigate Calypso. Lachlan reached London on 17 October and immediately presented the various government despatches and private commissions that had been entrusted to his care in Bombay, Basra, Qazvin, St. Petersburg and Copenhagen. On 3 November 1807 he married Elizabeth in Holsworthy, Devon (near Exeter). The bride was 29, and the groom 46.

Britain (1808-1809)
The newly-married Macquaries returned to Scotland in early 1808 and Lachlan immediately took up his regimental duties with the 73rd in Perth. On 15 September a daughter, Jane, was born, but unfortunately the child sickened and died on 5 December 1808 (aged 3 months). Later the same month Macquarie received orders to prepare the regiment for overseas service and to embark for Portsmouth in the New Year.

Initially Macquarie was appointed as Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, but when Brigadier-General Miles Nightingall deferred from taking the position of Governor the British Government decided to accept the application they had received from Lachlan Macquarie. In April he received confirmation of his appointment and on 22 May 1809 the Macquaries sailed (with the 1st Battalion of the 73rd Regiment) from Portsmouth on board the naval storeship Dromedary and escorted by H.M.S Hindostan . After a voyage with ports of call at Madeira, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town they arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney on 28 December. Lachlan took up his commission as Governor on 1 January 1810.

Australia (1810-1821)
From the outset, Macquarie saw the colony as a settled community as well as a penal settlement. However, his term of office also coincided with an increase in the number of convicts sent to the colony. His solution was to commence an ambitious programme of public works (new buildings, towns, roads) to help absorb these numbers. He also extended the practice of ticket-of-leave for convicts. This policy of encouraging convicts and former convicts (emancipists) brought him into conflict with an influential, conservative, section of the local society. This group, known as the "exclusives", sought to restrict civil rights and judicial privileges to itself. Many of these free settlers also had influential friends in English political circles.

Frustration and recurring bouts of illness led him to submit his resignation on several occasions. A serious illness in 1819 almost proved fatal, and the pressures of a Commission of Inquiry into the state of the colony of New South Wales, headed by J.T. Bigge, reinforced his desire to end his term of office and return home to defend the charges made against his administration. Finally at the end of 1820 Lachlan received confirmation that his third application for resignation had been accepted. However, it was not until 12 February 1822 that he and his wife and son departed for England. (On 28 March 1814, after seven miscarriages, Elizabeth had given birth to a son named Lachlan).

Britain & Europe (1822-1823)
In 1822-23, worried about Elizabeth's fragile health, Lachlan took his wife and son, as well as two servants, George Jarvis and Francis Bender, and a tutor, Robert Meiklejohn, on a grand tour through France, Italy and Switzerland. The aim was to escape the rigours of a harsh English winter and also to prepare his written reply to the criticisms of his governorshio that had been raised in the findings of the Bigge Committee of Enquiry at that stage being tabled in the House of Commons. The Macquaries eventually returned to Scotland in November 1823 but were unable to take up residence in their home at Gruline due to the severity of the weather, delays in the arrival of their personal effects by ship, and the dilapidated condition of their house. In the interim period (60 days) they lived at the adjacent home and estate of Colonel Campbell, at Knock.

The Death of Macquarie (1824)
Finally, in January 1824 Macquarie retired to his estate in Mull. However, a number of matters still remained to be resolved with the government and in April 1824 he went to London to secure the pension that he had been promised. Unfortunately, while he was there he suffered a recurrence of the bowel disorder that was a legacy of his long years of overseas service. Elizabeth hurried down from Mull to London with Lachlan Jnr. and they were able to reach him in time before he died at 49 Duke Street, St. James, on 1 July 1824. Elizabeth arranged for his body to be conveyed back to Mull by ship and he was buried on their estate at Gruline in August 1824.

Elizabeth arranged for the erection of a more permanent memorial to commemorate her husband's memory and legacy. An epitaph was prepared by Elizabeth, with assistance from the Reverend David Bell of Fifeshire. The text was based upon a notice published by Lachlan Macquarie's old friend, Sir Charles Forbes, and on a sermon preached by the Reverend William Cowper at a memorial service held at St Philip's Church, Sydney, on 14 November 1824. The gravestone was laid over Macquarie's resting place by Elizabeth c.1832.

At a later date [c.1851-1852] a mausoleum was erected over the burial site and the original memorial stone fixed to the exterior of the south-eastern wall. This tomb is still preserved on Mull, and is maintained on behalf of the National Trust of Australia by the National Trust for Scotland. The mausoleum contains not only the body of Lachlan, but also the remains of Elizabeth, and their two children, Jane and Lachlan.

Lachlan Macquarie and the MacQuarries of Ulva
The name 'Macquarie' is the Anglicised spelling of the original clan name 'MacQuarrie' or 'MacQuarie'. The Gaelic spelling is Mac Guaire. (Guaire means 'noble' or 'proud').

There are a number of other variant spellings of the clan name and amongsts the septs of Clan MacQuarie are the following: MacCorrie, MacGauran, MacGorrie, MacGuire, Macquaire, Macquhirr, Macquire, MacWhirr, Wharrie.

The decision by Lachlan Macquarie to use the spelling of 'Macquarie' appears to date from the period after his return from military service in North America and the Caribbean (during the years 1776-1783). Certainly by the time of his departure for India in early 1788 he had adopted this specific spelling for his family name - though no direct reference to his decision or any specific reason has been located (to date).

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