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Lachlan Macquarie's cousin. Son of Murdoch Maclaine (1736-1804), the 19th laird of Lochbuie, and Jane [nee Campbell] (c.1765-1824) [sister of Elizabeth Macquarie]. It is this latter association - through his wife, Elizabeth, rather than his uncle Murdoch - that accounts for Macquarie referring to Maclaine as his 'nephew' rather than as his 'cousin'.

In September 1801 Macquarie arranged ensigncies for two young relatives: his cousin, John, and his nephew, Hector Macquarie (despite the fact that both boys were under the age of 10). However the subterfuge was found out by the War Office in 1804 and Macquarie was lucky to escape possible discharge from the army. He was severely censured and it damaged his reputation with the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the Army. In the short term it certainly ruined any hopes Macquarie may have had for remaining in England for a longer period - and he was ordered to rejoin his regiment in India in April 1805.

In 1808, Macquarie again tried to acquire an ensigncy for John Maclaine (now aged 16) in several regiments and eventually found one for him in his own regiment, the 73rd. As a consequence he accompanied Macquarie in his posting to NSW on board the Dromedary in 1809.

He remained a constant member of the governor's inner circle of associates and accompanied the Macquaries during their visits to Van Diemen's Land and Newcastle in 1811-1812. When Captain Henry Antill was promoted to brigade-major in 1812 Macquarie appointed Maclaine as his new aide-de-camp. However the young man's intemperate behaviour and impulsiveness were constant sources of embarrassment to the governor. Firstly, Macquarie was forced to pay £300 to clear Maclaine's debts; and then, in February 1813, Maclaine broke his arm when he fell from the mast of a ship during a drunken party.

When the 46th Regiment arrived in 1814 to replace the 73rd and his regiment was posted for duty in Ceylon, Lieut. Maclaine departed for England on board the brig James Hay [on 2 June 1814] carrying Macquarie's despatches to Lord Bathurst. By July 1815 he was in Paris celebrating the defeat of Napoleon's army at Waterloo on 18 June.

He embarked on board the Wellington for Ceylon (from Gravesend) on 19 September 1816 with three other officers of the 73rd Regiment: Major James Vallance, Captain Loftus Owen and Ensign Mark Lidwill. They arrived on 17 February 1817 and joined the headquarters of the regiment stationed on the east coast of the island at Trincomalee. Only Captain Owen would survive the rigours of regimental duty on the island, in the next four years the other three fell victim to disease and combat.

John Maclaine became a somewhat controversial figure during the Uva Rebellion of 1817-1818, and was later accused of summary execution of suspected rebels without trial or due process.

On 12 June 1850 Lt. Colonel Samuel Braybrooke presented the following evidence before the British Select Committee on Ceylon. In 1818 Braybrooke had been serving as Assistant Commissary at Badulla, in Uva Province:

"During the rebellion of 1818 there were several unauthorized acts committed by officers upon men who were taken prisoners. It was that to which he referred. Men were put to death by the orders of the individual officers who had taken them prisoners, without trial at all. I am aware that such things did occur. In the province where I was serving at the time there was one officer who used to have men hung up while he was at his breakfast, and retribution rapidly followed. It was to that General Brownrigg alluded, I think...

...there was a great deal of terrible excitement from the manner in which the war was conducted, and the mutilation which themen who were killed suffered; the Europeans especially were very much enraged against the Kandyans. This officer was shot a few days afterwards by the Kandyans. He would otherwise have been tried by a court martial...

...I believe the individual I refer to caused several men to be executed under those circumstances; three or four, while he was sitting at breakfast, were suspended to a tree."

[Source: British Parliament Sessional Papers. House of Commons. Third Report. Proceedings, Minutes of Evidence. 1851 (366) Vol. VIII Part 1. pp.528-529].

These are serious allegations against John Maclaine; however these aspects are not reflected upon or hinted at in the reports of his death or the outpourings of grief in 1818. The Ceylon Government Gazette recorded his death as follows:

"...it is with sincere regret we report the death of Lieutenant J. Maclaine of the 73d Regiment, who fell in one of those encounters of the 13th instant, within two miles of Bootle. He was proceeding to that place from Aliput, with a reinforcement of 30 Men, when he was fired upon from the jungle. Lieutenant Maclaine was on horseback, a shot struck him upon the lower lip, and taking a rising direction into his head, he fell dead, upon the spot without speaking a word. One Private was also killed and 2 wounded. We cannot better express the sentiments of those who are fully qualified to appreciate the merits of this gallant young man, than in the words of Lieutenant Colonel Kelly, who thus announces his death: 'It is with infinite concern I have to report the lamented occurrence of the death of Lieutenant Maclaine of the 73d. Regiment. The indefatigable zeal and enterprize at all times evinced by this promising young Officer, and reported upon by Major Coxun, make this loss at the present juncture peculiarly distressing.'"

Extract from Ceylon Government Gazette 24 January 1818 (reproduced in the Sydney Gazette 25 July 1818 p.3).

Maclaine was killed on 13 January 1818 while leading a detachment of 30 men of the 73rd Regiment through jungle terrain near Bootle [Buttale], east of Badulla. He insisted on riding on horseback and made an easy target for the opponents concealed in the dense foliage. He died instantly from a single shot to the head. His commanding officer, Lt. Col. Maurice O'Connell, clearly believed that he was a victim of his own folly in disregarding the advice of his men not to expose himself to enemy fire.

And, finally, Lachlan Macquarie wrote to his sister-in-law, Jane (nee Campbell) as follows:

Government House,
Sydney, N.S. Wales,
15th. Augt. 1818.

My dear Sister,
It is with feelings of the deepest anguish and distress of mind that I now sit down to perform the most painful of all tasks that can fall to the lot [of] man, namely – to convey to you the Heart rending and afflicting accounts of the death of your beloved and gallant Son John, who fell nobly in the Field of Honor, in the performance of his Professional Duties, in the Service of His King and Country, in the Island of Ceylon, on the 13th. of January last, and it is to be hoped expired without pain, as he fell dead on the spot from his Horse on being shot by his merciless and Cowardly Foe – who was concealed from view of our Troops behind a Bank when he took the fatal aim that laid low one of the most manly, gallant, and promising Youths that ever served his King and Country.

On this fatal and afflicting event, I can only assure you that your Sister's and my own grief is little, if at all, short of your own. — He was ever the darling and favorite [sic] Nephew of his Aunt, and she always felt a motherly affection for him; and notwithstanding all his wildness, and youthful Levities, while living here in the Bosom of our Family, he always possessed my fullest love and affection. — He ever retained a sound, faithful, and affectionate Heart and Nature had endowed him with very Superior Talents; which, if God had spared his life, would have raised him to eminence and renown in his Profession, and rendered him an honor and credit to his Name and Family! — Alas! all these fond Hopes are frustrated by his untimely fall, and all the Comfort we have now left us is – that – he did not live in vain for the short period God was pleased to spare him to his Friends and to his Country and that he died nobly in the discharge of his Duty! — Accept therefore, my dear Sister, my sincere condolences and sympathy on this afflicting and distressing Catastrophe – and Calamitous event – which I pray God may enable you to bear with becoming Fortitude and pious resignation. —This fatal news was conveyed to us here only through the Channel of the India Newspapers – no Letters having yet been received by us on this mournful subject from any of our friends in the 73rd. Regiment – which we are much hurt and surprised at. —The afflicting news first reached us here on the 17th. of last month. —I enclose for your further information a Sydney Gazette, which mentions our poor dear John in highly honorable terms. —I also enclose you a Letter from your Sister on this mournful subject who suffers the extremity of grief for the loss of her darling and beloved Nephew. —I shall not write to any other Person of your Family on this fatal event; as, I conclude you will make a communication of it to all of them. —

Adieu my dear Sister. —Yours ever afly,
L. Macquarie

The last reference to John Maclaine in Macquarie's surviving papers is the poignant description of a visit to Raymond Terrace, north of Newcastle, on 1 August 1818:

"Saturday 1. Augt. !
Being desirous to explore a few miles up the 1st Branch of Hunter's River, and to look at the Lands on both Banks thereof, I got up at Day break, and set out with Capt. Wallis in his Gig, accompanied by Mr. Meehan, at 7 o'clock. We rowed up for about Nine miles, passing through several fine long Reaches – but the Land on both Banks for the first six miles were either low, swampy – or very thick Brush. At 7 miles distance the Lands improved very much – into open Forest and Hilly Country, – the Soil appearing to be very good and the Timber also pretty large, and fit for useful purposes. – Having rowed up about 9 miles, we put about and returned to Raymond Terrace, our last night's ground, where we arrived at 10 o'clock – finding Breakfast quite ready for us. – As soon as we had Breakfasted I went in search of the Tree marked by our dear departed Nephew Lt. Jno. Maclaine in January 1812, when his aunt & myself with our Suite Breakfasted on this same ground on the 4th of that month. – Having searched about all the Trees now standing near our Encamping Ground, I fell in at length with a large Tall Blue Gum Tree which is the one marked by our poor dear John with the initials of my name – L.M. 4 Jany. 1812, and his own initials – J.M. on the other side of the Tree. – Trifling as this circumstance was, I was deeply affected with the recollection of the activity, manliness, and warm affection of this noble youth displayed on all occasions during our tour above alluded to. —"

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Primary Sources:
British Parliament Sessional Papers. House of Commons. Third Report. Proceedings, Minutes of Evidence. 1851 (366) Vol. VIII Part 1. pp.528-529.
Macquarie, Lachlan Macquarie Memoranda 2 February 1813; 2 June 1814. [ML Ref: A772 pp.55, 77-78].
War Office. [WO25/3503]

Secondary Sources:
Currie Jo. Mull: the island & its people. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2000.
Historical Record of the Seventy-Third Regiment. Compiled by Richard Cannon. London: Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1851 p.30.
Ritchie, John. Lachlan Macquarie: a biography. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1986.

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