Maclean Family Tree
William Maclean

my gt gt grandfather

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William Maclean (above) was born on 6th Sept 1832 at Whitefield, a farm on the Grantully estate near Aberfeldy in the upper Tay valley, Perthshire, Scotland. He was baptised in the parish of Dull in Perth. William was the 7th child of James Maclean (or McLean) (1791-1872) and Ann Anderson (1799-1871). 

In around 1840, the family left Whitefield. There is no clear reason for this. According to an account by Roy Pyman Maclean written in the 1930s or 1940s, James had been running a whisky distillery on the side, and "sampled his own wares rather heavily". According to Roy, he "became converted" in around 1840, "gave up drink both for profit and pleasure, and took a farm near Crieff". 

Another account by Mervyn McLean (of New Zealand) suggests that the move coincided with a severe potato blight as well as the Highland clearances, in which tenant farmers were pushed unceremoniously off their land to make way for more profitable sheep grazing. Mervyn also suggests that the family may have struggled to find new lodgings: I have been unable to find them in the 1851 Scottish Census.

By this time, William had already left home, and there is no surviving record of any further contact with his family. According to Roy's account, he was effectively adopted by Mr George Wharrie, a Yorkshireman. As a result, William moved south to England, and in the late 1840s was enrolled in a private school in Aberdeen Walk, Scarborough, overseen by one James Sykes. (Sykes appears in the 1851 census as a lodger living at 65 Aberdeen Walk, and is described as a schoolmaster in mathematics and higher classics). William later studied medicine in Edinburgh. In fact the 17-year-old William does appear in the 1851 Scottish Census, lodging with the Aikman family at 9 Hope Street, Edinburgh. Wharrie, then 61, was also a lodger at the same address. 

After two years studying in Edinburgh, William went to Jersey for a holiday. On the return journey, he caught smallpox in London, and then scarlet fever and "erycipelas" (a now defunct illness, described as an "acute, infectious disease evidenced by a deep red inflammation of the skin"). "Upon his recovery," wrote Roy, "he was so weak that he decided to give up medicine and take up a commercial career".

He entered the office of George Lockwood & Son, a well-to-do coal merchant in Stockton-on-Tees. In 1861, William makes his first appearance in the English Census. Accompanied by George Wharrie, he is a visitor to Mary Darling, a married gentlewoman living in Seaton Carew, then a seaside town neighbouring Hartlepool, later to become known as West Hartlepool. The nature of this visit is unclear. However, it is almost certainly connected with William's new career, and it is tempting to see George Wharrie, by now in his 70s, as the architect of this connection for his young protege: Mary Darling was related by marriage to the wife of George Lockwood, a well-to-do merchant and shipowner in the town.

William quickly built his own family connection. George Lockwood Jr (1821-1877) was married to Lucretia Share (1821-1872), whose niece Clara Hogg (pictured above right, b 1845 in Stepney, East London) was a frequent visitor to their house. William and Clara met at some point in the early 1860s and were married at Holy Saviours in Tynemouth (where Clara's widowed mother, Catherine Share, kept a lodging house) on 22 March 1866. Their first marital home was at 32 Scarborough Street, West Hartlepool. Daughter Catherine ("Katie") was born a year later (1867), and was given the middle name Wharrie after William's mentor. Eleven further surviving children followed. In 1872, the family moved to Wellington Road, and later built Grantully House in Westbourne Road. They were settled in Grantully House by 1891.

In around 1868, having left Lockwoods, William set up on his own in an office in Victoria Terrace, Hartlepool as a coal "fitter" (exporter and agent) and timber agent in partnership with James Groves, son of Eskdale Ingram Groves, a well-known coal agent in the town. In 1872, they launched their first steamship, named the James Groves, carrying around 1,000 tons. That ship was lost at sea in 1875, but was replaced with another of the same name. Other vessels subsequently owned by the firm between 1875 and 1901 included the Aberfeldy, Grantully and Whitefield, all names with personal significance to William. The last was Duart, built in 1901.

In 1875, William was a founding member of the Hartlepool Shipowners Society whose other original committee members included George Horsley (1837-1895) and Thomas English Pyman (1843-1892), two other prosperous merchants who became fathers-in-law to two of William's daughters. William was also a founder and secretary of the Hartlepool Chamber of Commerce, as well as a Trustee of Hartlepool Hospital, and one of the original bench members of the local Borough Magistrates, along with George Pyman (1822-1890).

In 1909, he and Clara retired to Lochbuie house in Harrogate, where William died in 1920. Clara died in 1925. Grantully House, their former home in West Hartlepool, was either purchased or gifted to the borough council and was converted into the main maternity hospital in the town.

He was described in his obituary in the Northern Daily Mail as "one of the straightest if not the straightest dealing shipowner on the coast, who could not endure an underhand suggestion. He might often be seen walking alone to business or for a constitutional, tall, well set up and well groomed, an active person, a keen man of business, a perfect gentleman and a humble Christian."

William and Clara's children were:

Catherine Wharrie Maclean
Frederick William Maclean
Clara Maclean
Florence Maclean
William Share Maclean
George Henry Maclean
Horace Malcolm Maclean
Mabel Pera Maclean
Norman Keith Maclean
Alan Douglas Maclean


  Do you have any further information on William Maclean or any of the other people mentioned on this page? Please contact me at My full family tree, which contains almost 2600 individuals, is posted at GenesReunited and Ancestry. Contact me for access.