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Heidelberg’s Busy Bee Signature Quilt, 1895-96

Square B2

Quilt square B2


T. H. McLean


The person represented on this square is Cr Thomas Hicks McLean, Mayor of Northcote Borough Council from 1895 to 1897.

Further information

While the McLeans were not members of the Scots Presbyterian Church, Heidelberg, they had various friends and acquaintances who were. Among the many guests who attended Cr and Mrs McLean’s “At Home” in the Northcote Town Hall, Friday 14 February 1896, were Rev. Duncan Fraser, Busy Bees Mrs AE Fraser and Mrs McCracken [Central], Mr Littlejohn [K11] and his wife, and Mr Alec Donaldson [B15]) and the Misses Donaldson from Ivanhoe. 1.

Cr Thomas H McLean (c. 1843-1918) and his brother Samuel McLean (1848-1915) ran a highly successful tannery business in the 1880s to the early 1900s in Northcote. It is not clear when the McLean brothers migrated from Ireland to Australia and how they came to establish the tannery business in Northcote. 2,3,4,5,6,7,8.

In December 1876 Thomas McLean married Margaret Ross Morrison (c.1847-1925) at home of James Umpherstone, Mt Gambier. 9,10. Less than a year later, Thomas’s brother Samuel married Margaret’s younger sister Helen (c.1850-1908), also at the residence of James Umpherstone, Mt Gambier. 11,12.

James Umpherstone (1812-1900) had migrated to South Australia in 1839. He became a prosperous farmer and politician. He married Janet Arneil (c.1811-1877), sister of Isabella Morrison, née Arneil, Margaret and Helen’s mother. 13. He was therefore Margaret and Helen’s uncle by marriage.

The 1851 Scotland Census Roll shows the Morrison household of Newmilns, Ayrshire, Scotland as consisting of John aged 51 years, Isabella his wife aged 39 years, and four children: Catherine aged ten years, John aged eight years, Margaret four years and Helen just one year old. 14. They presumably migrated as a family some time later and joined the Umpherstones in Mt Gambier. Isabella died there in 1870. In the local newspaper she was described as ‘widow of the late John Morrison of Gallstown, Ayrshire’ so it is also possible the family came to South Australia following his death. 15.

To add to the complexity of the family connections, it appears that Margaret Ross Morrison’s marriage to Thomas Hicks McLean was actually her second marriage. In May 1873 she had married Malcolm McLean (1841-1873), a sheep farmer from Arno West, western Victoria, at the residence of James Umpherstone, Mt Gambier. 16,17. It is not known whether Malcolm and Thomas were related. Sadly Malcolm died only a few months after the marriage, in September 1873. He was thrown by his horse into the Glenelg River, near Casterton. 18 Their son Malcolm James was born in February 1874. 19. He grew up with his half siblings in Northcote and also became at tanner. He was a keen amateur cyclist, winning the 10 mile Victorian Cycling Championship in February 1896 followed by the 25 mile Championship in May 1896. 20,21. Perhaps he was the mystery sponsor of the square featuring the cyclist? [G15])? Malcolm J McLean was knocked over by a car and died as a result of his injuries in late 1924. 22. He is buried in the family grave in the Presbyterian section of the Melbourne General Cemetery with his stepfather and half brother and sister. Margaret’s brother, John Umpherstone Morrison (1855-1914), is also buried in the family plot. 23.

Thomas and Margaret McLean had six children:

• Samuel Edgar McLean (1879-1921). 24. See [A1].

• Thomas Percy McLean (1880-1950). 25. See [A3].

• Robert Alexander Caldwell McLean (1881-1954). 26.

• Isabella Susan McLean (1883-1890). 27.

• Stanley Farleigh Gordon McLean (1885 -1940). 28.

• Cecil John McLean (1889-1927). 29.

In 1895, Thomas built a substantial mansion Benvenula at 6-8 Francis Grove, Thornbury. 3. He sold the property in 1905 and bought a large pastoral holding Woodside at Buangor, western Victoria. Thomas Hicks died there in 1918 following a long illness and was buried in the family grave in the Melbourne General Cemetery. 2,23. His eldest son Edgar took over the property. 30.

His brother Samuel had remained in Melbourne and had died several years earlier. He and his wife Helen are buried in the plot adjacent to the Thomas Hicks McLean family graves in the Melbourne General Cemetery. 31.


  1. ‘Social’, Table Talk, 21 February 1896, p. 11.

  2. Thomas Hicks McLean: BDMV 11312/1918.

  3. ‘Thomas Hicks McLean Northcote Mayor 1895-7’, Darebin Heritage http://heritage.darebinlibraries.vic.gov.au/article/464 Viewed online 05.09.19.

  4. Samuel McLean: BDMV 965/1915.

  5. ‘Thomas and Samuel Tanners’ City of Northcote Rate Book 1886, p.70.

  6. ‘Thomas and Samuel Tanners’ City of Northcote Rate Book 1891, pp.9-10.

  7. Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and suburban directory, 1890, 1895.

  8. ‘A Northcote tannery on fire’, Bendigo Independent, Thursday 4 February 1904, p.4.

  9. ‘Marriage: McLean-McLean’, Border Watch (Mt Gambier), Wednesday 10 January 1877, p.2.

  10. Margaret Ross McLean: BDMV 4223/1925.

  11. ‘Married McLean–Morrison’, Border Watch (Mt Gambier), Wednesday 31 October 1877, p.2.

  12. Helen McLean: BDMV 13828/1908.

  13. ‘James Umpherston’, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Umpherston Viewed online 05.09.19.

  14. Ancestry.com 1851 Scotland Census, ‘Morrison Household Newmilns, Ayrshire’, Scotland, Roll CSSCT1851_135. Viewed online 07.09.81.

  15. ‘Death: Morrison’, Border Watch (Mt Gambier), Saturday 5 February 1870, p.2.

  16. ‘Marriages: McLean-Morrison’, Border Watch (Mt Gambier), Saturday 10 May 1873, p.2.

  17. Malcolm McLean: BDMV 663/1841, 9079/1873.

  18. ‘Mr McLean of Arno’,Border Watch (Mt Gambier), Wednesday 1 October 1873, p.2.

  19. ‘Birth: McLean’, Border Watch (Mt Gambier), Saturday 21 March 1874, p.2.

  20. ‘Sports and Sportsmen’, Table Talk, Friday 14 February 1896, p.7.

  21. ‘Sports and Sportsmen’, Table Talk, Friday 8 May 1896, p.9.

  22. Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, Friday 26 December 1924, p.2.

  23. Ancestry.com Victoria, Australia, Cemetery Records and Headstone Transcriptions, 1844-1997, ‘Margaret Ross McLean Grave Number 590/591.’ Viewed online 05.09.19.

  24. Samuel Edgar McLean: BDMV 23585/1878, 8751/1921, died at Buangor.

  25. Thomas Percy McLean: BDMV 1144/1880, BDM WA 69/1951. Ancestry.com ‘Thomas Percy McLean’, McLean Family Tree, viewed 07.09.19.

  26. Robert Alexander Caldwell McLean, BDMV 21775/1881, 16936/1954. Presumably named after the Presbyterian Minister who had married his parents in Mt Gambia.

  27. Isabella (Bella) Susan: BDMV 7587/1883, 13176/1890.

  28. Stanley Farleigh Gordon McLean: BDMV 27672/1885, 19652/1940.

  29. Cecil John McLean: Ancestry.com ‘Cecil John McLean’, Cook Family Tree, viewed 07.09.19. Also included in will of father TH McLean. John Maclean: BDMV 19688/1889. John McLean: BDMV 10423/1927.

  30. ‘Will of Thomas H Mclean 1918’, Public Records Office Victoria, viewed online 07.09.19.

  31. Ancestry.com. Victoria, Australia, Cemetery Records and Headstone Transcriptions, 1844-1997, ‘Helen McLean Grave Number 592’, viewed online 07.09.19.

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