Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Sir Donald Maclean

Chapter XXXII — Sir Douglas Maclean. The Chief of Maraekakaho

page break

Chapter XXXII
Sir Douglas Maclean. The Chief of Maraekakaho

AllSir Donald's hopes had centred in his only son, Robert Donald Douglas Maclean, and he lived long enough to see that son well qualified by education and professional training to occupy a prominent place in the country which the father had helped to pioneer. Douglas Maclean's tastes did not lie in the direction of official and political life, although for a period he represented a Hawke's Bay seat in Parliament. His career, as events developed, was concerned chiefly with the development of the country's farming industries, and as the owner of the great Maraekakaho estate, which his father had acquired and partly broken in, he had to shoulder heavy responsibilities at an early age. His was a useful busy life; he found time amidst all the cares incident to the control of a large property to attend to matters of public betterment in local government and the larger duties of a citizen of the British Empire.

Douglas Maclean, born in Wellington in 1852, was first educated in the Auckland Grammar School, and his father sent him to England in the early Sixties—a voyage round the Horn in a sailing-ship, the Wild Duck–to gain a college education, first at Temple Grove, in Surrey, and then at Clifton College. On his return to New Zealand he was articled to Messrs. Hart and Buckley, barristers and solicitors. Some years later he went to England again and read for the law in London, and was admitted as a barrister at the Middle Temple. He did not practise but returned to New Zealand to join his father, who was then Native Minister, and presently began practical acquaintance with page 144 sheep-farming and stock breeding at Maraekakaho. In his young days he was a good all-round athlete. He won the first two bicycle races held in Wellington. Over half a century ago he rode across the Rimutaka Ranges to Masterton, and on another occasion he rode from Wellington to Napier, on his old-style high bicycle, at a period when the roads were very different from the smooth highways of to-day, and when most of the streams had to be forded. He was one of Wellington's earliest Rugby footballers, and in the early Seventies he captained a Wellington team which won a match against the Armed Constabulary, a body of powerful players, and another against the officers and men of H.M.S. Rosario.

Douglas Maclean had memories of old-time New Zealand. As a boy of eight he was with his father at the conference of Maori chiefs held at Kohimarama, Auckland, in 1860, in the time of Governor Gore Browne. Young Douglas slept in the same room in the old mission buildings as the chief Tamihana te Rauparaha, son of the great warrior Rauparaha; the son was as great a missionary as his father was a cannibal conqueror.

On his father's death Douglas Maclean's training in law matters proved useful when he found it needful to straighten out a tangle of titles and native leases. Steadily he developed the station until Maraekakaho became a model stock-raising estate. He was recognised as the leading breeder of shorthorn cattle, and his pure bred Lincoln and Leicester sheep, his merino flocks and his thoroughbred horses were notable for their quality. Pedigree stock from Maraekakaho took high place in all pastoral shows, and were in demand all over New Zealand and in Australia. He imported stud animals from England, and spared neither money nor pains to make Maraekakaho the finest breeding station in the land. He was a great believer in the beneficially stimulating influence of shows on the farming industry, and the Manawatu Agricultural and Pastoral Association, of which he was president at the time of his death, was strongly supported by him financially and with exhibits of his best stock.

page 145

Sir Douglas Maclean had some experience of Parliamentary life as well as of service on many local bodies. He represented Napier in the House of Representatives in 1896–99. But the turmoil of politics was not to his liking. He used to say that a country made progress in spite of its politicians; they imagined themselves the builders of the nation, but it was the hard-working men on the land who were directly the makers of its material prosperity and who gave it its stamp of individuality. He was an earnest patriot and a great advocate of a strong Royal Navy. He was president of the Wellington branch of the Navy League, and a member since the foundation of the league; vice-president of the London executive during the war period; was elected president for New Zealand at the Dominion conference in 1922; and was the first president of the Hawke's Bay branch. He was the most outstanding personality of the league in New Zealand. During the War, 1914–1918, Sir Douglas and Lady Maclean devoted their efforts and resources liberally to the national cause, and especially to the assistance of the New Zealand soldiers.

Douglas Maclean married Miss Florence Butler-Storey, her home was Portland Park, in County Tipperary. Their eldest daughter is Mrs. Fountaine, wife of Vice-Admiral Fountaine, retired, of Narford Hall, Norfolk, and there are two Fountaine boys to carry on the traditions of two great houses.

* * * * *

“One of my guests,” said Sir Douglas Maclean as we met a swagger on the hill road inland from Hastings, Hawke's Bay, when we were driving back from a visit to Maraekakaho station one day towards the end of 1928. And my good and kindly friend told some anecdotes of his experience with swagmen in his half century of ownership of the big sheep run. “Some of the very best men we ever had on the station,” he said, “came there with swags on their backs. A good class of fellow we always took on if we had a job going, and some of them were there for years.” The standing instructions to the station manager was to give food for tea and breakfast, and a bunk, to every swagger calling there. Sometimes Maraekakaho entertained as many as twenty-two swaggers in a night. Most trampers page 146 looking for a job whom one encountered on the road from Napier and Hastings to the hill country were bound for the patriarchal Maclean estate. Sir Douglas grew old with the growth of his fine estate, and as he grew old he delighted to see his many employees happy and contented. I have never heard of a more generous employer among the big estate owners. He expended his wealth to a very large degree in helping his fellow men. Many a farmer in Hawke's Bay and outside it to-day owes his start in life to the chief of Maraekakaho.

That day at the station homestead, lying well to the sun among its great shelter plantations and orchards, Sir Douglas took me first to see the “community heart” of Maraekakaho. Here are a school and a church hall, on a green terrace above the clear little river that flows past the homestead and the wool-sheds. Sir Douglas had the Church Hall put up at his own expense, and he and the residents furnished it. It was the social gathering-place on week days as well as Sundays.

Here the Maori word marae was particularly appropriate. The marae, or village assembly ground, the square among the houses, was the gathering-place of tribe or hapu. And along the river bank the kakaho, the toetoe or pampas grass, once waved its plumes abundantly; hence the place-name which puzzled so many of the overseas and colonial visitors to the Maclean Estate.

The chief showed with mingled pride and sadness the Great War roll of honour of the station and district in the church hall. There were many Highland names on it, good names such as Duncan McPhee, and the list was headed by a Maclean. He was the chief's only son.

page 147

The death of the generous-hearted chief, on 7 February 1929, was a great grief to the countryside, and it wrought great changes at Maraekakaho. The one large station now provides farmsteads for some fifty families, and small stock-fattening farms and dairy farms have replaced the one-owner station. The key to this breaking-up process is found in the heavy death duties. So the old order gives place to the new; and Maraekakaho township is to-day, in its way, a more cosmopolitan place than the old, with its clan-like character. But there are many who deeply regret the passing of old Maraekakaho.

* * * * *

There remains to complete this Maclean memoir, the brief story of the third generation. Sir Douglas Maclean's only son died several years before his father. Algernon Donald Douglas Maclean was a gallant young soldier whose promising life was cut short by the effects of war wounds and sickness. He was a stalwart son of the fighting clan, this handsome young New Zealander, five inches over six feet in height. He held a commission in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders when the Great War began, he was wounded in the first year in France, and he afterwards served on the North-West frontier of India, leaving with the rank of Captain, to recuperate in his native land. He died in the old family home in Napier on 5 November 1923. Never was the Highland pipes lament over the heroic dead more poignantly fitting to the occasion than when it was played over this young Maclean, the last of the male line of his name–“The Flowers of the Forest are a' Wede Awa.”

On the sun-bathed gentle slope of the beautiful old burying-ground on high Scinde Island, a place sweet with bird-song, looking out over the town of Napier, and the plains of Hawke's Bay and the ocean beyond, side by side, the pioneer father and son and the soldier grandson, there sleep the three generations of Maclean.

page break