David McLaren (colonial manager)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

David McLaren ca. 1830

David McLaren (1785 – 22 June 1850) was a Scottish accountant and lay preacher who served as Resident Manager of the South Australian Company for the Colony of South Australia from 1837 to 1841.[1]


In 1835, through acquaintanceship with George Fife Angas, he was appointed emigration agent for South Australia and sold shares in the South Australian Company. Then he was offered the post of Manager of the Colony; he sailed in the Company's barque South Australian. During a 12 day stay[2] at Cape Town, South Africa the governor gave him vine clippings to take to South Australia. He landed at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island on 22 April 1837. He did not have the practical skills and knowledge of his predecessor, Samuel Stephens, but he was an effective money-manager and by prudent investment (and some constructive bookkeeping[3]) he improved the fortunes of the Company and its subsidiary South Australian Bank, while making few friends.[1] He appears to fit the stereotype of the parsimonious Scot: the editor of the Register on the occasion of his farewell dinner wrote of a man wielding "immense influence for good or for evil ... object of divided feelings ... (not always acting on) right or sound and comprehensive views". And the triumphs of his administration, the New Port and the Company's banking operations, he ascribes to G. S. Kingston and Edward Stephens respectively.[4] The Register (or the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register as it was then titled) was scathing in its criticism of both McLaren and the Resident Commissioner J. H. Fisher.[5]

In January 1841 he returned to London, where his family joined him, as the Company's manager and continued to run its business profitably, and to the benefit of the Colony. Evidence he gave to the select committee on Australian shipping led to the repeal of the Navigation Acts in 1849.[1]

Church and Family[edit]

McLaren travelled alone to Australia, leaving his wife and family behind; his social life in the colony appears to have centred on his church - he acted as minister for a Baptist congregation which from July 1838 met at W. Finlayson's cottage in Rundle Street, later the site of Charles Birks' shop.[6] and held their first public services in September that year. McLaren served as their regular, and very successful, lay pastor, official duties permitting.[7] He carried out baptisms in the River Torrens in 1840.[8]

His son, the eminent Baptist preacher and author, Alexander Maclaren (1826 – 1910) visited Australia in 1889.[9]


It is possible that McLaren Vale (or McLaren's Vale) was named for him: the time of its naming and the Manager's eminence support this argument, but the weight of opinion is for the surveyor (later deputy Surveyor-general) John McLaren (died 17 July 1885), who worked in the area.[10]

A wharf at Port Adelaide was named for him.[9]

John McDouall Stuart named McLaren Creek after John Mclaren.[11]


  1. ^ a b c McLaren, David (1785 - 1850) Australian Dictionary of Biography online retrieved 2 July 2011
  2. ^ McLaren, David. David McLAREN Journal 1836 to 1837 (State Library PRO 790 Series). State Library of South Australia.
  3. ^ Juggling with the Public Monies[permanent dead link] South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register Saturday 28 July 1838 p,4 accessed 3 July 2011
  4. ^ Parting Dinner to David McLaren Esq. South Australian Register 2 January 1841 p.2 accessed 2 July 2011
  5. ^ Slanders and Lies of the South Australian Gazette South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register 8 September 1838 pp.3–5 accessed 3 July 2011
    The lucrative contract which the Register had for printing the Colony's Gazette was withdrawn in June the following year.
  6. ^ Correspondence South Australian Register 21 July 1887 p.4 accessed 20 July 2011
  7. ^ "Baptist Association". South Australian Register. XXVII (5308). South Australia. 30 October 1863. p. 3. Retrieved 30 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ First Baptism in the Torrens The Register 18 August 1926 p.19 accessed 3 July 2011
  9. ^ a b An Eminent Preacher The Rev Dr McLaren South Australian Register 9 February 1889 p.6 accessed 3 July 2011
    Note the slight change in the spelling of his surname.
  10. ^ http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/pn/m/mclaren.htm
  11. ^ Stuart's Journal South Australian Register 10 December 1860 p.3 accessed 20 July 2011