Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Three Macfarlanes

An enquiry from a friend and fellow researcher this afternoon gave me cause to stop, think a bit, and then decide to make this post, even if only to sort out any future muddles hopefully by the convenience of searching for this post.

It is to do with three Mr. Macfarlanes in Auckland's history. Two were definitely related, and the other has, in the past and on at least one website, become confused with another.

Enter John Macfarlane. He was Thomas Henderson's partner in establishing the Circular Saw Line and Henderson's Mill, amongst other enterprises. He died in September 1860.
We have never chronicled a death more regretfully than that which appears in our obituary of this day. Mr. John Macfarlane, of the firm of Henderson and Macfarlane, was one of our early settlers, having arrived in the year 1842, since when he arid his partner have been the greatest employers of labour in the Province. They have done more towards production of exports than any firm in the town; while the existence of our Auckland shipping fleet, which exceeds in tonnage that of all the rest of the colony put together, is mainly attributable to their exertions. Mr. Macfarlane was an especial favourite in the place — liberal in all private matters, universally respected, and personally liked in all Social relations. The funeral will take place this day, with masonic honours.
Southern Cross, 7 September 1860.

Enter Thomas Macfarlane. He arrived in 1860 to take the place of his dead brother John on the board of Henderson & MacFarlane, and went on to become closely intertwined with the commercial life of Auckland in general. He died after being struck by a railway engine in May 1885.

Enter John Sangster Macfarlane.
We regret to learn from the Auckland papers of the death of Mr. John Sangster Macfarlane, which took place on the 2nd February, after a short but painful illness. The following particulars concerning his career we take from the Auckland Herald, and will be of interest to our readers, to many of whom his face and form were familiar : — He was born in Haddington, East Lothian, in 1818, his father being the minister of the Established Church in that place. In 1837 he came out to Sydney as an officer in the Commissariat Department. After some time he resigned that position, and set himself to the study of navigation. Having made himself proficient in that science, he purchased a schooner and commenced to trade between Sydney and Auckland, and also with the East Coast.

He married in Sydney, and subsequently left that city for Auckland, where, in 1844, he joined the late Captain Salmon in the business of general merchants. In 1849 he left for California in command of the Daniel Webster. On his return to New Zealand he traded for some time on the East Coast, in connection with the late Captain Reid, of Poverty Bay, and afterwards carried on business under the style of J. S. Macfarlane and Co., in Queen-street and finally in Fort-street. About four years ago he retired from active mercantile life, and devoted his attention to Colonial politics, serving in the General Assembly for two sessions as member for Waitemata. Mr. Macfarlane was thorough both in his likes and dislikes, and as a shrewd, intelligent, and observant Scotchman, inherited the best traits characteristic of his race.

He was a man of remarkable energy and force of character, and up to the last evinced a keen interest in all that transpired around him of public moment. He manifested great satisfaction when informed of the favourable result of his recent lawsuit at Wellington, and has now himself passed away to the final Court of Appeal at the age of 62. He leaves a widow, who is understood to be comfortably provided for, but no family, and a brother, surgeon in the Royal Navy, as well as a sister married at Perth.
Taranaki Herald, 6 February 1880
A telegram from Auckland informs us that Mr. J. S. Macfarlane, late member for Waitemata, who had been lying dangerously ill for several days, has at last succumbed. Mr. Macfarlane was exceedingly well known in Auckland, where he carried on business of an importer for many years. He has always taken an active part in public affairs, and has ever been remarkable for being very thorough in the advocacy of the side he took up.

As a strong partisan, he made many enemies as well as many friends. Mr. Macfarlane's name has been very much before the public of late years, owing to his being constantly involved in litigation. He was first heard of in connection with some actions in regard to timber rights, in which Mohi (a Maori) , Mr. Craig, and Mr. Machattie were concerned. Mr. W. L. Rees was engaged as the counsel on the other side, but latterly, instead of being merely the advocate, had got involved as one of the parties in suits with Mr. Macfarlane. At the present time we believe that more than one action between the two parties are down on the lists of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Macfarlane being strongly attacked at one time by the Auckland Star, started an opposition paper called the Echo. The latter did not prove a success, however, and he lost a good deal of money by the venture. Mr. Macfarlane lost his seat for Waitemata at the last general election, when he was defeated by Mr. Reader Wood. We believe that he was about 55 years of age at the time of his death.
Evening Post, 3 February 1880

I have previously included information on him in Part 1 of Terminus, as he was the main backer of John Thomas in the latter's ill-fated brickmaking enterprise in 1863. He was also included in this post about the 1874 Waitemata Election. I find him fascinating, actually. He's well worth a bit of a study, some time. He isn't the same John Macfarlane who died in 1860, though -- and whether they all had a capital F in their surnames or not is debateable.

Update: 29 May 2009. There were actually four Macfarlanes in total, so I've found out recently thanks to meeting up with Robin Grover from Silverdale & Districts Historical Society, author of wonderful books on the Wade. First there was Henry Macfarlane, with Thomas Henderson, but he left for Hawaii early (end of 1846, according to Anthony Flude), and nominated his brother John Macfarlane. He was the one who died in 1860. Phew! We're up to our necks in Macfarlanes, around here ...


  1. He does sound like an interesting character!
    Thanks for bringing him to our attention :)

  2. Thanks, Jayne. The story of his newspaper the Auckland "Echo" will be coming soon, once I check out a bit of stuff from the newspaper files at Auckland City library in town. Twelve months of two evening papers in our (then) small burg going hammer-and-tongs just because JSM didn't like what the Star wrote about him. He was a character, all right, no doubt about it.