The Isle of Ulva and the "Father of Australia"

This post is inspired by a comment about the connection between Lachlan Macquarie and the Isles of Ulva and Mull in the Hebrides provided by one of our Australian Guests who recently cruised with us.

“We did not know that our famous New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie was born on Ulva, until we arrived near Ulva. We did not find out that he and his family are buried on Mull, until reading this after we got home. Governor Macquarie is a very famous part of our history and there are lots of place names around New South Wales that are named after him. We also have a lovely waterfront point in our Sydney Botanic Gardens named Mrs Macquarie's Chair because she apparently sat there quite often to relax and watch the activity on the harbour. Coincidentally, through my work I am managing two of our premium Sydney buildings, one of which is named Governor Macquarie Tower. It is built on the site of the original government house that Macquarie would have occupied. I'm sure lots of Aussie guests would love to visit Macquarie's birthplace and perhaps his grave. You may of course know all of this history already so forgive us if we are repeating stuff you already use in your guest commentary.”

Here at The Majestic Line, we have to hold our hands up and say that although we knew about the link between the Isles of Ulva and Mull and Lachlan Macquarie we hadn’t thought to highlight this to our Australian guests. The achievements  and character of Lachlan Macquarie were immense; he was the first Governor of New South Wales and known as the “Father of Australia”, no less.  Ulva is a tiny, privately owned idyllic island lying just off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The connection between these Isles and Lachlan Macquarie is an inspirational and poignant story.

Born in 1762 on the Isle of Ulva, Lachlan Macquarie left his Hebrides home as a young lad: he enroled in the American War of Independence aged 15.  Lachlan was descended from the Scottish Highland family clan MacQuarrie which possessed Ulva, Staffa, and a region of the Isle of Mull for over one thousand years, and his forebears were buried on Iona. His impressive military career lasted over 30 years and took him to many corners of the globe.  But his early life was tinged with tragedy; the death of his first wife of tuberculosis after only three years of marriage left him depressed and he returned to Mull.  There he met Elizabeth Campbell, who in 1807 became his second wife. Macquarie was soon after offered the position of Governor of New South Wales by the British Crown and he went back to Australia in 1809.

His legacy is inspirational and is credited for shaping modern Australia.  As Governor he set about transforming a society that was starving, with no proper infrastructure or community values. Critically he identified the importance of education in building a nation. He created an environment in which commerce and manufacturing could flourish introducing coinage and establishing the colony’s first bank “The Bank of New South Wales” in 1817.  One of his main priorities was public health, very aware of the link between poverty, disadvantage, sickness and crime.  Many believe that it was Macquarie’s example of tolerance and humanity that set the spirit of egalitarianism and sense of fair play that is considered a defining characteristic of the Australian people today.

Lachlan Macquarie retired as Governor in 1822 and died in London 1824 while defending himself against  Commissioner J.T Bigge's damning report on his administration which Bigge felt was too liberal. But Macquarie’s reputation continued to grow after his death and today he is regarded by many as the most enlightened and progressive of the early Governors who sought to establish Australia as a country, rather than as a prison camp

Macquarie was buried with his wife and son on the Isle of Mull in a remote mausoleum which is maintained by the National Trust of Australia and is inscribed "The Father of Australia". Macquarie formally adopted the name Australia for the continent, the name earlier proposed by the first circumnavigator of Australia, Matthew Flinders. As well as the many geographical features named after him in his lifetime, he is commemorated by Macquarie University in Sydney.  More information on the Ulva link can be found here> and click here for information on the Macquarie Mausoleum on Mull.

Posted by The Majestic Line

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