An Executive Summary
Disaster struck the McLarans of Dalby in 1900 - perhaps it had been coming for a while. Their 9th and youngest child was barely a year old when the family's main street property and burgeoning business were lost to Donald's gambling debts. And to make matters worse, the property was to be transferred to William Boyd McLennan, fiancé to their eldest daughter, Sophia.
Donald McLaran's rewards from 47 years of hard work and rural and commercial property development on the Darling Downs had been frittered away in a very short time. Gone were his hopes of a comfortable retirement, surrounded by his growing family, leisure hours passed in the local pubs, all supported by the steady income from his cordial factory.
The early 1890's had been the halcyon days. The McLarans moved from Kilkevan into Dalby and constructed a cordial factory on the corner of Cunningham and Patrick Streets. They became strong supporters of St Thomas's Presbyterian Church and were a well-respected family in the growing township.
The Queensland story began in 1853 when Donald, then 20, emigrated from Southend, Argyle, to Moreton Bay with his father, Malcolm, his stepmother, Jane and 4 of his siblings: Catherine, Duncan, Margaret and Alexander. They had exchanged a life of agricultural labouring with no prospect of advancement or land ownership (which did not happen in Southend until 1920) for the chance to live in a land of opportunity. And Donald, if not all members of his family, had taken that opportunity in both hands and succeeded.
By 1879, Donald had control of around 2000 acres of prime Dalby farming land. He was skilled in and had a deep knowledge of carpentry, well sinking, agriculture and animal husbandry. He had a reputation as a man who would unfailingly pursue justice as he saw it, but one who was not averse to partaking in the pleasures offered by the pubs of Dalby. In 1879 he sold one property (Frogmore) and borrowed money to purchase Haran, a station adjacent Tartha on the Moonie. And he married a lass who was 23 years younger than he, Clara Eversden. Donald was even 2 years older than Clara's father, a fact she may not have been aware of on their wedding day.
The Eversden family had emigrated from Cambridgeshire in 1864, but Clara's mother and 3 siblings died aboard the Flying Cloud. On arrival, Clara (7) and her father Lewis Eversden, travelled by dray and horse to Tartha, a property 2 day's ride west of Dalby on the Moonie River, to join forces with her mother's older brother, William Dockrill. She lived at this remote and isolated property, fully engaged in the farm life which was so different from her native England, until her marriage to Donald McLaran.
Marriage to Donald ensured more than just Clara's financial future and a life in the more civilised Dalby area. It offered Lewis Eversden a chance to have a stake in Haran and an escape route from Tartha. And eventually, Dockrill consolidated the land holdings in the area when he purchased Haran from Donald. Clara saw the potential in the "rough diamond" (but no doubt personable) Donald, and set about establishing him and their family as respected members of the Dalby community.
Clara and Donald had much in common: both endured horrific sea voyages from England, each had lost close family members, and each displayed a fierce determination to survive against the odds, a love of the land and the Darling Downs and a desire to have a large family to counter the natural attrition rate of the times.
It can only have been at Clara's instigation that Donald donated to the Queensland Museum, was described as "Donald McLaran, of Dalby and Haran" in his father's 1884 death notice and in 1890 nominated for election as a Dalby Town Councillor. What a turn around from his boisterous bachelor days!
Everything had come together for the extended family by 1890: Dockrill had bought Haran, Lewis Eversden, his second wife, Jane and their son William Joseph Brown (aka Eversden) had retired to Southport and Donald McLaran's family, divested of their rural properties, had successfully relocated to Dalby and a main-street presence.
Woven into Donald's story are the lives and deaths of his parents and siblings and their offspring. Jane, Alexander, Margaret and Duncan died dramatic, lonely deaths, 3 of which were subject to magisterial enquiries. Malcolm, Catherine and Donald lived long lives in Dalby, dying at ages 84, 82 and 79 respectively, surrounded by their loved ones. Within a year of Donald and Clara's marriage, Duncan and Alexander died tragic avoidable deaths.
So what happened after the disaster of 1900? Sophia McLaran married William Boyd McLennan. What a wedding it must have been on 19 Dec 1900! Presents were received by the happy couple from all and sundry. Lewis Eversden sent money, Jane sent cutlery which survived the Flying Cloud voyage Everyone of importance or was a relative in Dalby attended .... except Donald. Where was the father of the bride? The smart money says he was at the pub.
Clara took a strict control of the family and their finances and land they had selected at Daandine / Duckponds in the names of their children, with one block, perhaps a token, in Donald's name. The McLarans named the property "Victoria Park" and stoically set about restoring their lost fortune.
Donald passed away in 1912 before the dense brigalow or the prickly pear on Victoria Park were conquered. Tragic events followed and a daughter and a son were laid to rest beside him in 1916 and 1918. Clara and her eldest son, Duncan, persevered at Daandine until 1927 when Victoria Park was finally sold - the prickly pear infestation had been conquered.
My grandfather (Malcolm Lewis McLaran) and others were paid out. He built a new home and a tennis court in Patrick Street and, perhaps feeling wealthy, he bought his first car, the famous Lizzy. His daughters grew up to become excellent tennis players and musicians.
Clara was then 71. She had resolved the Victoria Park investment, inherited from her father and spent the remaining years of her life in Dalby, Brisbane and Sydney. Well into her 90's she travelled unaccompanied via rail from Brisbane to Dalby to visit my grandfather.
I recall the day Clara passed away in Brisbane in 1956, 2 months before her 100th birthday. At her request, she was buried alongside Donald and the Scottish pioneers in the Dalby Monumental Cemetery.
The focus of this website
The focus of this website is the McLaran(en) story prior to 1900. It is one of hardship, resourcefulness, tragic deaths, good fortune and bad and the relentless pursuit of success and survival. Over 70 great grandchildren of Donald McLaran and Clara Eversden prove they succeeded and prospered, even if the McLaran name itself is slowly disappearing.
We should not ignore the other side of Donald's family: the large number of great grandchildren descended from his sisters Catherine and Margaret McLaren (and dare we include his brother Alexander too?) also bear the genes of Malcolm McLaran / McLeoran from Southend and thus the MacLeans (aka MacLerans) from the Isle of Mull.
The headstone of Clara Sophia Eversden, Dalby Monumental Cemetery.