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Former Mareeba Aged Care resident, Eleanor (Lin) McSwan with her birthday gift from her former student, Australian artist Ken Done, for her 100th birthday, in September last year. Images: Lynne Mowbray

Community farewells local historian

Lynne Mowbray |

The Maclean community recently gathered to farewell local historian Eleanor (Lin) McSwan OAM, who passed away peacefully on 20 April 2019.

A memorial service was held on 26 April at the Free Presbyterian Church in Maclean, to celebrate Lin’s life.

The Mareeba Aged Care resident celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends on Thursday 13 September, last year. 

At that time, Lin shared a brief overview of her life with The Independent.

Eleanor said that she was born in Walcha, near Armidale on the tablelands.

She moved to Maclean when she was first appointed as a teacher at Maclean District Rural School in 1940.

Eleanor married Colin McSwan in 1945 and they had three children (one boy and two girls).

She taught for a few years before having children and then went back to teach history at Maclean High School from 1954 to 1972, when she retired.

One of Eleanor’s young students was Ken Done, who went on to become an internationally renowned Australian artist and designer.

On her 100th birthday, Eleanor proudly produced an autographed book of Ken’s and a painting of a beautiful flower arrangement, created especially for her by Ken, for her special birthday.

One of Ken’s artworks also features on the dustcover of one of Eleanor’s books which was published in 1992 for the Maclean District Historical Society; ‘Maclean – the first fifty years 1862-1912’.

Because of the connection with Ken and Maclean, the historical society contacted him (at the time) to do the illustration for the cover. Ken agreed and produced the artwork for them free of charge.

Over the years Eleanor’s passion for local history saw her become a foundation member of the Maclean District Historical Society, where she helped to establish the Maclean District Museum.

In 1986, Eleanor was awarded Maclean Shire’s ‘Citizen of the Year’ for her work in undertaking research for the Maclean District Historical Society and an OAM in 1995, for her ‘Services to Local History’.

Her dedication and passion to local history saw Eleanor write many books over the years, pertaining to the different aspects of our local history.

Eleanor said that she had studied history as a major at university, which came in handy when writing these books and she did it for the love of it.

It was something that she enjoyed doing, not to make money, but to benefit our local history.

Our community will be forever indebted to Eleanor (Lin) McSwan, for her invaluable contribution to our local history.