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Maclean churches Scottish roots

Former minister of Maclean’s Free Presbyterian Church Kenneth McLeod. Image: Lynne Mowbray

Maclean’s Free Presbyterian Church is the oldest church in continual use, in the Clarence Valley.
Its history goes back to the original Scottish settlers of Maclean, who purchased the land [which is located on the corner of River and Wharf Streets in Maclean] on 31 August, 1863.
The churches first minister Rev Duncan McInnes was ordained at East Maitland on Friday, 30 July, 1868 and was admitted to the pastoral charge of the congregation of ‘Rocky Mouth’ Clarence River, [as Maclean was then known].
A lot of the early settlers were from the highlands of Scotland’s Inverness, Sutherland and Ross Shires, including Skye, according to Maclean resident and former minister of the church, Kenneth McLeod.
“They were from the Free Church of Scotland, which came into existence in 1843 and when they settled in Maclean, they insisted on having their own minister here,” said Mr McLeod.
Mr McLeod said that he first came to Australia from Scotland in 1968 after being called to the Lismore parish.
“I was there for five years before being called back to the Scottish town of Tain, where I served for eight years before being called to this congregation in Maclean.”
Mr McLeod saw 15 years in service and in 1996 was called back to his own home parish in Barbas on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.
He served back in Scotland for another five years before returning to Maclean to retire.
During his 15 years serving the Maclean congregation he was the driving force behind establishing the church’s five ‘Bethesda’ retirement units, located beside the church.
Between 1982 and 1996 Mr McLeod held the position as ‘chief’ of the Maclean Highland Gathering. He was also responsible for translating the street signs of Maclean, into Gaelic; a project which was the idea of Maclean locals Bob McPherson and Warren Rackham.
The former minister and chief looks forward each year to the annual Maclean Highland Gathering, which was recently held and says that he is still affectionately known around town, as ‘The Past Chief’.