Sir Donald McLean Lodge No 1646

Meeting at the Masonic Centre, 9 Lawry Street, New Plymouth

Contact details
Meeting Calendar

The Lodge meets on the first Tuesday of each month with the exception of June and December when the Lodge will meet on the first Saturday. There are no meetings in January and February.
Tyling is at 7.30
The Installation meeting is on 1st Saturday in June

Lodge Secretary:

Gary Cleland


(06) 757 9160


Lodge History

Sir Donald McLean (1820-1877), then the District Grand Master for the North Island of New Zealand, issued a dispensatory warrant on 6 July 1876 authorising the formation of our Lodge, and the inaugural meeting was held on 15 August 1876 at Waitara, then called Raleigh. The charter was issued in London on 11 October 1876. The inaugural meeting was attended by eleven members and 37 visitors, nearly all of the visitors coming from the Mount Egmont Lodge No. 670 EC and the De Burgh Adams Lodge No. 446 IC of New Plymouth, and both of those Lodges have maintained a close relationship with our Lodge ever since.

Sir Donald McLean died on 5 January 1877, only a few months after our Lodge was formed, and before he had any opportunity of visiting our Lodge. The only physical links of Sir Donald to his namesake Lodge are:

  • The Dispensatory Warrant as signed by Sir Donald hangs in our temple.
  • Sir Donald’s District Grand Master’s Apron and regalia hang on the wall of our temple.
  • A number of photographs of Sir Donald adorn the walls of our temple and refectory.

The four craft tracing boards in our Lodge were all designed and painted by Bro. Hurst (member of Mount Egmont Lodge No. 670 EC), and the three craft degree tracing boards were presented to our Lodge in 1887, and the fourth tracing board (opened for a board of installed masters) was presented by Bro. Hurst in 1888. All of these tracing boards are still in use in our Lodge.

Our Lodge underwent a decline in membership and activity in the 1890’s and early 1900’s, and the Lodge minutes for that period are replete with references to lapsed meetings and problems in collecting dues in arrears. This reminds us that freemasonry undergoes periodic cycles of expansion and contraction, and our present period of decline is not permanent but is part of the cycle of Masonic membership which waxes and wanes several times in the course of a century.
In 1898 our Lodge voted unanimously to remain an English Constitution Lodge rather than join the then new New Zealand Constitution.
The Lodge’s revival from this period of stagnation began in 1909 when Bro. Colson was installed as Master. He was evidently a vigorous and dynamic master who soon restored membership and enthusiasm, to the extent that in 1911 the Lodge was able to acquire the section which our temple still occupies at 20 Domett Street, Waitara, and then to build our temple which was completed in 1914.

An interesting feature of the temple is that the sand in the pavement was acquired from Jerusalem.
The temple was enlarged in 1929. In 1931 occurred the first official visit from Aorangi Lodge No. 2300 EC of Wellington to work a degree at our Lodge. A pattern of Annual Visits was established which is still going strong over 70 years later, with the two Lodges alternating their annual visits to each other, so that we visit Aorangi one year and they visit us the following year. The Director of Ceremonies' baton has a small plate recording it was donated to our Lodge in 1913 by Aorangi Lodge No. 2300 EC.

There was another major revival in our membership in the late 1940’s, with 12 members joining 1948-1950.
In 1959, the Temple was further enlarged and the present refectory and other ancillary rooms were added.
By 1962 the waiting list of new members was so long that W Bro. Bruce Orchard conferred with the District Grand Master and applied for a dispensation to hold extra meetings to initiate them.

Our Lodge centenary was 1976 when W Bro. Barlow was the Master.
Membership has declined in recent times, but we should remember that membership is cyclical and always been in freemasonry.

Notes on the Life of Sir Donald McLean (1820-1877):
Sir Donald is not well known nowadays, but he was a prominent civil servant and politician in 19th century New Zealand.

He was born in 1820 on the island of Tiree off the coast of Scotland, the fourth son of his family. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his maternal grandfather, a Presbyterian Minister. He left his Highland home in 1838 at the age of 17, bound for Australia, and never returned to Scotland. Arriving in Australia in 1839, he worked on sheep stations for a year, and was then sent to New Zealand by an employer who had timber interests at Auckland. In New Zealand, he became fluent in the Maori language and in 1844 was appointed as an interpreter in the office of Protector of Aborigines, later the Native Affairs Department and then still later The Maori Affairs Department. After initial training, he was sent to New Plymouth as sub-protector of Aborigines, arriving 28 August 1844. He played a prominent role in Pakeha-Maori relations in early Taranaki, and negotiated the purchase of Bell Block and Fitzroy for the white colonists. As a result he was appointed Native Commissioner and Land Purchase Agent in the newly formed Native Department.

In 1845 he made extensive explorations on foot in the interior of the North Island, becoming one of the few Europeans to have visited Lake Taupo at that time. In 1846 he was at Wanganui to negotiate a settlement of the Maori troubles that had broken out there. In the following years he negotiated extensive purchases of land from the Maori in Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa.

In 1859 he returned to Taranaki to negotiate a resolution of the Waitara controversy, and presumably he would have visited at this time the land on which Waitara now stands. After he thought he had resolved matters, he left, leaving the details to be finalised by Mr Parris, but unfortunately Mr Parris let things get out of control and the Taranaki land wars started the next year.

In the early 1860’s, Donald McLean was closely involved in the Government’s negotiations with the Maori King movement, but in 1863 he resigned his official posts and moved to Hawkes Bay where he planned to enter national and provincial politics in which he thought he would be freer from control by the Governor. He also planned to develop the 30,000 acre Maraekakaho block in Hawkes Bay which he had acquired for himself in 1855. He was immediately appointed Government Native Agent for East Coast and Hawkes Bay and as such, was very involved in the Maori rebellion which occurred in Hawkes Bay in 1866 and the troubles which followed the escape of the Maori resistance fighter Te Kooti from the Chathams in the late 1860’s.

Meantime, he had carried out his plan of entering local and national politics by being elected superintendent of Hawkes Bay province in 1863 and MP for Napier in 1866, which Parliamentary seat he held until his death in 1877. In 1869 he became Minister for Native Affairs which portfolio he held for the rest of his life except for one brief period. His term as Native Affairs Minister was notable for finally achieving peace between Pakeha and Maori.

He died at Napier on 5 January 1877, at the relatively young age of 56, worn out from his exertions as a peace maker between Maori and Pakeha.

Little is known of his career as a freemason, although because he died in office as District Grand Master of the North Island of New Zealand, it may be inferred he must have been a very keen and enthusiastic Freemason. He was initiated in New Zealand Pacific Lodge No. 758 EC (now No. 2 NZC). In Hawkes Bay he joined in 1863 The Scinde Lodge No. 419 IC. He became DGM for the North Island of New Zealand in the English Constitution on 24 June 1876, only six months before his decease. Little else appears to be known about his Masonic career, and in fact the index to his biography published in 1940 has no entries relating to Freemasonry – and we infer that his biography does not mention he was a Freemason.

As to his private life, he married Susan Strang in 1850, by whom he had his one legitimate child, Douglas (later Sir Douglas) McLean. His wife died soon after the birth of their only son and child, and Sir Donald never remarried. The son of that marriage, Douglas McLean, also achieved distinction and became a Knight of the Realm. The son, Douglas McLean, developed the 30,000 acre family station at Maraekakaho in Hawkes Bay into a model station, and became a well-known breeder of champion livestock. Sir Douglas McLean was also very involved in local body politics in Hawkes Bay, and served one term in parliament in the 1890’s representing a Hawkes Bay seat. Sir Douglas in turn only had one son, who died in the 1920’s from World War 1 wounds without reproducing, so Sir Donald McLean’s descendants in the direct male line have become extinct. However, he does have living descendants today, because the son Sir Douglas McLean had at least two daughters, one of whom married Vice Admiral Fountaine of Narford Hall in Norfolk, U.K. The descendants of that marriage still own Narford Hall in Norfolk. We have no knowledge of the descendants of Sir Douglas McLean’s other daughter or daughters but presumably Sir Donald will have living descendants via them as well. Sir Donald McLean also had an illegitimate son by a Maori woman who became one of Te Kooti’s lieutenants and was killed in action in the Te Kooti campaigns. It is not known if this illegitimate son left any issue.

Sir Donald McLean and his son and grandson are all buried together on Bluff Hill in Napier. The main rugby ground in Napier, McLean Park, is named after the family.

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