McLEAN, NEIL, army and militia officer, office holder, politician, and judge; b. 1759 in Mingary, Scotland, son of John McLean and his wife Elizabeth; m. 1784 Isabella Macdonell, youngest daughter of John Macdonell of Leek, probably at New Johnstown (Cornwall, Ont.), and they had three sons – the most notable of whom was Archibald* – and five daughters; d. 3 Sept. 1832 in St Andrews, Upper Canada.
Neil McLean immigrated to North America as a young man. During the early years of the American revolution he joined the 1st battalion, Royal Highland Emigrants (84th Foot), commanded by Allan Maclean*, as an ensign. Promoted lieutenant, he went on half pay when the unit was disbanded in 1784 and, with other loyalist Highlanders, settled in Township No.2 (Cornwall). For his services he received a land grant of 2,000 acres. A leading Presbyterian and a Highland gentleman and officer, McLean was a pre-eminent figure in the local community, his importance being reflected primarily in his military service and office holding. In May 1796, for instance, he joined the 2nd battalion, Royal Canadian Volunteer Regiment, commanded by John McDonell* (Aberchalder), as a captain. When it was disbanded in 1802, McLean once again returned to the status of a half-pay officer. He was one of the first senior officers in the Stormont militia and rose to a colonelcy during the War of 1812.
McLean held a host of regional offices of varying degrees of importance: justice of the peace, district treasurer, sheriff, trustee of the district grammar school, road commissioner, judge of the surrogate court, chairman of the land board, inspector of shops, stills, and tavern licences, and commissioner to administer the oath of allegiance. The apex of his career in public office was his appointment in 1815, along with Thomas Clark, Thomas Fraser, and William Dickson*, to the Legislative Council.
McLean was a founding member of the Highland Society of Canada, established at St Raphaels in November 1818 and dedicated to the goal of preserving “the language, martial spirit, dress, music and antiquities of the Ancient Caledonia.” He served on the executive of the society for many years. McLean died in 1832 at his home after a long and painful illness; he was, apparently, the last surviving officer of the 84th.
AO, MU 1780, A-1-2, Miles Macdonell to John Macdonell, 9 May 1807; RG 1, C-I-1; RG 22, ser.47, 1. PAC, RG 5, A1: 2190–91, 7142–44, 19538–48. Upper Canada Herald, 12 Sept. 1832. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian: chronology (1967), 30–32, 159–60. Read, Lives of the judges, 160. York almanac, 1826: 119, 121–22. J. G. Harkness, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry: a history, 1784–1945 (Oshawa, Ont., 1946), 104–5.