John McLean is the author of several historical books examining the early days of New Zealand, and is himself a descendent of the famous Scottish/Nova Scotian settlement at Waipu in Northland.
The Clan McLeod, a prominent part of that migration, have commissioned him to write the history of their family beginning with the extraordinary John McLeod, and his less flamboyant brother Isaac.
John McLeod was an entrepreneur. In an age in which obstacles were merely physical rather than bureaucratic, he got things done.
Recognising the huge value and demand for quality timber the brothers opened a mill in the heart of the Kauri country at the southern tip of the Kaipara Harbour.
Today it is easy to criticise previous generations for their exploitation of resources. In the 1860s and beyond, the resources of the mighty Kauri trees that covered Northland must have seemed infinite - just as oil and coal probably did a century later.
The Mill at Helensville “grew by leaps and bounds” and ultimately employed more than 100 men, both Maori and immigrants.
John McLeod built a “comfortable dwelling house for himself” and his family which was named in honour of his wife “Helensvilla”. Sadly, this first house that gave what became a prosperous little town its name, was later pulled down and replaced.
Isaac stayed on in the district, but John McLeod became involved in a long list of enterprises - the coal mine at Kawakawa, the lime works in Auckland, gold mining in Coromandel and also as politician. He was first nominated for a seat in the Auckland Provincial Council in 1865 and became an active, eloquent and well-educated member.
The Pioneering McLeods of Helensville, by John McLean. HB 94 Pages illustrated.
Published by, and available through, Clan McLeod Helensville, 184 Govan Wilson Rd, RD5, Warkworth 0985, Tel 09 422 9928. Also at the Helensville Museum.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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