Death of Big Bear Maclean

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William J. Maclean was born at Scaliscro in 1837, son of Angus Maclean, mason, and Ann Macrae, daughter of the farmer Alexander Macrae.  The family had moved to Gisla by 1861.  William emigrated to Canada (his brother Duncan, who remained at Gisla, remembered travelling to Liverpool to see him off) and became factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company.  He was involved in the Red River Rebellion of 1885 and his entire family was taken hostage at Fort Pitt, but all survived.

Stornoway Gazette, 27 December 1929

Several Correspondents have this week favoured us with newspaper cuttings regarding Mr William J Maclean, former Chief Factor, Hudson’s Bay Company, who recently passed away in Winnipeg, “after he had lived 87 years and workd for 65 of them – all of life except a short season of adolescence and a few years of great age.”  Deceased, who was nick-named “Big Bear”, because of his friendship with the great Indian chief of that name throughout the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, was born at Scaliscro, Uig, in 1842 [actually 1837], and is a brother of our well-known islandman, Duncan Maclean, Gisla.  In 1859 he went to Canada, via Hudson’s Strait and Bay, to York Factory, which was then the headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Rupert Land.  Mr Maclean first saw Winnipeg in the autumn of 1860, when it was only a primitive little settlement, giving no evidence of becoming the metropolis it is today.  The city was then called Fort Garry and contained only six or seven houses in addition to the Fort.

Further detail of William’s career is here, and a full obituary and account of the siege was published in 1929 by the Beaver.