McLennan [1822-1887], and John Ferguson McLennan [1827–1881])
John Henderson writes....
While searching on archive.org using the key word 'muckle', I
discovered three books of short stories by a man named Malcolm
McLennan, v.i.z. 'Peasant Life', (1871), 'Benoni Blake M.D.'
(1871) and 'Muckle Jock and Other Stories Of Peasant Life In The
I read the 'tear-jerking' first
short story, 'Muckle Jock' from the 1871 book, 'Peasant Life',
and admired the author's work immensely, as well as being
intrigued by a reader's handwritten annotation on the title
However, before giving you access to my discovered genealogical
information about Malcolm McLennan, that will be followed in due
course with an account of the career of his illustrious younger
brother John Ferguson McLennan, you may wish to sample some of
Malcolm's short stories!
and 'Her Bairns'
The Dandy Drainer
The Red Tiled
I decided to try to find out more
about this Caithness 'Procurator Fiscal Author', using his death
registration details in either 1887 or 1889 from GRO, Edinburgh,
about his parentage, his wife (if any), and the relative who had
given his age as informant to the registrar. The data can be
viewed in the following image ....
The next step taken was the tracing
of the marriage of Malcolm's parents John and Janet, and the
births of any subsequent children. However, most of this latter
data had to be extrapolated from the 1841 and 1851 Censuses due
to apparent non-registration of births/baptisms in Old Parochial
When I found the 1851 Census for the
McLennan Family of John and Jessie, I saw that Malcolm, John,
Alexander and Duncan McLennan were away from home. [The location
of John was later found to be Cambridge University .... but
that's another important story that will be related in due
The marriage registration of Malcolm
to Catherine Loban/Lobban in 1853 did not yield much
information, but, from the 1861 Census, it appeared that their
'partnership' had produced at least one child, Jessie Ann,
before their church marriage.
The birth registration of a son,
John Ferguson McLennan, in 1855 under the new compulsory secular
civil laws of Scotland, revealed, among other things, as you
will see, the ages and birthplaces of his parents Malcolm and
Catherine. The birthplace that Malcolm gave was Athy, near
Dublin in Ireland, and he also declared that he was aged 31
years. The age and birthplace that Catherine provided were 30
years, and Daviot, Inverness-shire.
Why Ireland as Malcolm's birthplace?
It can only be assumed that his
father John, a sea insurance clerk, had spent some time with his
pregnant wife doing company business overseas from their home in
Meantime, John and 'Jessie' (Ross)
McLennan were still living at the Whitehouse, Kessock Road,
Inverness with three of their spinster daughters.
Jessie's husband John McLennan died
in 1866, and the informant to the registrar was his son John
Ferguson McLennan, who, at that time was Secretary to the
Scottish Law Amendment Society, and took an active part in the
agitation which led to the Court of Session Act of 1868.
By 1871, Malcolm was the Procurator
Fiscal for Caithness, based in Wick. Only his spinster daughters
appeared to remain in the family home.
Also in 1871, Joshua McLennan
(Solicitor), son of the late John McLennan, and widow Janet
(Ross) McLennan, was looking after his mother and three of his
maiden sisters in the Whitehouse, Kessock, Inverness.
Unfortunately Janet (Ross) McLennan
died on July,18, 1871. The the informant to the registrar again
was her son John Ferguson McLennan, who had in 1871 just
accepted the position of parliamentary draughtsman for Scotland.
The onerous duties of the latter office he discharged for some
years ably and conscientiously.
By 1881, Malcolm and Catherine
McLennan and their three spinster daughter were all living
together in Wick where Malcolm was still County Procurator
Having already noted the death of
Malcolm McLennan in 1887, it only remains to record the death of
his wife Catherine 'Kate' (Lobban) McLennan on the 14th of
March,1891 in 20 Heriot Row, Edinburgh. The informant to the
registrar in both instances was John Ferguson McLennan Jnr.
Now, John turns to life and works of
John Ferguson McLennan (1827-1881)
The ancient spelling of 'Ferguson'
as 'Farquison' is interesting.
I wonder if the middle name was
actually 'Farquharson', and changed to 'Ferguson' by John for
himself, and then later adopted by his brother Malcolm for his
son John Ferguson McLennan, born, 1855?
McLENNAN, JOHN FERGUSON (1827–1881),
sociologist, born at Inverness on 14 Oct. 1827, was son of John
McLennan, insurance agent, of Inverness, and Jessie Ross, his
wife. Educated at Inverness and at King's College, Aberdeen,
where he graduated M.A. in 1849, he subsequently entered Trinity
College, Cambridge, where in 1853 he obtained a wrangler's place
in the mathematical tripos. Leaving Cambridge University without
a degree, he spent two years in London writing for the 'Leader,'
then edited by George Henry Lewes [q. v], and other periodicals.
On returning to Edinburgh he was called to the bar in January
1857. He became secretary to the Scottish Law Amendment Society,
and took an active part in the agitation which led to the Court
of Session Act of 1868, and in 1871 he accepted the post of
parliamentary draughtsman for Scotland. The onerous duties of
the latter office he discharged for some years ably and
In 1857 appeared his first considerable literary effort, the
article on 'Law' in the 'Encyclopædia Britannica ' (8th
edition). In the course of the researches into ancient
institutions which it involved, McLennan was led to speculate on
the origin of the curious custom of marriage by collusive
abduction, which obtained in historic times, both at Sparta and
at Rome, and conjectured that it was a relic of an archaic
custom of marriage by actual abduction, or 'capture.' Further
research led him to the conclusion that primitive society
consisted of miscellaneous hordes, recognising no ties of
kinship, practising promiscuous sexual intercourse and female
infanticide, and thus compelled to prey upon one another for
women. Hence was established within each horde a custom of
having sexual intercourse with none but alien women (exogamy),
which acquired a religious or quasi-religious sanction, and
survived into historic times. In course of time uterine — but at
first only uterine — kinship came to be recognised, and with its
recognition abduction gave place to the more genial practice of
the reception of paramours by women under the maternal roof,
which, from its prevalence among the Nairs, McLennan terms Nair
polyandry. This among the more progressive races was succeeded
by polyandry of the type found in Tibet, where several brothers
have a wife in common who accordingly passes into their family,
and this again by patriarchal monandry, polygamous or monogamous
according to circumstances.
In support of this very bold hypothesis McLennan marshalled a
considerable mass of evidence in an ingenious but somewhat
confused and fragmentary essay, entitled 'An Inquiry into the
Origin of the Form of Capture in Marriage Ceremonies,'
Edinburgh, 1865, 8vo. Though anticipated to some slight extent
by the Swiss jurist Bachofen (see Das Mutterrecht. Eine
Untersuchung über die Gynaikokratie der alten Welt nach über
religiosen und rechtlichen Natur, Stuttgart, 1861, 4to),
McLennan's work was the result of altogether independent thought
and research, and of the importance of the facts which for the
first time it brought together there has never been any
question. On the other hand, the theory of the evolution of
marriage which he sought to base upon them has met with little
favour, and may be said to be now generally rejected by
sociologists. It gave, however, an immense impetus to research,
and has recently received some support from Professor Robertson
Smith's investigations into primitive Arabian institutions (see
Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, Cambridge, 1885, 8vo).
Want of leisure combined with ill-health to frustrate McLennan's
long-cherished intention of rewriting 'Primitive Marriage.' He
continued, however, his investigations into the subject until
shortly before his death. In 1866 he discussed the Homeric
evidence in two articles on 'Kinship in Ancient Greece' in the
'Fortnightly Review' (April and May), and contributed a slighter
paper on 'Bride Catching' to the 'Argosy' (June). He broke
entirely new ground in a brief article on 'Totemism' in the
supplement to 'Chambers's Encyclopaedia' (1868}, followed by a
series on the same subject, entitled 'The Worship of Animals and
Plants,' in the 'Fortnightly Review' for October and November
1869 and February 1870. Under the title 'Studies in Ancient
History ' he issued in 1876 a reprint of 'Primitive Marriage,'
and the essays on 'Kinship in Ancient Greece,' with some new
matter, viz. an examination of the American ethnologist Morgan's
theory of 'The Classificatory System of Relationships;' a brief
paper on Bachofen's ' Mutterrecht,' another on Sir John
Lubbock's hypothesis of 'Communal Marriage,' and an elaborate
essay on the 'Divisions of the Ancient Irish Family.' To the
'Fortnightly Review' he contributed in May 1877 an article on
'The Levirate and Polvandry,' an attempt to deduce the former
institution from the latter, which provoked a reply from Mr.
Herbert Spencer, and another on 'Exogamy and Endogamy ' in the
To clear the way for a comprehensive work which he projected on
the evolution of the idea of kinship, McLennan began in 1880,
but did not live to complete, a critical examination of Sir
Henry Maine's patriarchal theory, with the view of proving it to
be an historical anachronism. His health, however, was already
thoroughly undermined by consumption, and while wintering in
Algeria he suffered from repeated attacks of malarial fever. He
returned to England in the spring of 1881, and died, after some
months of complete prostration, at his house, Hawthorndene,
Hayes Common, Kent, on 16 June.
McLennan received from the university of Aberdeen the degree of
LL.D. in 1874. He married twice : (1) on 23 Dec. 1862, Mary
Bell, daughter of John Ramsay McCulloch [q. v.], by whom he had
one child, a daughter, still living; (2) on 20 Jan. 1875,
Eleonora Anne, daughter of Mr. Francis Holies Brandram, J.P. for
the counties of Kent and Sussex, who survives him.
The fragment on the patriarchal theory, edited and completed by
McLennan's brother Donald, who had helped in its composition,
was published in 1885, under the title 'The Patriarchal Theory,
based on the Papers of the late John Ferguson McLennan,' London,
8vo. Maine's death in 1888 relieved him from the obligation of
answering its very acute and trenchant criticism. For the
projected work on kinship McLennan left considerable materials,
the arrangement of which, begun by Donald McLennan, but
interrupted by his death in 1891, has since been continued by
Professor Robertson Smith, and carried far towards completion. A
reprint of ' Studies in Ancient History,' with notes by David
McLennan, appeared in 1886, London, 8vo.
Besides his extremely original and suggestive work in sociology,
McLennan published in 1867 an excellent 'Memoir of Thomas
Drummond, R.E., F.R.A.S., Under-Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant
of Ireland, 1836 to 1840,' Edinburgh, 8vo [see Drummond, Thomas,