Tuesday, February 25, 2020

John Macoun (1831–1920) : from Magheralin to Manitoba and beyond

John Macoun (1831–1920) lived in relative poverty at Magheralin in County Down for the first 19 years of his life, but emigrated to Canada in 1850. In his autobiography he wrote that his paternal 'family was Scotch' and his mother's people were 'Scotch immigrants of the usual fighting clans'. He plotted their story from Scotland to the Siege of Derry. Even though Macoun was pro-Orange, his grandfather had built a Catholic church on his own land; the Macouns were even visited by Father Mathew the renowned Catholic temperance campaigner.

An Ulster Presbyterian of Scottish descent, his new life in Canada began as a farmer, then a teacher, and eventually he began to correspond with world-famous botanists and naturalists. He made epic explorations of western Canada and was eventually appointed the Canadian Government's official 'Explorer of the North West Territories'. Over 100,000 of his collected flora samples are in the Canadian Museum of Nature.

From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography

"...John Macoun (pronounced Macown) was raised on family land that had been granted to one of his father’s ancestors almost two centuries earlier for military service. It was an ideal setting for a boy with an insatiable curiosity, and he developed a great passion for the outdoors and the natural world. Fatherless from the age of six, he became independent and exceedingly stubborn, almost self-righteous, in his determination to succeed. His education at the parochial school of the Presbyterian Church strengthened this faith in his capabilities. 
Macoun was a pompous young man who considered himself morally superior, because of his virtues, and seldom wrong. As well, he was prepared to fight for his beliefs, confident that he would prevail. 
By the time he had assumed a clerk’s position in Belfast, in his teens, he also held the same values as his fellow Ulstermen: allegiance to the crown, dedication to union with Britain, and support for the Conservative party and the Orange order..." (link here)

From Craigavon Historical Society

"... John Macoun's ancestors settled in Maralin, or Magheralin, in the seventeenth century and probably came from Linlithgowshire in Scotland where the name exists in burial and marriage registers up to 1672. His son, William Terrill Macoun, searched the Linlithgowshire records in Edinburgh in 1905. He sent a summary of his records to various members of the Macoun family. He states that James Macoun, born in Linlithgowshire in 1639, married Elizabeth Montgomery and emigrated to Ireland in 1672, and was killed at the Boyne in 1690. This is also stated on the Macoun pedigree constructed by Reginald Blackwood, who was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Linenhall Library, Belfast. 
However, the first Macoun may have come to Ireland before 1672. The name of Ens. James McEwne appears in the list of the "Forty-nine" officers, along with that of several members of the McGill family from whom the Macouns later held leases for land in Maralin. 
In the old graveyard at Maralin there is a tombstone with the inscription "Here lyeth the body of James Macoun who was departed this life the 15th of March anno Dom 1706 aged 105 years also his wife departed this life the 6th of March 1706." This James may have been the father of the James Macoun who was born in Linlithgowshire in 1639, and died at the Boyne in 1690, and had sons Samuel and James. The descent of the John Macoun with whom we are concerned from Samuel Macoun is shown in the accompanying pedigree. John had two sons and three daughters and the sons had issue in Canada..." (link here)

Hans Sloane rightly gets a lot of attention, but it is lazy to not think and look further. Macoun is perhaps just one of a range of similar Ulster botanists and naturalists. Yet more work to be done.

Wikipedia entry here

Image result for "john macoun" ontario