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The name Lachlan has a long history in Australia because of Lachlan Macquarie, a British military officer born in the Hebrides who served as the fifth and last Governor of New South Wales. While still a teenager, he served during the American War of Independence, and saw active service in India and Egypt, eventually being promoted to the rank of Major-General.
Lachlan served his term as Governor from 1810-1821, and he had plenty to cope with, as the colony was disorderly following the Rum Rebellion against the former Governor, William Bligh. There was also a severe drought during his term, which brought about a financial depression, and the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 led to a huge increase in Australia’s population from both settlers and convicts. Despite these challenges, Lachlan loved Sydney’s climate and setting, and saw the colony in very positive terms.
This was the period of Australia’s history where it was in transition from a penal colony to a free settlement. Lachlan held liberal views towards convicts, pardoning them as often as possible. He scandalised settlers by accepting freed convicts into society, and appointing them to government positions – even as magistrates. He sponsored massive exploration, and established Bathurst, the first inland city.
He spent lavishly on public works, which the British government strongly opposed, as they still saw Australia as a dumping ground for convicts, to be run as cheaply as possible. Sydney’s layout is based on Lachlan’s street plan for the central city, and the colony’s most prestigious buildings were on Macquarie Street. He designed the Georgian-style Rum Hospital, which today is the state’s Parliament House, while its stables house the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He also designed the city centre of Hobart in Tasmania.
So much of the modern Australia we know was first begun by Governor Macquarie. He established the British system of justice, and the first Supreme Court. He encouraged the creation of the colony’s first bank, The Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac), and produced Australia’s first official currency. Towards the end of his term, he decreed that all traffic should keep to the left in New South Wales in line with British custom.
Perhaps the most important change he made was a symbolic one – he recommended that the name Australia be formally adopted, giving the seal of approval to Matthew Flinders’ choice. Little wonder that on Lachlan Macquarie’s tomb on the Island of Mull in Scotland he is called The Father of Australia.
Happy Father’s Day! And Happy Father’s Day to Lachlan Macquarie, the father of our country.
Lachlan is a Scottish name from the Highlands. It is from the Gaelic Lochlann, meaning “land of the lochs” (land of the lakes). It was originally given as a nickname for someone from Norway: Norway has almost half a million freshwater lakes, so it well deserves this epithet. The name is pronounced LOK-lun.
The word Lochlann was first used to indicate “a Viking, a raider”, but gradually came to mean anyone of Norse descent. There was a strong link between the neighbouring lands of Norway and Scotland during the Middle Ages, as both battled for control of the Western Isles of Scotland. As part of the effort to improve the Scotland-Norway relationship, there were diplomatic missions between the two nations, and even intermarriage between the royal houses.
The name Lachlan (or Lochlann) was commonly used amongst the noble families of Scotland, who were often of part Norse descent. The name was traditional in the Clan Maclean, an old Highland clan who owned land in Argyllshire and the Hebrides. (Lachlan Macquarie’s mother was the daughter of the chieftain of the Clan Maclaine, another spelling of Mclean, and his father was the chieftain’s cousin). The current chief of Clan Maclean is Sir Lachlan Maclean of Duart and Morven, 12th Baronet of Nova Scotia.
The name Lachlan is only popular in Australia and New Zealand (it is #27 in New Zealand). In the UK Lachlan was #546 in 2013, while Lochlan was #709; the name is fairly stable there. In the US, the name Lachlan first joined the Top 1000 in 2013, and is currently #902 – a long way off being popular, but gaining in popularity. In the US, the name was given to 14 girls last year, which seems very wrong from an Australian viewpoint!
The name Lachlan was #173 in the 1900s, and went off the charts altogether during the 1920s and ’30s. It returned in the 1940s at #220, and gradually increased in popularity. There was a surge in popularity during the 1970s, most likely because media magnate Rupert Murdoch named his eldest son Lachlan in 1971. Rupert’s grandfather was from Scotland, and the choice of Lachlan’s name may have been inspired by his Scottish heritage as much as a tribute to Lachlan Macquarie.
Lachlan first joined the Top 100 in 1982 at #96, joined the Top 50 in 1989, and the Top 25 in 1996 – fairly brisk progress up the charts. It suddenly leapt into the Top 5 in 1997, the year after Lachlan Murdoch joined the board of Newscorp. However, it never made #1, peaking at #2 in 2002 and 2005, and has now left the Top 10. Currently it #11 nationally, #15 in New South Wales, #10 in Victoria, #12 in Queensland, #7 in South Australia, #12 in Western Australia, #6 in Tasmania, #8 in the Northern Territory, and #4 in the Australian Capital Territory.
This is a strong handsome Australian classic with a connection to Australian colonial history. A popular name for many years, it is by no means fresh or original, but still a worthy choice.
Lachlan received an outstanding approval rating of 91%, making it one of the highest-rated names of 2015. 39% of people loved the name Lachlan, and only one person hated it.
(Picture shows a 2010 stamp booklet issued in honour of Lachlan Macquarie’s bicentenary as governor)