Rees Orton McLEAN
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Thomas Rofs McLEAN
(Cir 1829-1882)
Mary (Margaret) GORDON
Thomas (Butcher) ORTON
Murdoch McLEAN
Emily Frances ORTON

Rees Orton McLEAN


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Rees Orton McLEAN

  • Born: 26 Jan 1904, Townsville, Queensland 137
  • Marriage: Ethel GOFTON
  • Died: 1983 at age 79

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• On the day of Rees' birth, a gold coin was placed in his hand. The folklore story surrounding this old tradition is that if the baby grasped the coin, they would never want for anything, and would be careful and clever with money.

Rees' coin was we believe,a sovereign.

It is engraved with his initials on the reverse, R.O.M., and had a link added to facilitate a chain. Perhaps it was a fob?

• Rees lived with his parents, Murdoch and Emily McLean, and his older sisters Gladys and Gertrude, at 57 Aherne Street, Townsville.

• Ruby, a cousin of the children, is seen here with the young McLean children.

Ruby is holding young Rees on her lap.

Rees' older sisters are Gladys, standing, and Gertrude, seated.

It is estimated that Rees was eight months old in this photograph, if the date is October 1904.

• Rees is seen here with his sister, Gertrude, in a delightful pose.

On the frame, in silver, is printed "The Federal Studio Townsville Q"

• A close up of Rees, charming from his collar, tie and tie clip to his lace-up boots.

• Rees attended school at Townsville, a cute postcard photograph of him showing his school uniform can be seen here.

• There is a family story that exists which involves a young Rees, a Townsville lass, and some poisoned chocolates.

Rees was purportedly involved in feeding this girl poisoned chocolates. The girl died. Rees' sister,Gertrude, had had a dream - or perhaps a premonition - that the girl died. Rees was, according to the story, a suspect in the case. It is family folklore that he was sent to Canada, until the situation in Queensland was a little calmer.

Rees is seen here with an unknown young lady.

• Rees is seen here with an unknown lady, having perhaps enjoyed a ride in his motor car?

• Rees at one time in his youth had a lady-friend called Molly Bryant. Everyone adored Molly. It was anticipated for a time that the wedding bells would toll, but this was not to be.

• It is family knowledge that Uncle Rees ALWAYS owned a car. And was always in possession of the latest in technology. He is seen here, with the caravan that is believed to be his.

• Molly seems to have been a nurse.

• A letter written in late 1979 from Rees to Arthur Smallwood includes the following beguiling sentences:

"Think you may be interested in the newspaper cutting - my mother was the go-between in that business. A long story and I think I would be the only one with all the details of that business."

The item which Rees refers to appears further down in this account.

Rees' phrase "my mother was the go-between in that business" is most intriguing.

In the meantime, this item appeared in the Cairns Post, reported from Melbourne on 26 April 1922:


Company's Former Legal Manager Cross-Examined


Early Profits on Badak and Bux Shares

Melbourne, April 26

The Badak Tin Mine trial resumed to-day, in which Thomas West Orton, and his co-directors, Scarborough and Clarke, are charged with consipiracy to defraud the public.

Mr. Murchie, formerly legal manager, Badak Co., was further cross-examined.

Counsel for Orton : How much has the Badak Co. contributed to this prosecution? - £250.

James Williamson, one of the original members of the Badak Syndicate, gave evidence of conversations with Scarborough.

Cross-examined as to his share in the transactions, witness said he had sold one of his syndicate shares for £1200, but had unfortunately bought shares for £1800. He had made about £1000 out of the Badak share transactions, and about £1000 out of the Bux.

• This enclosed newspaper cutting contains the details.





Thomas West Orton, prospector of the Badak "tin" field in the Malay Peninsula, and one of the three leading speculators who were unsucessfully prosecuted on a consipiracy charge arising out of the Badak bubble, has allegedly disappeared from the fact of the Commonwealth. Orton, it is stated, made approximately £21,000 out of the "boom," and the Federal Income Tax Commissioner presented him with a demand for the payment of £9017 2/- for income tax for income earned in the year ended June, 1920. The demand was only made in September last, and Orton objected, and, at his request, it was arranged to "state a special case for the opinion of the High Court." The objection was duly transmitted to the High Court. Then Orton, it was stated, moved from Queensland to Thursday Island under the name of "T. Westorton," and thence, without a passport, to the mysterious East.

• This, supplemented by more detailed affidavits, was the story told to Mr. Justice Weigall in the Practice Court yesterday, when Mr. Dean (instructed by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor) applied for an order for substituted service; that is to say, for an order permitting judgment to be entered, on a summons, without the usual, and in this case extremely difficult, formality of serving the writ on Orton in person. Orton is believed at present to be somewhere in Batavia.

THe affidavits sworn by Mr. James Edward Martin, Acting Assistant Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxation, and by Louis Thomas Legg, an officer of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, based on their own knowledge and investigations since Orton's disappearance, read curiously.

On 23rd January, it was shown, a gentleman by the name of "Mr. T. Westorton," boarded the steamer Taiyuan at Townsville, Q., en route to Thursday Island. Arriving at Thursday Island on 29th January, Mr. "Westorton" put up at the Grand Hotel. On Saturday afternoon, 10th February, he left in company with one Thomas Besant, a passenger on board the steamer Victoria, which had then arrived from Townsville and was proceeding to the Eastern ports. The sub-collector of customs and the water police were about at the time, but the latter did not know that "Mr. Westorton" had not booked a passage by the Victoria. The police saw him going on board the vessel in Mr. Besant's company, the latter carrying a small bag. They did not see him come off again. Thus Orton left the shores of Australia without the ... passport.

• Of course there were inquiries after Mr. Westorton's departure. Mr Lennon, the proprietor of the Grand Hotel, at first denied, it was stated, any knowledge of the whereabouts of Mr. Westorton, who had paid his board to date and left two bags of effects behind him. Subsequently, pressed by the water police as to why he did not notify them of Mr. Westorton's disappearance, Mr. Lennon admitted that he knew that Mr Westorton was identical with Thomas West Orton, of the "Badak case," and that he handed to the said "T. Westorton," just prior to his departure, £2500 in £100 notes, which he (the hotel proprietor) held for safe custody. He also stated that Mr. Besant had wirelessed to him the day after the departure of the Victoria to forward the two packages of effects left by Mr. Westorton to care of Customs, Batavia, and that he (the hotel proprietor) intended shipping the said packages by the steamer Montoro, which would leave Thursday Island on 10th March. The sub-collector of customs said that "Mr. Westorton" made no application for a passport, and that no passage on the Victoria was booked by him, either in the name of T. Westorton or Thomas West Orton.

Having regard to all these facts, the Acting Assistant Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxation swore, "I verily believe that Thomas West Orton has left the Commonwealth."

• Mr. Legg, of the Crown Solicitor's office, explained that Orton's solicitors, Messrs. Woolcott, Drysdale and Madden, of Bank-place, Melbourne, and the Crown Solicitor had been in actual correspondence as to the "special case to be stated for the High Court of Australia" on Orton's objection, and that, following the issuing of the writ on 27th February, he (Legg) waited on Mr. Woolcott, a member of the firm of solicitors, and asked him to accept service on behalf of Orton. Mr Woolcott, however, said that Mr. Madded was in Orton's affairs, and on the following day Mr. Madden rang him up on the telephone and stated that Orton was in Northern QUeensland, and he (Mr Madden) would have to communicate with him before he accepted service. Legg then to Mr. Madden, he said, that he had reason to believe that ORton had left the Commonwealth, and Mr. Madden replied as far as he knew he was still on the Commonwealth. "Will you get instructions from your client by telegram?" suggested Mr. Legg, to which Mr. Madden replied in the negative, saying that he would "immediately communicate with his client by post."

• It was obvious, said Mr. Dean, addressing Mr. Justice Weigall, that Orton had left Australia to avoid service of the writ, in which event it was right and proper that an order for substituted service should be made.

Mr. Justice Weigall said he did not know that he could determine, on the evidence as placed before him, that Orton had left the country "with the object of evading service of the writ." Whatever his Honor might think or suspect, he had to be justified by the evidence, and there were many possible reasons why Orton might desire to leave Australia apart from avoiding a writ. The liability in respect of the claim had been in existence since September, but no steps had been taken in respect of the writ until late in February, more than a month after Orton had left Queensland and some days after he had left Thursday Island. In the circumstances his Honor did not feel he could make the order, though his refusal need not prejudice any fresh application that might be made on the basis of fresh material.

• This photograph of Rees was taken on his twenty-first birthday, the 26th January 1925.

• Rees married Ethel Gofton in New Guinea. They lived in Wau, or a village similar. Wau is the centre of the goldfields in New Guinea.

• Shown here is Rees helping a piece of cattle from the aircraft, probably at Wau airport. Rees is the gentleman in a white shirt.

• Rees is seen here with a cigarette in his hand, standing on a mountain side in New Guinea.

• Rees is seen here helping to unload cargo from the plane.

• Rees is seen here with a native, and his dog, on the side of the mountain near Lau, New Guinea.

• Rees is seen here frolicking with his dog, Pixie.

• Rees is seen here, slim and smoking a cigarette, in the yard of 57 Ahearne Street, Hermit Park.

• Rees Orton McLean's Service Number was SNQX54504, his birth date is recorded by the Services as 26 January 1904, born in Townsville, Queensland. His Place of Enlistment was Townsville, Queensland. He had listed Ethel McLean as his Next of Kin.

Rees' Service Record is:

Service Record
Service Australian Army
Service Number QX54504 (Q144779)
Date of Birth 26 Jan 1904
Place of Birth TOWNSVILLE, QLD
Date of Enlistment 25 Jun 1943
Locality on Enlistment HERMIT PARK, QLD
Place of Enlistment TOWNSVILLE, QLD
Date of Discharge 28 May 1945
Rank Corporal
Posting at Discharge 203 Light Aid Detachment
WW2 Honours and Gallantry None for display
Prisoner of War No

• The back of this photo of Rees and his wife Ethel, was inscribed by the photographer, young Charles Smallwood. It reads "Uncle Reese and Aunty Ethel".

Charles would have been perhaps ten years old when he enjoyed his photography.

• We think this is Rees, studying a map, as it is his car parked in the shed in the background.

• Rees always had a car. This photograph shows his car, different from the one he owned in 1948, and a caravan, in which he and Ethel travelled around.

• Rees is seen here in his later years, always well dressed, with his coat hanging in the foreground, possibly writing this letter to his nephew, Arthur Smallwood.

• 4 Juanita Av
Towradgi 2518

(end Oct 1979)

Dear Arthur,

Was so surprised & just as pleased to receive your brief note, sorry for not making an effort to answer sooner, but age (75) with an overdose of arthritis has not helped me, but conditions have improved, so I will make an effort to try and help with the big problem that you have set yourself. I don't really think I can be of any great assistance to you. But anyhow I will do my best and you can discard what you think is useless.

As far as I know, Aunt Jue (Mrs Seip) was a cousin of my mother. (Not sure of that). (Aunty Joan would know - Claire) She married Andrew Seip (of German descent), and that is as far as I can go with that. They lived at Yabulu siding, 15 miles from on the Ingham Line. (Margin note - "Townsville arrow south") He was a timber getter. I remember the shack well. It was a dirt floor ~ the frame work was all bush timbers. It had a Galvanised roof, but all the rest of the shack was corn bags. It was a very primitive life they lived.

• As far as my mother is concerned, I may be a little more informed.

Her name was Emily Frances McLean Orton, and she married Murdoch McLean, who I am led to believe did not have a second name. Thus Murdoch McLean. There seems to be an argument somewhere along the time, that the McLean should be spelt MacLean. Some of the family used Mac. But my father spelt Mc. I am told that was caused by the name being spelt wrong on my father's birth certificate. Not sure of that. Have no knowledge of my father's parents. But as far as I know he (my father) had 1 Sister, and that her name was Jessie and she married John Byers, who was a tailor at Ayr. I think you would be more informed about that family, than I would be. He also had (my father) had three other brothers and their names were Alex, John, and Thomas, there could possibly be another brother. I am not sure of that. There was 3 other children named MacLean that lived at Proserpine. Kenneth, Gordon and Jessie. (Pencilled margin note in female handwriting - "Mum's cousins"). I don't know who they were sired by. You may remember Ken.

• He lived somewhere near you, when you lived at Highgate Hill in Brisbane. Gordon was a bootmaker, and he also had a business somewhere in Brisbane. I think Jessie turned into a religious crank (pencilled margin note in female handwriting - "Mona, Ken's wife did") and one of them had a son that was a cook on a leper station. Still on the MacLean side there was a Ruby MacLean. She married a Patrick Luby and they lived at West End in Townsville, where they had a plumbing business. (note from Claire: Roby and Patrick lived upstairs of the plumbing business - opposite a big Catholic Church). I think she was connected to the Proserpine crowd. I think she was a cousin of ours in some way. Leaving this space in case I think of something else.

That other brother of my father, that I am doubtful about, may have been the father of Ken, Gordon and Jessie. They all came from Proserpine and possibly Ruby. I don't know whether any of this information is much good to you. Only you would know that. But you can destroy what isn't. Think you may be interested in the newspaper cutting my mother was the go-between in that business. A long story and I think I would be the only one with all the details of that business. (The Batak / Bartak Bubble)

• Getting back to the Orton Side. It isn't too easy to explain. Maybe you can follow my way of thinking. My mother had only one sister, her name was Edie and she married Rees Thomas. They lived at South Townsville and he had a big Grocery business in Flinders Street, Townsville. They had 5 children, Hector, Charlie, Thelma, Grace, Vera. I only know anything of one of them - That was Thelma. She married Len Emmerson, who was Assistant Manager of the Railways at Cairns. Now retired and living at Cairns, Suburb Redlynch or Redcliffe. I think they only had two children. One turned out to be a scientif... big shot in the medical world. I think my mother's mother was killed in a big (inserted in pen - "RAILWAY") accident when they lived in England. I only know of two other Ortons. One was the notorious Arthur that figured so prominently in the Tichborne Case and the other was the one that owed the government a lot of money for taxes. That is quite a story. He made a lot of money through crooked dealings in the mining world and then the government wanted to tax him on it and he wouldn't pay it, because he claims that the money was not made in Australia.

• When he refused to pay the tax the Government got on to him about all his other business and that was when he tried to leave Australia. But every attempt he made was foilded, because the Gov. had him followed in every move he made. However, he did get away and my mother played a big part in that. I will not go into details of that, because I have a newspaper cutting here that I will enclose with this letter. Funny thing about that cutting is that it must be over 50 years old and I have had it all that time. Several times I have been going to destroy it, but gave it a second though, and at last it is of some use (I hope). Then there was that other rogue, the butcher from Wagga. I am not well informed of him. I had a book here "The Great Victorian Mystery", but I don't know what happened to that. The last I knew of that was I lent it to Gert and I think it finished up with Merle, maybe she still has it. If you dropped her a line she would let you know. I think you would know just as much about him as I do. Will leave this for a few days, apart from that the arthritis is catching up with me.

• I have one thing that I think is of some value. It is a case that originally belonged to Aunt Jue. It is a writing case with secret drawers a very highly polished a very compact thing. I would say it is 150 years old. It is about 12" wide, 6" high and I would say the depth would be 10" inches. The whole thing is beautifully inlaid. Too good to be laying in the bottom of a wardrobe.

I haven't gone into my family. I think you would know just as much as I do about them. I suppose you know there were 4 children, not 3. There was another girl, that died when I was a baby. Her name was Myrtle. There was another book (or part of it) that was written on the Titchburne Case, and it was called "The Great Fraud".

There was another cousin, of mine, that married, I will think of his name before I post this. Her name was Mourd, she married a chap from the Gas works and they lived in Philip Street, Hermit Park, Townsville. She was the daughter of one of my father's brothers, but I don't know which one it was.

• I think that the chap that married Maurd /Maud Mc/MacLean name was Cec Mundy. He used to read the gas meters for the local gas coy. Have raked this brain of mine and there isn't much more I can think of. But if there is something you can think of, don't hesitate to drop me a line. You have given yourself quite a task and I hope that you can complete it. If you can't, nobody can.

Do hope that you and your family are OK. Saw Ross last May. Spent 6 weeks with Claire last Xmas. In May went up to Townsville for a drive, that was last May. We went up and back in ten days. Really too much of a rush. That is my problem. Putting the time in and at my age of 75, not much energy to go with it. I believe Merle is getting married again next week 3/11/79. I think. If I can find somebody to go with me I will make a trip to Melbourne. I am afraid this is all. I know it is very disjointed. Hope you can sort it all out.




Rees married Ethel GOFTON. (Ethel GOFTON was born about 1905 2 and died before 1983 2.)

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