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McLEAN, Hugh (1864-1915)

McLEAN, Hugh (1864-1915)

One of Geelong College's notable early Australian Rules footballers, Hugh McLean was a member of both the 1st Cricket and Football Teams of 1882 and 1883. A talented all-round athlete, he also won the Geelong College Cup in 1883.

The 1883 Geelong College Annual Report referred to H. McLean among the football team: '(Vice-Capt) - 'Best man in the team. Generally roves.' That same Annual Report described his cricket involvement: '(Vice-Capt) Best all-round man in the team, got best bowling average.' In 1882, his football ability had been described in the Annual Report as 'Grand man anywhere, generally played back' and in cricket: 'Second best bat in team, splendid field, would make a good wicket keeper' .

Hugh McLean (Courtesy GFC).

Hugh McLean (Courtesy GFC).

He played in the original Victorian Football Association (VFA) competition with the Geelong Football Club from 1882-1889, Melbourne in 1890 and Geelong again in 1892. Adam Cardosi described him as: 'The first of the great centre half forwards, this Geelong star of the late 1870s and 1880s, Hugh McLean, was described by Jack Worrall as ‘an absolute champion and perhaps the most graceful player ever seen on a football field’. He established a goalkicking record in 1882 when he booted 25 goals in 13 games, an astonishing feat at a time when a few goals was often enough to win a match.'

Pegasus in May 1915 reported the death of Hugh McLean: 'We regret to have to chronicle the death of Hugh McLean, who was killed last month in a railway accident in Melbourne. 'Hughie' was one of the older generation of Old Boys, as he left school in 1879. He was one of the finest sports that the College has ever turned out, and, after leaving school, he attained considerable prominence both as a cricketer and footballer. All those who knew him will regret his untimely end.' The Argus newspaper commented 'Old footballers will regret to learn of the death of Mr. Hugh McLean, as the result of a railway accident at Hawthorn on Friday evening. McLean was a member of the famous Geelong team which won the premiership in 1880. He was regarded as one of the best players who ever played the Australian game, and as a half-forward was unsurpassed. He played in the Geelong team for many years. Mr McLean was also a first-class cricketer, and was at one time a member of the University team.'

The Argus newspaper reported the inquest in March:
'CRUSHED BY A TRAIN. 'On February 19, Hugh McLean, 49 years of age, of Auburn, an agent, when attempting to alight from a train at Hawthorn, was fatally injured through falling between the footboard and the station platform. At an inquiry held at the Morgue yesterday by Dr. Cole, coroner, several witnesses said that when McLean was seen clinging to a hand stanchion of the railway carriage, they shouted in vain to the engine-driver in order to attract his attention. George A. Hall, railway traffic inspector, in reply to the coroner, said that there were regulations for engine-drivers. The practice was that they should look ahead to see if the semaphore was in their favour, and on receiving the signal to leave, to look back a minute or two afterwards. They had to be vigilant and cautious. Dr. Cole said that apparently the accident occurred through McLean finding himself in the wrong train, and on jumping out while the train was in motion, and missing his footing 'There did not appear to have been any negligence on the part of the railway officials’. He found that death was due to accident.'

Hugh McLean was born at Woodford on 29 May 1864, the son of Reverend Lachlan McLean and his wife Mary nee McDonald.

He was enrolled as a day student at Geelong College on 11 February 1879 and is alleged to have left the School at the end of that year. However, he appears in the sporting lists until 1883 and there seems little doubt that he was playing in College sport's teams until that date. His entry address was listed as La Trobe Terrace, Geelong.

His brothers, Charles McLean (1852-1944); and Donald McLean (1860-1933) were also educated at Geelong College.

Hugh McLean was inducted into the OGCA Gallery of Notable Collegians in 2016. He was described by the OGCA:
'Hugh played in two VFA football finals while still a student at Geelong College. Not as well known as 'Carji' Greeves, but outstanding nonetheless.'

Sources: The Argus (Melbourne) 22 Feb 1915 p8; The Argus (Melbourne) 5 March 1915 p9; Pegasus May 1915 p38; Ad Astra July 2016 p44.
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