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Blog post from Sunday, 4 January, 2015

On 3rd January 1826, Alexander Macleay arrived in Sydney to take the position of Colonial Secretary.

Alexander Macleay introduced a new organisational system to the correspondence of the Colonial Secretary’s office, based on provenance. Letters were organised by government department and for private individuals, miscellaneous.

Born in Scotland, he had developed an enduring interest in entomology, andestablished the Macleay Collection, beginning with insects and enlarging it with varied purchases and acquisitions from Brazil, India, North Africa and Australia. By 1825 he was said to have the finest and most extensive collection of any private individual. The Macleay Museum collection is now housed at the University of Sydney.

He was elected as a fellow by the Linnean Society in 1794 and served as its secretary in 1798-1825. In 1809 he became a fellow of the Royal Society and joined its council in 1824.

He brought his wife, six daughters, a large library and his unrivalled collection of insects with him to Sydney. Alexander served as Colonial Secretary from 1826 until he was succeeded by Edward Deas Thomson in 1837. Soon after his arrival in Sydney, Alexander received an extensive land grant at Elizabeth Bay and later erected Elizabeth Bay Housedesigned by fashionable colonial architect, John Verge.

These photographs of Elizabeth Bay House are from the Hood collections of the State Library of New South Wales.

Portrait of Alexander Macleay / possibly by William Owen or Frederick Richard Say