McLELAN (McLellan, McClelland), GLOUD WILSON, businessman and politician; b. 18 April 1796 in Great Village, N.S., son of David McLelan and Mary Durling; m. 26 Dec. 1822 Martha Spencer in Londonderry, N.S., and they had a son, Archibald Woodbury*, and two daughters; d. 6 April 1858 in Halifax.
Gloud Wilson McLelan’s grandfather, Peter McLelan, quite possibly came to North America from Londonderry (Northern Ireland) in the migrations supervised by Alexander McNutt* in 1761–62. By January 1770 Peter McLelan had settled in Londonderry Township, N.S. Gloud was casually educated, if indeed he was educated in any formal sense at all. His letters show decided aberrations in spelling, and he preferred to punctuate them with hard common sense. He early developed a mercantile business at Londonderry, and proceeded to invest the profits in a shipping business he established at Great Village, four miles away on the north shore of the Minas Basin. Eventually he took his son and his son-in-law John M. Blaikie into the firm with him.
In 1836 he was elected to the House of Assembly for Londonderry Township. McLelan was a reformer, and remained one all his life. He was re-elected in 1840 and again three years later, but was defeated in 1847 by John Wier, whom he had displaced in 1836. He subsequently occupied himself with his increasingly successful business, but in 1851 he returned to the assembly as member for Colchester County, which he represented until his death.
McLelan was a useful man in the assembly. Unschooled and rough, but capable, he was leaned on by men in his party who were obviously more sophisticated than he was. William Young*, the premier from 1854 to 1857, said of McLelan, “He had often hewn out of the rough material valuable ideas which had been polished into shape and form by other members of the House.” McLelan was also a bear for work. He believed that mhas were sent to Halifax to work for their constituents and to deal with every subject of legislation that came up. Thus he grappled manfully, if rather idiosyncratically, with the business of the house. In 1843, for example, in the contentious debate over government aid to sectarian colleges [see James William Johnston*], McLelan proposed a bill by which all educational grants would be wiped out and the whole question considered afresh. Like all reformers, he much favoured a non-sectarian college, centred in Halifax. His bill, however, failed to pass. More than once his quaint mannerisms provoked the assembly to laughter. He was a good party man, but his sturdy independence made it impossible to charge him with being too partisan. “Independent Reformer” is about right for him.
He retained some Presbyterian traits. He signed a petition about 1848 against the mail coach blowing its horn on Sunday. If it arrived in the middle of a church service, too many parishioners preferred their mail to their sermon. He was a member of the Sons of Temperance in the 1850s. He also had some anti-Catholic predilections that surfaced in 1857. Nevertheless, he made few enemies and his penchant for homely realities saved him from being abrasive.
He died suddenly in Halifax, there, as he always was, for the sittings of the house. Out walking on the evening of 3 April 1858, he was taken ill and died three days later. Not a great man, nor perhaps even a lovable one, he did his duty. The Acadian Recorder was a little hard in its assessment of McLelan, but it seemed to express a general view: “Of him it might be said, without detracting at all from his real merits, that we might have better spared a better man.” One might remember him best by the sage advice he gave to Joseph Howe* and William Young in 1850 about attention to electoral business or, for that matter, any other kind of business, “One walk in spring is worth two in the fawl.”
[There are small collections of Gloud Wilson McLelan papers at Mount Allison Univ. Arch. (Sackville, N.B.), and in the following files at the PANS: Biog., McLelan, letters (a microfilm collection including several letters written to him between 1831 and 1844); MG 1, 1729 (mostly business papers, and including material connected with his son, Archibald Woodbury McLelan); and MG 100, 183, no.48 (his 1850 letter on election strategy). There are brief obituaries in the Halifax Morning Chronicle, 8 April 1858, and Acadian Recorder, 10 April 1858. Birth and marriage records are found in the Londonderry register book, p.46 (available on microfilm at PANS, under Places: Londonderry, Colchester County, township records, vol.ii). Scattered references to him appear in Great Village history: commemorating the 40th anniversary of Great Village Women’s Institute, 1920–1960 ([Great Village, N.S., 1960]). Other useful secondary sources include Beck, Joseph Howe, vol.1, and A. W. H. Eaton, “The settling of Colchester County, Nova Scotia, by New England Puritans and Ulster Scotsmen,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 6 (1912), sect.ii: 221–65. p.b.w.]