Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/McCluer, John

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McCLUER, JOHN (d. 1794?), commander in the Bombay marine and hydrographer, obtained a high reputation as a surveyor while still a lieutenant in the marine. In 1785, in the intervals of his regular duty, he made a survey of the Persian Gulf. It was rough work, but by far the best then existing, and the results were incorporated by James Horsburgh [q. v.] in his 'East India Directory.' In 1787 he was ordered to survey the bank of soundings off Bombay, which he did so thoroughly that his charts remained practically as he left them for nearly seventy years. In 1790 he was appointed to command a small expedition to the Pelew Islands, with the double object of surveying and establishing friendly relations with the natives. He carried out the survey with his accustomed ability, and between January 1791 and January 1793 examined the Pelew Islands, the Sulu Archipelago, and a great part of the coast of New Guinea, On returning to the Pelew Islands from New Guinea in January 1793, McCluer suddenly announced to Wedgeborough, his first lieutenant, his intention of resigning the command and settling there. On 2 Feb. he formally wrote, desiring Wedgeborough take the command. 'I will write,' he said, 'to the Bombay Presidency the cause I have for remaining at this place. It will be sufficient vindication for you and the rest of the gentlemen belonging to the vessel for me here to acknowledge that you have used every argument in your power to persuade me from this uncommon and unprecedented step. … It is nothing but my zeal for my country that prompts me.’ Wedgeborough finally supplied him with arms and other necessaries from the ship's stores, and left him. It would seem that the long and arduous work in New Guinea had weakened his mind, and that he was unable to resist the fascinations of the dusky beauties of the islands. It is only by a species of insanity that his extraordinary conduct and breach of all rules of naval discipline can be explained.

After fifteen months' residence on the island McCluer tired of his solitude, and resolved to go to Ternate ‘to hear the news.’ As bad weather came on he changed his mind and steered for China, reaching Macao after a perilous navigation in a native boat, without compass or other instruments, and with no provisions except cocoa-nuts and water. He had five men in the boat with him, who seem to have all arrived safe, though McCluer himself was afterwards laid up with a severe attack of fever and ague. On recovering he purchased a vessel, by means of a bill drawn on Bombay, and returned to the Pelew Islands, where he embarked his family and property, with men servants and women servants, after the manner of the patriarchs of old. He then sailed for Calcutta, and meeting on the way the Bombay frigate, bound to Bombay, he sent some of his family on by her. He himself, with the rest, went on to Calcutta, and sailing thence was never heard of again.

[Dawson's Memoirs of Hydrography, i. 15; Low's History of the Indian Navy, i. 188 et seq.; Hockin's Supplement to the Account of the Pelew Islands; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 353, 442.]

J. K. L.