A Fond Farewell to Ian McLaren

Sable Island lost one of its strongest supporters in late July 2020. Dr. Ian A. McLaren was a founding member of Friends of Sable Island Society (formerly Sable Island Preservation Trust) and served as its first President and Chair of the Board of Directors for several years. We send our sincere condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and everyone he influenced during his life.

Sable Island attracted Ian’s interest early in his career, and he continued to contribute to its conservation for the rest of his life. His first visit to the island was in 1967 when he started studying the Ipswich Sparrow, which nests exclusively on Sable Island. The next year he even managed to take his young family out with him. He co-authored “The Ipswich Sparrow” with W.T. Stobo which was published in 1975 by the Nova Scotian Institute of Science. Then in 1981 he authored “The Birds of Sable Island, Nova Scotia”, also published by the Nova Scotian Institute of Science.

An early project of Sable Island Preservation Trust, under Ian’s leadership, was to publish a transcription of the journals of James Morris, the first Superintendent of the Sable Island Humane Establishment. The “Sable Island Journals, 1801 – 1804” was self-published in 2001 with a preface by Ian McLaren where he wrote:

“This small book is about the remarkable beginnings of permanent human presence on the island, when the colonial government, especially its strong-willed Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Wentworth, founded the Humane Establishment for the rescue and sustenance of unfortunates cast upon the island’s shoals and beaches.”

Ian McLaren, preface to the “Sable Island Journals 1801-1804”
Book launch for “Sable Island Journals 1801-1804” at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. From left to right: Gilles Deveau, Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman, Joan Waldron, Ian McLaren

It is largely a result of Ian’s foundational work that an ongoing human presence is still maintained on Sable Island. More than 200 years after Superintendent James Morris took up residence there, it is now recognized as a National Park Reserve under Parks Canada’s protection.

And he never stopped being a friend of Sable Island. In 2015, Dr. McLaren was a key presenter at our first Sable Island Conference with a well-researched paper on “The History of the Natural History of Sable Island“.

As a long-time resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and professor at Dalhousie University, Dr. McLaren taught generations of biologists and citizens about the need to protect nature.  He made significant contributions to the long-term preservation of Sable Island, from his research on Ipswich Sparrows to his quiet determination to ensure that a protective human presence was maintained on the island.  Throughout his life he helped build a caring society through his service, contributions, and achievements. He was a great friend of Sable Island and the natural world – he will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

In recognition of his many contributions to Sable Island, we are offering copies of his two early Sable Island publications for free plus the cost of shipping and handling. To order: https://sableislandfriends.ca/product/special-offer-books-by-ian-mclaren/

For more information on Dr. Ian McLaren, please see his obituary at https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/obituaries/ian-alexander-mclaren-42708/