Reflections on the Man and his Book

[Tony McLellan was an ex-pat businessman who returned to Australia from the US and became an influential chair of the Australian Christian Lobby. He has served on the boards of public companies, including several in the resources sector, and on the board of the Menzies Research Centre – the think tank of the Liberal Party. Tony McLellan also served as a director of Opportunity International Australia for many years, and as chairman of Habitat for Humanity Australia.]

I first met Tony McLellan on Wednesday, June 30, 2010, at an industry Luncheon with Warren Truss, the then Leader of The Nationals, when I was Chairman of the National Policy Forum (the fundraising arm of The Nationals).

As the host for the luncheon, I sat next to Tony and straight away I was mesmerised by his affable demeanour and his wonderful, I presume, Akubra hat that he placed neatly by his side at a table of leading corporate leaders over lunch.

Well, after 12 years we have become not only corporate colleagues but indeed brothers in Christ connecting on a regular basis on social, economic, and religious issues of concern, dare I say, over lunch.

On many occasions at these luncheon meetings, we spoke about life and how we should really record our experiences from a corporate and religious perspective.

Well God works in mysterious ways because it was to the month a year ago at lunch on Wednesday 30 September at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Kirribilli where Tony handed over a ‘draft’ chapter of his book he has been working on for some time.

I was dumbfounded. Tony asked me to read a few chapters of his book as he was keen to receive any feedback.

One month later I wrote to Tony saying: “I am so chuffed you have shared some of the chapters of your book which I shall read in the next week or so…”

So, after reading the drafts of various chapters here I am today reading the final published version of Tony’s book – A Glorious Ride: From Jumble Plains to Eternity.

This book reads like a feature film. In a nutshell, it is one inspiring story of rolled-up sleeves, practical faith, and a resolute determination to give life a go.

Tony McLellan grew up on a sheep station mending fences and killing rabbits. It turned out to be the perfect apprenticeship for a business high-flyer who crossed the Atlantic on the Concorde as casually as most people catch a bus.

A crisis in his business and family life at the age of 47 taught him the deeper meaning of achievement: The path to a truly successful life begins when you focus on serving others.

A Glorious Ride is an antidote for the dismal secularism of our times and a rallying cry against despair.

The book also has a co-author in the name of Nick Cater who is a writer and media commentator on political and cultural affairs.

Born and educated in the United Kingdom, he has been a proud Australian citizen for 30 years. He became Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre in 2014 after a long career as a journalist, foreign correspondent, and editor.

He writes regularly for The Australian newspaper and has become a close professional colleague and a friend over, you guessed it, many lunches with Tony and me.

Nick’s introduction in the book has a wonderful passage that captures the challenges Tony’s has successfully penned in this story:

“Not everyone who reads this story will share Tony’s faith and some may find his Christian interpretations of the world in the second half of the book somewhat challenging”

and further,

“Difficult as some of us may find it to surrender to faith, I share Tony’s conviction that we must not shirk from the gospel’s message or try to soften its edges”

Interestingly, Tony whispered to me it was through the co-authorship of the book that Nick renewed his faith when he began, as he says in the introduction, “thinking deeply about the meaning of discipleship.”

For those not familiar with the location Jumble Plains, it is north of Condobolin, south from Nyngan and west of Dubbo in central NSW.

This is where the story begins.

Tony McLellan grew up on a sheep station mending fences and killing rabbits and began his business career at age 15, managing the family sheep station when his father died. Moving to the city to study, he graduated summa cum laude and then spent half his working life abroad.

His corporate life is nothing short of meteoric – a business high-flyer who crossed the Atlantic on the Concorde as casually as most people catch a bus.

His career involved the development of a new city in Egypt, serving as the president and CEO of major international corporations, and transacting business in more than twenty countries.

A proven leader, since returning to Australia, Tony was elected chairman of various listed public mining companies and was the founder and chairman of Chrysos Corporation Limited, in partnership with the CSIRO.

With a passion for the poor, Tony has served as a director of several not-for-profit organisations, both overseas and in Australia. When I first met him, he was the chairman, and now chairman emeritus, of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Married for 60 years, Tony and Rae are the proud parents of three children and grandparents of eight and my wife Lynne and I have had many memorable lunches during which time it became apparent that Rae was and is the so-called ‘good woman’ behind every man.

Bursting with Christian warmth, Tony’s book outlines how they met in the dining room of the Tottenham Hotel in 1959.

Born in Peak Hill north of Parkes in central NSW, Rae and Tony began their relationship soon after Rae complimented Tony on his piano playing which he often did after dinner.

But life is challenging and a crisis in his business and family life at the age of 47 taught him the deeper meaning of achievement. The path to a truly successful life begins when you focus on serving others.

During his high-flying career, he turned from sorrow to God and committed his life to serving rather than being served.

Senator the Hon Eric Abetz says that reading A Glorious Ride will be one of the best investments of time you will ever make by soaking up the lived experience and learned wisdom in a book he wished was around 40 years ago.

Likewise, John Anderson, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia says that “Tony McLellan’s fascinating and inspirational story is as exceptional as the man himself. From the Australian bush to some of the great and palatial places in the world, and from sorrow to faith, this is a story not to miss.”

For me, I am proud to admit that I cried, laughed, and shared in his successes I could never have achieved.

More importantly, Tony’s faith shines throughout the book. In his final chapter entitled ‘Advice to the Younger Me’, Tony leaves us with some very useful and heartfelt advice that every reader will need to discover and digest personally.

Let’s not shy away from the fact that sharing your faith in the ‘public square’ has its challenges but is highly rewarding. For me, there are three takeaways from Tony’s book.

First, we must accept God’s discipline and yield to his correction. “God disciplines us for our own good,” said the writer of the letter to the Hebrews.

Secondly, we must set our goal. We should never lose sight of that glorious passage: “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Finally, we must persevere, knowing that “when we have done the will of God, we will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

Tony, your book is a Godsend as it has changed my Christian life for the better. “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23). Soli Deo Gloria.

The official launch of A Glorious Ride: From Jumble Plains to Eternity will be held on October 6 by former Prime Minister Hon John Howard at the Menzies Research Centre

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Originally published on Eternity News. Image background by Mike Enerio on Unsplash.