A Glorious Ride – From Jumble Plains to Eternity
By Tony McLellan with Nick Cater. Wilkson Publishing. 2021. 336 pages
Jordan Peterson gave us 12 rules for life but Tony McLellan adds wisdom and Christian godliness. What both offer are countercultural but indispensable in this age of nihilistic meaninglessness.
The 81-year-old Tony McLellan has done a special service to future generations by penning his life’s story, A Glorious Ride – From Jumble Plains to Eternity.
It wasn’t easy, but Tony cracked the meaning of life and he shares it. Like so many successful people of his generation, he knows the world he is leaving his grandchildren, despite its material trappings, is not better.
Knowledge of this animates a story that in the telling cuts the keys to opportunity for anyone who’ll take them as they dangle from his hand. The promotional words on the back cover say the book “is an antidote for the dismal secularism of our times and a rallying cry against despair.”
It comes just at the right moment.
Knowing his time is passing, Tony cries “who among us is going to lead our country out of the hands of the deconstructionists?” It’s probably our most important question and Tony has done and continues to do his bit.
I first met him, and the co-star of Glorious Ride, his wife of 60 years Rae, in 2007 when I joined the Australian Christian Lobby as Jim Wallace’s chief of staff. As a board member and later chairman of ACL, Tony along with Jim, the former brigadier who threw in a stellar military career to mobilise Christians, were seeking to provide desperately needed leadership in our nation.
Over meals with Tony and Rae at various ACL functions and at their magnificent homes at Waverton on Sydney Harbour and Bowral in the Southern Highlands, I was personally exposed to many of the stories in A Glorious Ride.
Tony and Rae’s warmth and friendliness radiate through tales of their interactions with the rich, famous and not so famous. “Our modus operandi was home entertainment”, Tony writes. They hosted thousands of people in more than 40 homes on almost every continent.
Tony rose to success as a young man in property in Sydney before being head-hunted to oversee a massive residential and resort development by the pyramids in Egypt.
His business career, which included the heartache of going broke and a fleeting separation from Rae, led the family to London, Canada, the United States and finally back to Australia. A genuine highflyer, he and Rae rode the Concorde like the rest of us would a bus. In 1981 he crossed the Atlantic 14 times. “The Concorde never failed to excite,” Tony writes.
He founded what is now the world’s largest gold mining company, Barrick Resources Corporation. His latest business venture, Chrysos Corporation Limited, is also in the gold business – supplying breakthrough technology in ore testing machines, one of which was recently purchased by Barrick for a mine in Africa. Chrysos, the company he founded just five years ago has $24.5 million on its balance sheet including $13.5 million in cash.
“In my mid-70s, I thought my biggest professional achievements were behind me. Clearly God had other plans, however, for what I was reluctant to call my retirement.”
The genius of A Glorious Ride is Tony’s raw telling of family and personal challenges and how he found faith in Christ at the age of 47, radically transforming his life.
Called back from school in Sydney to run the family sheep and wheat property in western New South Wales at the age of 16 after his father, a bottle-of-spirits-a-day alcoholic, died, Tony grew up fast. Driven by fear of failure, Jumble Plains taught him hard work, persistence and “not to yield”.
For three years the relentlessness of the property ran him as much as he ran it until the death taxes forced its sale. It was a baptism of fire for a young man who then took what he learned in the Australian bush to fabulous success in the boardrooms of the world before it all came crashing down.
I’ll never forget the day at an ACL staff retreat several years ago when Tony humbly shared how his failures as a husband led Rae to fly home to Sydney. Finding Christ was the key to repairing his marriage, and the story is just as poignant in written form.
But far from happily ever after, he went broke. “For two years we lived off the gifts and support of our friends”.
But as Tony writes, the pruning was for a purpose and he and Rae, once on their feet again, devoted their remaining decades to serving others. That has ranged from housing the poorest of the poor through Habitat for Humanity to building facilities to train the leaders of tomorrow through the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.
Reading the story of someone you know and love is of course engrossing. But I think it will be equally so for all who have not had the privilege of personally knowing Tony and Rae. He’s opened to us their remarkable life and shared the secrets of what he’s learned.