Those PNG kiaps – small in number, big in nation-building
The politics of memory – there are no elephants in PNG

Ex kiap & respected businessman Alan McLay dies at 72


NOOSA – The death on Wednesday night of esteemed Lae businessman Alan McLay so soon after the death of Highlands icon Terry Shelley has deepened the sadness of the Papua New Guinean community.

Alan John McLay, 72, president of the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry died at Angau Memorial Hospital. He came to Papua New Guinea as a cadet patrol officer in 1964 and was posted to Pomio in East New Britain.

The Victorian-born McLay later worked as a kiap in Wakunai, Kerowagi, Sinasina and Madang, remaining in PNG after independence to become Deputy Commissioner of Morobe Province from 1981-85 under Commissioner Sir Jerry Nalau, with whom he formed a close friendship.

His wife Nellie said McLay became ill in late October but they decided not to go overseas for treatment. “I made the decision for him to seek medication here because he could not walk properly and was not strong enough to go abroad for medical treatment,” Ms McLay said.

Sir Jerry said McLay had been his brother for more than 40 years. “We have been working together and I used to call him my white brother,” he said.

McLay served as Australia’s honorary consul in Lae from 2013-17 and subsequently as a consular warden.

Australian High Commissioner Bruce Davis said he had provided outstanding service as a representative of the Australian Government. “As president of the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr McLay made a significant contribution to the expansion of economic, trade and investment ties between the two countries,” Davis said.

“During the annual Australia Week program of activities, Mr McLay played a central role through organising highly successful events in Lae. Mr McLay’s passing was a significant loss for PNG and Australia and he will be greatly missed.”

Mr McLay is survived by Nellie,his  son Alistair and his daughter Kathryn.


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Nellie McLay

Thank for all your wonderful comments on My Late Husband Alan John McLay On behalf of my son Alistair and daughter Kathryn.

Mr Mc loved Papua New Guinea. He could sit with Simbu people and converse with them in the Kuman Language.

He would talk about Palmalmal in Pomio district, Wakunai in Bougainville, Kerowagi, Sina Sina Yongomul ,Gembogl and Madang and Morobe Provinces.

There were meetings in called Atuam in Morobe and The Cairns-Lae sister city MOU signed by Premier of Queensland Joh Bjelke Petersen in 1984 on behalf of Lae City as City Manager with the lord mayor.

He was happy to hold the position of honorary Australian Consul in Lae and President of the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He was honoured to escort Prince Charles (now King Charles) in 1975 in the Highlands during the 1975 week of Independence.

Thank you Mr Mc. It is six years on and we the people of Papua New Guinea thank you for your service and thank your Late Parents Harry and Nancy McLay and your brother William.

J Vandenberg

I briefly knew Alan McLay whilst I was administrative adviser to Asaro/Watabung local government council in the Eastern Highlands, and he was serving at Gembogl in the Chimbu.

On the initial walk to conduct a feasibility study for another road link between the two provinces I accompanied Alan.

From memory, we were inadequately dressed and little realised the length and ruggedness of the terrain.

At certain points we were at freezing heights of about
10,000 feet.

I estimated the duration of the walk to be about seven hours. Upon a mutual conclusion that a road would be impossible, we thawed happily over a scotch or two.

Bill Standish

I’ve just caught up with Alan McLay’s death in January and I want to record my admiration for his life's work and gratitude for his friendship - and that of his great life partner, Nellie.

Alan was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, with real political judgement as a young, strong ADC in Chimbu in the early 1970s, later serving the people of Lae as city Magistrate and Mayor.

I last knew him as a subtle political and economic observer working in Lae as a consultant in the 2000s, cheerfully overcoming the limitations of his shrinking body.

With best wishes to the family.

Peter White

I knew Alan McLay through the late 1970's and early 1980's while working at Lae and later Goroka Courts. Great bloke who understood the kiap role as mentor (and friend) better than most.

Not at all surprised to read of the wonderful contribution to the lives of others that many have now written about.
Vale Alan McLay.

Alistair McLay

To Phillip Fitzpatrick - I would love to get those bike photos if you could foreword them to my email. [email protected]

Philip Fitzpatrick

Greg Smith posted this item on today's exkiap website:

"So sad to hear of Alan's passing.

He was my ADC in Kerowagi for PNG Independence and again later in Lae when I was OIC Morobe. Alan was a very supportive ADC and a good man to work with, also a good bloke to socialise with. I recall couple of adventures we had.

Alan had surveyed a possible road from Gembogl to Goroka over the ranges of Mt Wilhelm before taking over as ADC Kerowagi. A couple of blokes from Gembogl came to Kerowagi and told Alan that the road had been completed. He wanted to check it out so the pair of us rode our 90cc Ag bikes over to Gembogl refuelled and set off over the new road, can't recall the exact altitude but it was high enough that we had to engage the altitude compensator. We got to the road head and found that the road had not been pushed through to Goroka but the mob working on the road reckoned we should be able to get to Goroka so we pushed on. Had a couple of hairy moments getting over ravines by crossing over fallen logs and across one very recent major landslip but we did make it to Goroka, acquired some fuel from the Police station then rode back up the highlands highway, only having to fix a puncture with a can of leak sealer.

An outbreak of war between the Sikus and Genas over a disputed Land Court decision had to be dealt with. A large number of warriors from both sides were involved and one had been killed and mutilated. The body was lying in the middle of the battlefield and was aggravating the situation so Alan decided it had to be removed. We loaded up the official Toyota armed ourselves with a pump action shotgun and the station .38 pistol and headed off (weapons well hidden) to the battle. Alan negotiated a truce and we were able to get the body removed. The battle raged for a couple more days before we could negotite an outbreak of peace. Alan had great negotiating skills.

On a lighter note Alan had to support the visit of pikini bilong Quin, Prince Charles, on his official tour to celebrate PNG Independence. Prince Charles gave a short speech to the gathered multitude which the Honourable MP Iambakey Okuk translated into pidgin with suitable embellishment and great gusto. The Prince seemed a little bemused by the translation and was observed asking Alan what was being said. Alan responded saying "Just what you said Your Honour".

I remember Alan with great fondness and regret that I did not keep in contact after we left PNG. Sincere condolences to Nellie and family (I have a couple of photos of Alan on the bike ride and with Prince Charles if the family would like copies). Vale Alan may the tracks on your last patrol be fair."

Bernard Corden

It was quite sad to hear about Alan. He was such a pleasant gentleman and I last met him in February 2010 at his office in Lae.

Rest in peace

Philip Kai Morre

I feel so sad that one by one all pioneer kiaps, missionaries, and business man are gone for ever and will never return. Only God knows all the hard work they have done to the people of PNG.

Both Terry Shelley and Alan Mclay have done so much for the Simbu People. we simbus salute you. God will reward you and may the angels welcome you to Heaven. Rest in peace.

John Byrne

I have only known Alan for 5 years but a better man you would be hard pressed to find. Open, honest, frank and ethical. I am privileged to have met him and had dinners where l had to pry the story of his, and Nellie's, life out of him. God Speed Alan.

Garry Roche

I often met Alan McLay on my visits to Lae in more recent years. He was obviously very well respected in both expat and local communities. I was not aware that he was a former Kiap.
Another former Lae resident/businessman John Atherton also passed away in december. John Atherton previously had pharmacies in Lae, Goroka and Mt. Hagen and after leaving PNG he requently revisited Lae to take care of some remaining business interests he had there. In Australia he had become a cattle farmer in the Longreach area.

Gordon Shirley

I am stunned by the death of Alan. I knew Alan in Rabaul and Simbu in the sixties. He was a very fine person and terrific kiap.

In 2005 I met him again in Lae with his wife who was a lovely Tolai lady. Alan was a great ambassador for Australia in PNG for over fifty years.

Condolences to his family. I hope the PNG authorities give Alan some formal recognition for his services to PNG

Andrew Phillips

I knew Alan in Bougainville as Keith Jackson probably did. I was posted to Kieta in 1968 and Alan bunked down with us in a stuffy back room at the Kieta Hotel for a while before his posting to Wakanai.

It's been a while and memory not so good but I recall Alan fondly. He was the senior guy in the room - we three others were cadets. I just wanted to acknowledge Alan here and thank Keith again for keeping this thing going.

I am now living in upstate New York where its a chilly negative 16 degrees as I write this. Nothing like that stuffy room at the Hotel Kieta.

While I'm here I just learned that John Russell Pell, another Bougainville kiap from those days, died at 84 in the West Australian outback. I heard the silly bastard fell of a ladder. I avoid ladders these days. May the two of them RIP. For more on my own experiences in PNG -

Always good to hear from ex-kiap and broadcaster Andrew Phillips - a fine man. Regrettably I never knew Alan McLay - KJ

William Dunlop

Vale Alan McLay. A lot of water under the bridge since we last had dialogue together 1982 I believe.

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