Barry McLean honoured with QSM

Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Barry Mc Lean
In it for Life: Master surf swimmer and multiple New Zealand Champion surf lifesaver Barry McLean now has QSM after his name: Picture by Paul Rickard

Article written by Murray Robertson / Gisborne Herald.

Surf lifesaving competitor, coach, instructor, administrator and judge Barry McLean received the Queen's Service Medal in the Queen's Birthday honours for 65 years of service to the movement.

"I'm chuffed to have been honoured in this way but I am only one of many people who have been involved in surf lifesaving for a long period of time," Mr McLean said.

"I am older than most of them - that's all."

Mr McLean is 79 years old and operated Elgin Pharmacy for many years.

He has always loved being around the sea, he says.

"That love affair started when I was a boy when my family lived at Eastbourne in Wellington, right next to the sea."

That relationship continued when his family moved to Gisborne when he was 13.

"My family lived at Waikanae Beach in a tent in the first summer we came to Gisborne and I got to know some guys my age from the Gisborne Amateur Surf and Swimming Club," Mr McLean said.

"Reg Thompson took us under his wing and together with the late Ken Morse got us involved in surf lifesaving."

The teenage group he was part of got their surf lifesaving awards and Mr McLean was aged 15 when he qualified.

"We used to patrol Waikanae beach with the senior club members."

He was a founding member of Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club. As a student at Gisborne High School he won the school swimming championships in every grade and held eight swimming records.

He competed for the first time in lifesaving as a 15-year-old and at his first New Zealand championships in about 1950 finished second in the junior surf race and belt race, was part of a winning rescue and resuscitation team and won the North/South surf race.

Mr McLean went on to win 19 New Zealand titles as an individual and in R and R events until he retired from competition in the 1970s.

He represented New Zealand as a competitor, became a New Zealand selector and since his retirement from competition has been a surf lifesaving judge for over 30 years.

He is widely regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest surf swimmers.

Mr McLean completed a number of dramatic surf rescues, notably a mass rescue in 1953, where he helped save nine people, and in 1960 when he saved three men from an overturned boat in the dark along Centennial Marine Drive.

"I have never had a swimming lesson in my life," he said. "We used to just swim out and catch waves in the summer, and that's where I developed my surf swimming ability."

Mr McLean has been "on the beach" as a member of Surf Lifesaving New Zealand for 65 years. He has only missed attending two New Zealand championships in that time. Mr McLean has also been a representative of the Royal Life Saving Society, the marine search and rescue organisation, and served on the New Zealand surf lifesaving council and judiciary committee.

He was inducted into the Tairawhiti Sporting Legends Hall of Fame in 2012 and was the inaugural Gisborne Sportsman of the Year in 1969.

Barry McLean QSM, epitomises the surf lifesaving creed "In it for Life".