Clean Up Australia founder Ian Keirnan dies, aged 78

Ross Greenwood speaks to the grandson of the Ian Kiernan’s famous yacht Maris original owner Jack Earl, Ben Hawke, about the legacy of the Clean Up Australia founder and chairman Ian Kiernan

Introduction: Clean Up Australia founder Ian Keirnan dies, aged 78

Ross Greenwood: I want to talk to you tonight about well, I don’t know telling a few yarns about an old mate in some ways. Everybody in Australia knows this bloke. I want to just start with a little bit of old character and a little bit of flavor of this fellow as he’s on his around the world BOC solo mission in yacht race, he was single handily the man. That man was Ian Kiernan. They even made an ad out about him afterward.

[music]

Singer: [singing] How do you feel? A one-man band racing single-handed around the world. How do you feel? Battling around the horn in a violent storm and far from home. How do you feel? Up the mast with the sails tied fast. What a good day. How do you feel? No sleep today so if you’re going out crazy do you miss your girl. How do you feel when they strike the band with the man who sailed the world? How do you feel? How do you feel? I feel like a tourist, I feel like a tourist.

Ross Greenwood: [singing] like a tourist, I feel like– We all know it don’t we. It was that they made an ad about it. He was such a good sailor there’s no doubt. Indeed it was on that yacht race, when he was going around Australia that he and realized that the amount of rubbish in the ocean was significantly detrimental. He came back and created what he called initially Clean up Sydney Harbor. A whole bunch of mates that were supposed to be in their yachts just picking up rubbish out of the harbor. It took off and it turned into clean up Australia. He became not only the face of it, the ambassador of it, he was just fantastic. It was always yachting that was in his blood, he rode motorcycles, he did all sorts of things. He was an adventurer, Ian Kiernan. He’s now died aged 78. You’d have to say, “Young, for a bloke with so much adventure in his life.” During his life, yachting was his passion and years ago he bought the yacht from Jack Earl. Jack Earl was the founder of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. That yacht was called the Maris and eventually, the family of Jack Earl came back and bought it. People who I know, people I’ve worked with. Dan Hawk a great mate of mine also Thierry Tomaszewski, another good old mate of mine came back and bought it. Owned it with Ian Kiernan, went back in the 50th anniversary of the Sydney to Hobart. Sent them our respect and to Hobart. I was trying to find a few old stories about Ian Kiernan shall we. The grandson of the Maris’s original owner Jack Earl is Ben Hawk. Not only famous for being the executive producer of the 7th third report at one stage and the Sunday program 60 minutes originally on Australian story as well. he’s got a full pedigree apart from sailing he’s on the line. Hello, Ben. How are doing?

Interview with Ben Hawke

Ben Hawk: Good day, Ross. Good to speak to you mate. How do we feel? We all feel a bit sad today.

Ross Greenwood: I’d reckon a few people would be having a touise of two to celebrate Ian Kiernan. It’s a life worth celebrating you’d have to say.

Ben Hawk: I look at some, you do a lot of business stuff, Ross and I’ll just mention which people would probably have forgotten. When he was about 30, Ian owned I think it was 100 properties in Sydney. Through Surry Hills, through Whitlam. He was a young property developer and builder. He was such a rag that it was called out for builders and one of the directors was Alfred Kiernan. Alfred Kiernan was his blue cattle dog.

[laughter]

Ross Greenwood: His dog was a director of the company?

Ben Hawk: [crosstalk] of the company, indeed. [laughs] very funny-

Ross Greenwood: It’s unbelievable.

Ben Hawk: -director of the company. One of the banks, I think it might have been City Bank, whatever banks pulled the pin on him and it lost a lot. I’d often say to him, “Mate, how much would that be worth now? How many billions would a hundred Sydney properties in the estate service be worth?” He ended up with a yacht and the boat and that was about it.

Ross Greenwood: It’s unbelievable. So he represented Australia at the admiral’s cup at the southern cross. The downhill clip of the Kenwood transpacific cup. So many Sydney to Hobart that was his passion wasn’t it really?

Ben Hawk: Yes and a little bit on the famous boat to with another man from Rouge was CP Sheeran, Tony Ellison, and all those guys. I actually first met him when I was 15 aboard my grandfather’s boat and I sailed a lot with him and as I said to his family yesterday just before he died, that it scared me for life. No teenager should have to go through that. My brother sailed with him as well. My younger brother Matt and then Thiery now my sister who’s married the son or the daughter of Maris. Now I own just the boat with a good mate John Green from Boardhouse. The Maris is still going and still in fantastic shape. Ian often credited that buying that boat in the early 70s was changing his life that he got really into his sailing and just sailing the oceans. That was a life-changing event for him.

Ross Greenwood: Just a couple of things about the Clean up Australia. The campaign that lights everything up. It came from his time in the BOC around the world solo yacht race but to bring it back and to have it marketed in the way which he did. That was the brilliance of it. It just took accord with Australians, didn’t it?

Ben Hawk: Absolutely a lock on and I think Kim McKay who’s actually now running the Australian museum is going to take a bit of credit for that, he’s a brilliant marketer. Ian had the Idea and Kim did the marketing on it. The mojo guys helped do the yacky poo stuff and all his old mates through the ropes, through the advertising industry. You’d forget how that build up from the very small Sydney thing to then clean up the world. It’s a worldwide movement. That’s a pretty proud achievement for a road builder basically isn’t it?

Ross Greenwood: It is, an astonishing story. Tell me, what sort of a bloke was he like to be on a boat with?

Ben Hawk: Fantastic, great fun, great adventures. As I said, mate, I sailed with him when I was 19 to Tahiti when the business went bankrupt and he just shot through. I quit my job at the Australian and went off with him for six months as a young bloke and it was just a great adventure, great sailor but really interested in things and well read. I loved his music and the other thing too I think which people forget was the Prince Charles incident.

Ross Greenwood: Of course, explain this story to people [crosstalk]. Just explain what’s taken place.

Ben Hawk: We’re sitting around, we’d heard he’d gotten the Australian of the year. We’re sitting down at the Maris for rowers rowing club waiting for him to show up and he’s late. We think, geez, what’s going on here? Is it a big surprise thing? Then we find out that he’s actually leaped in front of the security guard and jumped on the young bloke that tried to– It was making, it wasn’t starting Beatle on Prince Charles. This is from a staunch republican.

[laughter]

Ross Greenwood: So he’s leapt to protect the prince?

Ben Hawk: [crosstalk] to say Harry would not be here with us now.

Ross Greenwood: They’re fabulous stories that’d go on and on there is no doubt. [crosstalk] I said a good mate of mine, somebody I’ve worked with for many years. Ian Kiernan and only diagnosed with cancer very recently. It took hold but something that is a legacy, that stays with Australia and really in the psyche of so many of us now. The whole Cleanup Australia campaign. We recognize it and we do understand it. Actually, I think we’ve got a little grab of Ian Kiernan talking about the Cleanup Australia campaign. Ben Hawk, many thanks for your time tonight.

Ben Hawk: My pleasure, Ross.

 

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Image source: 2GB

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