Home' Greymouth Star : June 10th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 7
ave McMillan was born
in North Canterbury, the
oldest son of Mer v and
Margaret McMillan, and
was raised on the small
family farm with his two
brothers Terry and Bruce and younger
sister Sue. He attended Leeston Primary
School followed by Southbridge District
High School, but completed his university
entrance year at Christchurch Boys’ High
“ When I left school I worked for my uncle,
T T McMillan Ltd, he was a blacksmith.
I loved working for him because I was
working with my hands,” Dave says.
“My cousin was doing test bores on the
West Coast and I was offered a job working
for Carpentaria Exploration Ltd, which was
the Mount Isa Mines Exploration Company.
That was in 1969 and I was involved
building the pilot plant where thousands
of samples of ilmenite and gold from the
drilling rigs were tested. I was working
in the engineering area of the operation,
building and running the pilot plant and
then two years in the laboratory.”
The exploration company carried out test
drilling on flats up and down the West
Coast and was a big operation in its time.
“In the laboratory I was doing the physical
and chemical separations. All up I worked
for three years for the company, which
eventually headed back to Australia for
better ilmenite prospects.”
But by then Dave had fallen in love
with the West Coast and while playing
badminton at Barrytown, he met and fell in
love with his wife Helen and together they
raised their four children Michael, Rachael,
Tania and Craig.
“I played badminton for years and Helen
came out to play at the hall and from
there we started dating and eventually got
married. It was great as I had originally
planned to come and work in Barrytown for
just one year, and then go back to Leeston to
take over my uncle’s blacksmith shop.”
From working on the Barrytown Flats,
Dave worked for a period at West Coast
Motors, in Whall Street, before accepting a
job offer at West Coast Motor Bodies.
“I was working for Ron Cook at West
Coast Motors, which held the Morris
Motors franchise. When it closed Tim
Harris offered me a job coach building and I
accepted and was enthusiastic as I would be
working with my hands,” Dave said. “Body
building, coach building — the hands-on
work which I enjoyed.”
Dave next headed up to R A Garlick’s,
in Murray Street, after Motor Bodies shut
its doors and was once more walking an
engineering path, this time with a focus on
the farming sector.
“ We built the second turnstile milking
operation in the country, which was
a 24-rotary at the time. It went to a
Kowhitirangi farmer. Basically, it was the
start of the rotary milking sheds. The second
one we built was a bigger capacity and went
to Barrytown and has been milking every
day and is still operating today, which is a
great advertisement. A 48-rotary shed we
built for the Andrews Brothers at Kokatahi
soon after was our own design,” Dave said.
When Russ and Gordon Garlick looked
at retiring in 1982 Dave decided it was
time to chance his arm and look at buying
the business, taking fellow worker Francis
Zampese into partneship.
“ We leased the business for one year with
an offer to buy. We turned the operation
around and made a few changes, but we
were splitting at the seams where we were. ”
The partnership was looking to expand and
extend the Murray Street operation, or look
for bigger premises, and it was around this
time that the Dispatch Foundry, in Lord
Street, caught his eye.
“I had always had an interest in having a
controlling share at the foundry,” Dave said.
“ We already had drawings to extend the
yard at Garlick’s when Dispatch went into
receivership, and I suppose the rest is history.
Zam and I came to an arrangement with the
receivers and formed Dispatch and Garlick.
Dispatch and Garlick is the trading arm of
the business, while the assets and building
is owned by R A Garlick Ltd. I thought I
could turn the foundry operation around in
two years — it took three.”
He said it was a case of ‘buy wiser and sell
better’ while producing a quality product
and restoring the foundry’s reputation.
“Re-focusing the staff and specialising
was important. Buying into the foundry
was buying into history so we had to make
changes, and we were now buying into
different product lines which spread the
foundry’s expansion to different industries.
The foundry had six to seven times more
space than Garlick’s and we extended fully
into pressure vessels (tanks), the fishing
industry and dairy. Bush winches, which
were a big part of the foundry, were dying
with the timber industry so it was a matter
of moving with the times. ”
As managing director, he said there had
been numerous challenges, such as the
tornado that tore a path through the old
brick building in March 2005.
“I was actually attending my father’s
funeral in Christchurch when the tornado
hit but got home straight after and next
morning walked in and addressed the
staff and told them all their jobs were safe.
We rebuilt the frontage and the roof was
replaced — there was a lot of damage. We
worked on the design and managed the
rebuilding project ourselves.”
Dave has always had an interest in
restoration, so running the foundry and
being involved with Shantytown is a hand-
in-glove union, especially when it comes to
restoring the old steam trains.
He chairs the Shantytown board and is
happy with how the unique West Coast
tourist destination is operating now.
“ You could never build a Shantytown
today anywhere in New Zealand, it would
be economically impossible. This amazing
place preser ves West Coast history — and it
is owned by the community.
“ To me, Shantytown needs a medal for
being self-sufficient since it was built. We
get grants to build projects but the everyday
running is self-sufficient. Shantytown was
hit by the global crisis and the Christchurch
earthquakes, and how it was operating
had to be addressed. Staff now walk with
a spring in their step, and we all know
Shantytown is there for the long haul.”
There are not enough hours in the day for
Dave McMillan. He is a man on the move,
always on the go. If he is not working he is
fully involved in one of the many hobbies
he has — attending to and competing his
McMillan-maintained and designed rally car
around the country, sailing and competing in
yacht regattas, and flying planes are just some
of his favourite pastimes.
“I first flew planes when I was 16 years
old and I am a member of the Greymouth
Aero Club. I’ve been competing in yacht
races for 30 years and the highlight
would have to be winning the NZ Novice
National Championship in 2005, down in
Cromwell. When I get time, which isn’t
often, I get out on Lake Brunner. I feel
like I am getting something for nothing
from the wind — if you’re a smart yachtie.
Competing in a yacht race is a game of
chess on water.
“ I still compete in car rallies. I finished
second in my class in the 1984 National
Rally and was also second the national series
the same year and fourth overall in the
1990 Silver Fern rally in a Holden Monaro.
I’m currently building up a replica Renault
with a maxi turbo and race an RX3 Mazda
Coupe and a 1983 Toyota Celica, and I’ve
raced in the 24-hour races for years.
“ I enjoy it but anything I compete with I
like to build myself — it’s just that hands-on
approach. I’ve never been idle.”
PICTURE: Paul McBride
Dave McMillan in his element, in front of one of the Shantytown steam locomotives.
The old steam train blows its whistle and hisses to a halt outside the Shantytown Railway Station. “ The sound of the
steam train is music to my ears,” Dave McMillan smiles. As chairman of the West Coast Historical and Mechanical
Society, which runs Shantytown, and managing director of the old Greymouth foundry, Dispatch and Garlick, engineer
Dave has his bases covered. PAUL McBRIDE finds out more.
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