Obituary: Curly helped to lift hearts

One of Tauranga's genuine characters who built up a crane business on the catchphrase "good bastards" was expected to receive a memorable send-off at Baypark's TECT Arena later today.

Ian (Curly) McLeod died on Monday aged 66 after a long battle with cancer. His legacy was a treasure trove of memories for everyone who knew him, and a successful heavy lift business that he launched in 1995.

"He was full of stories, he had a vocabulary all of his own," Curly's son, Scott, said.

The distinctive blue fleet of cranes and trucks all share the catchphrase "good bastards" printed on the rear, with a standby magnetised sign saying "good chaps" in case "bastards" causes offence.

"He got a lot of pleasure doing business with people and the business thrived because of it," Scott said.

Curly's roots went deep into the communities of Tauranga and Te Puke, with his grandfather settling in Papamoa 102 years ago before moving to Brown St where he grazed the family cow on what is now The Domain.

Born and educated in Te Puke, Curly was raised on the family farm in Reid Rd at the back of Welcome Bay and left school for a fitter and turner apprenticeship at AA Edwards & Sons, before crossing the Tasman to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to try his hand at landscape gardening.

Returning to Tauranga, he and his new bride, Anne, bought Papamoa Motors just around the bend from Domain Rd on the main highway. It was there that his cheerfulness and efficiency struck a chord with the thousands of motorists who drove between Tauranga and Te Puke.

When he wedged the nozzle into the fuel tank for a fill, Curly whizzed around the car cleaning the windscreen and checking the oil, water and tyres. It wasn't unusual to see cars lined up - such was the loyalty he commanded.

Many years after he had sold the garage, people continued to bowl up to him and say hello.

His next business venture was going into partnership with Noel Coombes to start MAC Engineering in Te Puke. During this time, he grabbed the opportunity to buy back Papamoa Motors.

In 1988, he sold his business interests, loaded his young family into a mobile home and spent three months exploring the United States. After another two months touring Europe and Australia, the family returned home and Curly found work with accountants Peat Marwick, turning around ailing businesses.

He was then approached by Partridge Construction to run the crane side of the business. This turned out to be a fateful appointment because it tapped into his lifelong fascination with cranes. There was no turning back after that.

Curly went with Partridges when it was bought by Albert Smith Engineering and, in 1995, aged 50, he made the decision to start his own crane business.

From one 25-tonne truck crane, the business grew at the rate of one crane a year until the fleet now stands at 17, with a depot in Taupo.

Peter McLeod, the other son in the family business, said it was a case of the fleet having to grow because none of his father's competitors would hire him a crane to help get jobs done. All the capital was ploughed into buying more and more cranes.

One of the ironies of this rapid expansion was that Curly did not live long enough to see the company's imminent shift into a far more substantial yard in Cherokee Place.

After today's 3pm funeral, Curly's coffin, painted in the company colours with "good bastard" at one end and the McLeod crest at the other, will be lowered on to the 170-tonne crane and taken on a tour of places around the city that meant the most to him. John Cousins

- Bay of Plenty Times

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