One of the Gallery’s contributing box makers Raymond McLaren recently returned a book he originally borrowed from the Newcastle City Library in 1957 - and faced a huge overdue fine. That made it about 19,350 days overdue and, according to Newcastle City Council, Ray has amassed almost $5000 in late return fees.
But Ray said he was happy to honour his debt. It is only fitting, given that as a then 19-year-old he used what he learnt from the book to establish a cable and rigging company that has since grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
As an engineer, Ray found the book handy, as it described basic knots used by sailors and included notes on wire-rope splicing. And it has been well-thumbed: “I initially began offering a splicing service to people through my mobile workshop, as I travelled around NSW and Queensland between 1962-67. Later, that led me to begin Andromeda Industries in 1980. Twenty years ago he bought 20 copies of the book, to provide to students who attended his knotting classes.
Ray borrowed the book shortly before moving away from Newcastle as an apprentice engineer and never returned it. "I have had it for 53 years and I've used it from time to time and always kept it because it was one of those lovely keepsakes," he said. Of course, the book was never really his to keep and his conscience finally caught up with him and he contacted the Library to make amends.
The twist is, even though the accrued charges amount to nearly $5000, the maximum fine a person is required to pay is the replacement value of the book, in this case approximately $30. However in a generous spirit Ray has decided to pay the $5000 as a donation to the Library’s working fund to assist it with, among other things, their ongoing book acquisition program.
And Ray will also provide Newcastle Library with a new copy of “Knots, Splices and Fancy Work” – as the original was, well, “a little tattered”.