Pic: Justin Lloyd Source: The Daily Telegraph
By Neil Keene From: The Daily Telegraph November 12, 2010 8:04AM
RAYMOND McLaren believes in "better late than never"- even when "late" means more than 50 years.
Mr McLaren will today finally return Knots, Splices and Fancy Work, a humble book he borrowed from the Newcastle library on the New South Wales Central Coast in 1957.
That makes it about 19,350 days overdue and, according to Newcastle City Council, he has accordingly amassed almost $5000 in late fees.
But Mr McLaren said yesterday he was happy to honour his debt.
It is only fitting given that a then 19-year-old Mr McLaren used what he learnt from the book to establish a cable and rigging company that has since grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
"I learnt from that book some fancy knotting, rope-making, plaiting and weaving and applied that to making steel slings," he said.
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"It's old and tattered now but still readable."
Mr McLaren 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 after 53 years his conscience finally caught up with him.
"I'd been thinking about it for quite some time," the 73-year-old said.
"I'm getting a bit older and I thought: 'Maybe before I shuffle off I should do something about getting the book back to the library.' "
Mr McLaren will hand the book and a $5000 cheque for his overdue fees to Newcastle Region Library this morning.
The library's public programs coordinator Carol Edmonds said that in more than two decades in the business she had never heard of such a long overdue book returned to an Australian library.
"It really is quite amazing, not only the fact that it is being returned after so long but that he is going to give us the $5000," she said.
"Realistically, we'd never charge anyone more than the cost of the book, but Mr McLaren wanted to pay given the benefit the book has provided him."
The library will use the money for a special one-off purchase, possibly of some Australian landscape prints.
As for the book, it might end up with the man who loves it most.
"We thought it would be a nice thing to give it back to him," Ms Edmonds said.
"It is probably where the book belongs."
Source : The Australian - www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/days-overdue-a-5000-fine-and-worth-every-penny/story-fn3dxity-1225952445909