Navigating The Way

John spent his working life surveying the New South Wales region, and the skills he gained have carried over into every aspect of his life.


When we spoke with John McLean, our knowledge of surveying was minimal. But nevertheless, we were intrigued. And after speaking with him, we have a newfound respect for the work done by surveyors, and in particular, the work John undertook during his career.

“I did a lot of map surveying. Most of my work in the early days was done with just mathematics in order to get an accurate measure of light on the ground”, he said.

From Richmond in Sydney’s northwest, right across to Broken Hill, Bourke and Condobolin in rural New South Wales, John worked (and sometimes walked) his way across the region measuring and surveying the area.

“After the Second World War all the maps needed to be reviewed and improved, so that’s when the Central Mapping Authority came about, and we looked after the New South Wales area”, he said.
So how did John come to be in the surveying profession? Well, it all came from his knack for drawing and working as a draftsman.

“Back in the 1950s, once you completed your leaving certificate [equivalent to grade 12] unless you were going on to university or further study, you just filled out a form for the state public service and off you went”, he said.

John went to the state public service and started working as a draftsman where he spent a couple of years working before he did his national service training which placed outdoors for six months with the Air Force at Richmond. After that, he says, he ‘could never go back to an office environment’.

“I just loved the outdoors. I loved the variety of the work, and being able to be out and about all the time was much more appealing than working in an office every day”, he said.
While working mainly in the technical areas of surveying, John experienced a significant amount of change in the industry as the years went on, especially as the technologies advanced. New equipment was introduced, the workload was lightened, and the number of workers required started to decrease.
“The times have changed quite a lot, and even more so in the last 15 years I would imagine. The concept of surveying has simplified quite a lot it seems, now that the industry has the resources”, he said.

“The technology we had back in the 50s and 60s has all sort of changed and advanced, and there's been no need for as many people to do the job anymore”, he said.

So despite the changes in the industry over time, John recalls fond memories of his time as a surveyor, particularly the varying work and work environments.

“Every day was different, which was exciting. Working in the Central Mapping Authority back then was very exciting, as we never knew where we’d be going. You could look forward to every day which was great”, he said.
From working as a draftsman, to a fully-fledged surveyor across various parts of the state, John finished up working for Douglas Hanly Moir, a pathology company that at the time was producing and distributing petri dishes to various medical clinics and hospitals. This work bought him another 10 years before he eventually retired, which he says ‘kept him out of mischief’.

Three years ago John and his wife Jan moved into Pittwater Village, and they’ve never been happier.

“We sort of reached a point where I’d had enough of my working life and our family had all moved away, so we looked and looked, and Pittwater [village] was the place we decided we would go. And we love it”, he said.
John thoroughly enjoys the beautiful community at Pittwater Village, and he loves having the flexibility and freedom to come and go as he pleases, whilst enjoying a variety of activities within the village.

“We've got no reason to want to leave or do anything else. It's quite comfortable and we feel very well looked after as well. All in all, it’s worked out very well”, he said.