Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2012.
Mal Cleary arrived in Cloncurry, Qld in 1956 and was soon asked by a local contractor to take on the Cloncurry to Canobie Station Mail run which generally took around three months to complete. The nearby Mary Kathleen mine had recently been opened and the young Mal could see opportunities for transport. He invested in a 1948 three ton Austin and began carting goods from Cloncurry to Mary Kathleen mine site via the Smith Highway. Mal’s second truck was a 1954 five ton Austin. Mal had by then also been asked to take over Cloncurry to Bang Bang Station Mail run which he did. The old saying ‘The mail must go through’ meant Mal had to purchase a 1942 Blitz to cope with the muddy quagmire of the black soil plains in the wet season.
Mal, by this time, had met and married Dawn and in 1960 the couple moved to Mt Isa with their young children, Les, Rose, Robert and Noel. Another son, Greg was born in Mt Isa. During this time they carted gravel for Thiess Bros. in the Barkly and Richmond Shires. These were very lean years and Dawn took on office duties and was known as a bit of ‘Jill of all trades’. In 2012 she still is.
In 1961 they took on the Camooweal Qld to Lake Nash Mail run which later became the Mt Isa to Lake Nash Mail run. They operated this run through some of the country’s most isolated terrain for 34 years. To service this contract Mal and Dawn purchased a new 1963 four ton diesel BMC truck and a seven ton 1965 diesel BMC. In later years they operated a 1968 Cummins powered International R184 and a 1972 250hp Atkinson also powered by a Cummins engine. The Atkinson was used to haul fuels and goods to Doomadgee Mission from their Golden Fleece Depot in Mt Isa. As the mail runs became less attractive for a variety of reasons the Cleary’s decided to move into livestock transport. MJ Cleary & Co. soon expanded their fleet to seven Kenworth prime-movers trailing forty decks of cattle.
Meanwhile, eldest son Les finished his apprenticeship and went driving for his parents for the next fifteen years. His brother Robert then finished his apprenticeship and joined the company in 1985 until an accident whilst working deprived him of his love of driving and the transport industry.
In 2003 Mal and Dawn decided to downsize their business and take things a little easier. They sold all their vehicles except for Mal’s beloved 1979 400hp Cummins powered Kenworth of which Mal can still occasionally be found hauling five decks of livestock. The trucking industry runs too thick in his blood for him to seriously consider full retirement.
In 2012 Mal and Dawn Cleary still live in Mount Isa at their depot and are true legends of the transport industry where they have worked and given their all for over nearly 60 years.