At 7pm on October 16, my great mate Ian Kiernan OA breathed his last, just four months after being diagnosed with cancer. Every Australian knew Ian as the champion of the environment who had brought a new awareness of the destruction we are wreaking upon the planet, through his Clean Up campaigns that began in Sydney Harbour and spread throughout the world. An intrepid solo around-the-world yachtsman, annual Sydney-Hobart race sailor, 1994 Australian of the Year, and a rabid motorcycle enthusiast, ‘IBK’ was a thorough larrikin who revelled in being known as a ratbag and ‘a bit of a mongrel’. Ian owned lots of bikes, mainly Hondas, including an SL100, an SL175 that disappeared into a watery grave when it fell off the deck of his yacht Maris, an XR350, two CB750s and a CB900F. I own the last of the CB750s – a red K2 that he bought as a heap and restored about 20 years ago. It wasn’t a pristine job, because Ian was as rough as guts, probably rougher. A builder by trade, Ian would take rundown and virtually uninhabitable hovels and turn them into humble dwellings. At one stage he owned nearly 400 such houses in then unfashionable inner Sydney, drove a Porsche and lived in a mansion in fashionable Mosman, but when the company financing the ventures crashed he lost the lot, which didn’t seem to particularly concern him. Chased by creditors, he loaded his yacht with meagre provisions and shot through to Tahiti, an existence to which he adjusted to rather well. Back home in the heady ‘seventies, he became part of a rag-tag bunch of us that met once a year at a property in Tuena, near Crookwell, NSW. It was known as the Crash & Burn – a long weekend that sometimes stretched to a week or more of trail riding, eating, drinking and joke telling. One year Ian arrived in his Daihatsu tipper truck, the tray groaning under the weight of tons of sand, bricks, sheets of iron and building detritus. “Where’s your bike?” he was asked as he pulled up and ripped the ring-pull out of a tinnie. “Dunno, it was there when I started out.” Yanking the lever in the cab, he emptied the contents of the tipper onto the ground and from the pile emerged his XR350, which had settled itself to the bottom of the load during the trip. He also retrieved his food for the weekend – a string of sausages – which he washed in a bucket and hung on the tie rails of the truck to dry out. Ian was rough all right, but a bloke with a heart of gold and a terrific mate for nearly half a century. RIP IBK.
The late Ian Kiernan. “A bit of a mongrel”.