The co-inventor of the Barmac Crusher had old-school attributes that made him a widely liked and admired multi-achiever. BY GAVIN RILEY.
Bryan Bartley, who died on March 24 aged 86, will forever be remembered as a civil engineer whose inventive mind helped put New Zealand quarrying on the world map.
His enduring fame rests on his development with fellow engineer Jim Macdonald of the vertical-shaft-impact Barmac Crusher, which revolutionised the sealing-chip business.
But Bryan was much more than a notable inventor. Distinguished in appearance, principled, courteous, softly spoken, witty and unassuming, he was the very best kind of old-school Kiwi. His strong personal characteristics, interest in people and an inquiring mind enabled him to make his mark in spheres beyond quarrying and in the 2000 New Year Honours he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to engineering and the community.
Bryan lived all his life in Auckland and was the middle of three sons of the chemist who ran the pharmacy in Manukau Road.
He joined Winstone Aggregates in 1952 as engineer at its Lunn Avenue quarry, then worked in Malaysia from 1961-63, making precast concrete beams for the contractor that built Kuala Lumpur airport, before returning to Winstone as quarries engineer. He was instrumental in Winstone buying what is now its flagship quarry, Hunua.
A turning point in Bryan’s life came in 1970 when he met Jim Macdonald, at that time in charge of Wellington City Council’s Kiwi Point quarry and later city engineer.
Macdonald, New Zealand’s most decorated naval officer in World War II, had invented a prototype rock-crusher, the Macdonald impactor, and over a period of eight years the pair worked on developing the invention, forming Barmac Associates and sharing the patents of what became the famous Barmac Crusher.
“He was a remarkable character,” Bryan was to say much later of Macdonald. “We enjoyed each other’s company and did a lot of what-if-we-did-this or what-if-we-did-that type of thing.”
When Macdonald died in 1982, Bryan carried forward the business of patents, trademarks, licensing, manufacture and distribution of their invention, which was sold in 1993 to what eventually became, through acquisitions, Matamata-based Svedala Barmac.
Bryan held various posts within the Winstone organisation and was group engineer and general manager, central engineering services, when he retired at the age of 57 in 1985. A founding member of the New Zealand branch of the Institute of Quarrying, he was chairman from 1987-89 and was honoured in the 1991-92 year with the international presidency of the IoQ, which then had 5200 members worldwide and branches in six countries.
One of Bryan’s few surviving contemporaries, Aggregate & Quarry Association life member and former president George Cunningham, got to know Bryan at Winstone in 1967. He regarded Bryan as a mentor initially, then they became firm friends.
“I never heard Bryan say a bad word about anybody,” George said. “He was never foul-mouthed, never swore, and was not given to emotional outbursts. He was always a quiet speaker, patient, methodical, knowledgeable, and an advocate and promoter of best practice. He was a person I could always turn to for confirmation or modification of my ideas.
“He empathised with people at every level. If you talked issues through with Bryan it was done with dignity and was clearly thought through. While Bryan’s role in developing the Barmac Crusher is widely acknowledged, it is my belief that many of his valuable contributions to the ongoing welfare of the quarrying industry over many decades are unrecorded and therefore not so well recognised.”
Bryan’s interests outside quarrying were many. He was a past chairman of Unitec and of the Auckland branch of the Institute of Professional Engineers (Ipenz), a life member and past president of the Auckland Civic Trust, a member of the Auckland Inventors Club (he co-developed and patented a self-feathering yacht propeller) and he was active in the U3A movement, the Probus organisation, and the debate over climate change (he believed mankind was not responsible). He was also involved in his local Presbyterian church and several choirs, and had a lifelong passion for sailing and painting/sketching.
Bryan Bartley is survived by his wife of 43 years, Elaine, son Bruce, daughters Laura Hayes and Clare Crossen, stepsons Robert and Allan Walton, stepdaughters Jacqueline Stewart and Patricia Chancellor, grandchildren and great grandchildren.