This was sent to me by Alan McCutcheon who is the author of the A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words page. Alan reports that it was sent to him by some who identified themselves as DJMORTON.

Don McLean

Father of the Tim Tam, 1921-2000

The biscuit company executive who played a key role in making the Tim Tam an Australian icon, Don McLean has died in Melbourne at the age of 79.

He was born in Ballarat, and grew up in Colac in Victoria. He married his childhood sweetheart, Margaret, in Brisbane in 1942 and, after war service with the Signals Corps in New Guinea, settled in Melbourne.

During the 1950s, as sales manager for The General Milk Company, McLean introduced Carnation Milk into Australia.

In 1959 he contracted meningitis, encephalitis and suspected polio and spent three months in an iron lung. He made a full recovery, which was attributed to his previous physical fitness and the fact that he did not smoke.

McLean joined the NSW biscuit-making company William Arnott Pty Ltd, of Homebush, in 1960.

Working from a new Victorian office in the Melbourne suburb of Fairfield, he introduced the company's NSW favourites into Victoria, and later Tasmania.

He also travelled around the world on Arnott's business for some years.

The organisation grew quickly through mergers with companies whose names were once household words but now are memories - Guest and Brockhoff, Swallow and Ariel, Peak Frean and Sunshine.

Through all this growth, McLean retained his position as general sales manager.

He had responsibility for creating and marketing new products. Which is where Tim Tams come in.

Although Arnott's is unable to confirm it, the Tim Tam, according to McLean, was based loosely on a chocolate bar made by MacRobertson.

Arnott's had purchased the rights to the chocolate bar.

McLean and his team modified and adapted elements of the bar to create a biscuit, and launched it as the Tim Tam.

Recently, his son asked him how the name came about. McLean said he could not remember.

Corporate legend at Arnott's, however, tells the tale this way: One of the company's executives, an Arnott called Ross, was travelling in the US in 1958, the year a horse named Tim Tam won the Kentucky Derby.

Legend does not record whether Ross Arnott won a packet on Tim Tam, the thoroughbred, but his company certainly did nicely on the chocolate-coated biscuit.

The name is as immortal now as any biscuit can be, indisputably an Australian icon.

Baby boomers will have fond memories of some of McLean's other successes, not all of which have proved to be immortal.

Among the more popular creations were Kingston, Melting Moments, Chocolate Cherry Crown and Tropicana.

Some of these were made especially for McLean's children, who willingly taste-tested all the prototypes.

Ironically, he made the decision not to continue marketing one of his own favourites, the Chocolate Monte, in Victoria. Chocolate Teddy Bears had always outsold Montes in Victoria.

McLean was ever grateful to interstate visitors who brought packets of Montes across the border from Sydney for him.

For their part, his colleagues at Arnott's held McLean in high esteem and said he had made an invaluable contribution to the success of the company.

He retired in 1983 and spent the last 15 years in happy, active retirement with Margaret at Walmsley Village, Kilsyth, on the outskirts of Melbourne.

She survives him, as do their four children, Ross, Judy, Jenny and David.

David McLean



Page last updated on 02/01/04