John William Gillespie 1952-2021

We have received the absolute tragic news this morning that John Gillespie, a leading light of the Australian crane industry, has passed away after a long battle with leukemia.

John Gillespie was managing director of leading crane rental company Gillespies Crane Services and a director of other group companies until 2019. He was also president of the Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA) for 16 years, stepping down in 2014 having served the association for more than 35 years. He had also previously served as president of the Crane Industry Association of New South Wales.
in 2002 he was awarded CICA's Con Popov Memorial Award for outstanding industry service, and in 2010 received a CICA Life Membership award.
John Gillespie

He joined the family crane business straight from school in 1969 working his way up through the company learning as he went, from cleaning up around the yard, dogging/rigging, crane driving and anything else that was needed. When his was just 20 he was catapulted into a position of responsibility with the premature death of his father. When he retired New South Wales based Gillespies Cranes was the oldest crane company still operating in Australia.
(UPDATE - A memorial service will be Livestreamed on 31st August from 10.55 to 12.50 and available to view for 90 days afterwards https://view.oneroomstreaming.com/)

A statement from the association this morning, said: “CICA’s progress and growth under John’s leadership was phenomenal, industry representation activities, member benefits, membership numbers, revenue and assets are at record levels. On behalf of CICA, John was a strong advocate for and participant at International World Crane & Transport Alliance Meetings, this helped to create the International Crane Stakeholders Assembly (ICSA). John’s service, industry leadership and passion to improve the crane industry is legendary, earning him much respect within Australia and internationally.”

“John continued to be an advocate for involvement in the industry association. When asked what advice he would give to a newcomer to the industry he said firstly, ‘Are you mad? Don’t do it!” then ‘Seriously though, get involved with the association as it gives you the opportunity to help drive change and improvements. More contributors are always needed and welcomed. The industry can’t continue to rely on a small number of volunteers, or the same few people that always seem to make the time to contribute.”
(L-R) Reg Eggleton with John Gillespie and Anthony Davis on the awarding of CICA Life Membership in 2010

“John’s positive outlook on life was undiminishing. In 2021 he received a replacement pacemaker and wanted to know how long the battery life was. The doctor told him 15 years, for which he said amidst going through chemotherapy, ‘I have a new goal!!’ Sadly, his fighting spirit could not overcome physical illness and John passed away peacefully on 17 August 2021. Our thoughts and condolences are with John’s wife, Helen, sons Tom and Stephen, and daughter Carla, their partners and children.”

CICA chief executive Brandon Hitch added: “Others in industry have known the life of John Gillespie better than me, but from what I experienced in the 10 short years I have been in the crane industry - he was a great man. When people are walking among us, eating, laughing, sharing advice, we don’t realise the immediate impact they have in bettering us. It is only in their absence that we look back and remember them, partly in order not to forget, but also to attribute their influence on our improved character."

“Oddly, what I learned from and cherish about John is not about cranes or lifting. How John influenced me most was in leadership, generosity, and a positive, resilient outlook. He was someone who didn’t need me, he had enough friends, but before he went back to get his second bone marrow transplant in May 2021, he took the time to call me. He let me know that he had pulled out a picture from 2017, that my then six year old daughter drew for him when he was recovering from his first bone marrow transplant. He said it made him smile that day. By his character, he gave me an example to share with my daughter at dinner, of how the impact of our actions can positively influence others. Three weeks ago, he spoke to her again and he told her he was struggling, but not ready to give up. John made time for people.”

“John’s exceptional, loyal and outstanding service and contribution have provided immeasurable benefit to CICA. CICA would not be here today if not for the work of our five Life Members, and sadly, over the last 18 months we have lost three of them.”
“John was both a friend and a mentor to me. I will honour his legacy by grieving, remembering and living out a life that has been influenced by the time he graciously gave to me.”

Vertikal Comment

John Gillespie was a wonderful individual, consistently positive and always trying to do the best for the crane industry worldwide. He always made a point of stopping by the Vertikal stands at major shows like bauma and Conexpo and talk as though he had flown in especially to see you, and could John talk when he was in the mood!

This news is both unexpected and tragic, and possibly most upsetting is that I was oblivious to the fact that he had even been ill. I should have guessed something was up, as I had not heard from him in a very long time and that was simply not like him. Not that we were really really close, the geographic distance probably put paid to that, but he was always sending bits of news, making a comment, asking an opinion - more often giving an opinion and suggesting we take something up.

I think my first encounter with him was when one of the company’s 250 tonne cranes had punched through a concrete floor and overturned in Castle Hill, north of Sydney. He was gracious open and explained exactly what happened and even contributed additional photographs. He was keen that others learn from the incident at a time when most crane company owners or managers did the absolute opposite.

John Gillespie was a first class individual and most definitely one of the good guys. The industry and the world is poorer for his passing. There will be a chair waiting for him on our stand at bauma next year.

Leigh Sparrow


Good Morning Leigh,

May I endorse your Editorial as John Gillespie was indeed a Gentlemen of the Old School, as I had the pleasure to meet John at the World Crane Conference in Amsterdam NL during November 2019.

John Gillespie was indeed a shining light in the Australian Crane Industry and stood four square behind higher safety standards and definitely one of the good guys.

The Australian Crane industry and the world is indeed a poorer place for his passing.
So Rest in Peace John Gillespie, as it was a pleasure to know you.

Kind Regards
Mike Ponsonby

Aug 18, 2021
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