Tom hangs up his tools

The Weekend Post - - News -

When Tom Mitchell (above) started work­ing for a Cairns steel fab­ri­ca­tion com­pany in 1972, it was only meant to be for a short time.

WHEN Tom Mitchell started work­ing for a Cairns steel fab­ri­ca­tion com­pany in 1972, it was only meant to be for a short time.

Forty-five years later, he has hung up his tools and bid farewell to the Scott St busi­ness that be­came his own.

“I started off with Don Geoghe­gan, who owned the busi­ness,” the 68-year-old says.

“I was only sup­posed to help him for a few weeks, just to get a job done that he was get­ting pushed for. Af­ter that, he de­cided he wanted to re­tire, so I man­aged his busi­ness for seven or eight years.”

Tom even­tu­ally bought it with a mate and fi­nally took it over com­pletely to form Tom Mitchell Engi­neer­ing.

Born in Cairns, his work­place was just a hop, a skip and a jump from Au­muller St, where he spent his child­hood.

“We were the sec­ond house built on the north­ern side of Mul­grave Rd,” he says. “When we first moved in, the road was dirt.”

Tom spent his early years at Par­ra­matta State School, which his mother also at­tended. He started at Trin­ity Bay High “the year af­ter it opened”.

Tom shone across many sports and rep­re­sented Cairns in ev­ery sport he played.

“At Trin­ity Bay, I was cap­tain of both the bas­ket­ball and foot­ball side, and right through high school I held ev­ery run­ning record, from the 220-yard sprint to the mile,” he says.

“I never re­ally had any idea of be­ing a trades­per­son. All I wanted to do was play rugby league. I played sport all year round — rugby league, bas­ket­ball — and I sailed un­til I was about 21.”

He served his ap­pren­tice­ship as a fit­ter and turner with one of North­ern Aus­tralia’s big­gest con­struc­tion firms, TJ Watkins, work­ing in Townsville and Dar­win be­fore re­turn­ing to Cairns.

Tom says he de­lib­er­ately kept his busi­ness small. At its peak, he em­ployed five peo­ple; more re­cently, just two and it is those two who have bought the busi­ness from him.

“It’s good that they want to take on some­thing that I started,” he says. “I’ve done my bit and I thor­oughly en­joyed it.

“Work­ing for your­self isn’t that bad. You are your own boss. You can come and go as you please.”

A keen hunter and ac­com­plished archer, Tom has plans for his free time.

“I love the bush. I don’t care if I just sleep un­der the stars,” he says.

STEELY RE­SOLVE: Tom Mitchell from Tom Mitchell Engi­neer­ing in Scott St is re­tir­ing af­ter 45 years in the same work­shop.

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