His­tory made at sugar mill

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

HIS­TORY was made at Wil­mar Sugar’s Proser­pine Mill when long-time lo­cal Fer­gus Briskey cel­e­brated 50 years of ser­vice last month.

Site man­ager Danny Van der Berg said this was the first half­cen­tury of em­ploy­ment ex­pe­ri­enced com­pany-wide.

“So we’re cur­rently work­ing out what we think is an ap­pro­pri­ate award for that level of ser­vice,” he said.

Fer­gus started work at the mill as a 16-and-a-half-year-old, on Jan­uary 20, 1964.

Hav­ing grown up on his grand­par­ents’ farm in Lethe­brook, learn­ing a trade in the sugar in­dus­try was al­most in­evitable.

Af­ter com­plet­ing a five-year ap­pren­tice­ship as a fit­ter and turner at the mill, Fer­gus was of­fered a job in ma­chin­ing.

He worked for 28 years in the mill’s ma­chine shop be­fore start­ing his en­gi­neer’s ticket.

Sub­se­quent roles in­cluded stints as a shift fit­ter, shift en­gi­neer, sin­gle shift su­per­vi­sor and now work­shop ser­vices co-or­di­na­tor.

Look­ing back, Fer­gus de­scribed the mill as a fan­tas­tic place to learn a trade.

“If you put your mind to it and you wanted to learn, you could re­ally get some ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

Over the years, he said com­put­er­i­sa­tion had prob­a­bly been the big­gest change.

“I’ve driven ev­ery­thing from old steel wheel­ers right through to trac­tors with GPS’s on them – it’s mar­vel­lous,” he said.

For Fer­gus, one of the high­lights of his job con­tin­ues to be work­ing with ap­pren­tices and new re­cruits.

“It gives me a real buzz when you see some­one com­ing in and they don’t know what they’re do­ing but you put a bit of ef­fort into them and it might be a month down the track and they’ll just pick some­thing up and do it – you get a real sense of achieve­ment out of that,” he said.

Mr Van der Berg said from his per­spec­tive it was an ab­so­lute hon­our to work with Fer­gus.

“50 years of ser­vice is very spe­cial and for me as a man­ager to be as­so­ci­ated with Fer­gus is also very spe­cial,” he said.

“In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve seen the sort of ex­per­tise that he is renowned for in the work­shop and those sorts of skills are hard to find these days.”

GOLDEN HAND­SHAKE: Wil­mar Sugar's Proser­pine Mill site man­ager Danny Van der Berg (right) con­grat­u­lat­ing Fer­gus Briskey (left) on a his­toric 50 years of ser­vice at the mill.

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