History made at sugar mill
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.