Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Retirement Looks Sweet

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Retirement Looks Sweet

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Constable

WHEN she was just seven years old, Lyn Smyth would drive the tractor on her family's cane farm to help out her dad.

"The tractor I drove was a little grey 'Fergie' -- a Massey Ferguson. I used to have to stand up to use the brake," she said.

"I used to cart cane. I enjoyed it but I didn't like riding the horses when dad had cattle. My sisters came along and they rode the horses."

The family farm at Sarina, on Smyth's Rd, was established by her grandfather and Miss Smyth continued on in the family tradition by helping out on the farm and later landing a job at Plane Creek Sugar Mill.

"I got a special licence at 16 to drive to work at the mill. That was in 1967. The father of a girl I went to school with was the time-keeper at the mill, (Plane Creek). I had three cousins who were cane testers too. So I applied and got the job.

"We'd work out the sugar content of the cane, which is what the farmers get paid on," she said.

When Miss Smyth started at the mill it was a different era. There were no computers, only men worked in the mill and cane was cut by hand.

"You learnt on the job. I loved the shift work. It used to be five days a week and we got the weekends off, but when the crush got bigger we started a seven-day roster," she said.

After working at the mill for 49 consecutive crushing seasons, Miss Smyth is, unofficially, the longest serving seasonal worker in Queensland.

"We weren't allowed to do any of the jobs in the mill. Before the anti-discrimination laws came in around the late 80s, if something broke down or they weren't crushing, we had to keep busy. We would bring in our cooking or sewing to pass the, " she said.

"We have an hourly routine, so repetition is important. You are always watching the clock to keep up. …

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