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Last Night for No. 10, $500
Digital print 70x91 CM 2011 Edition of 20

Lindsay Tuffin: Twenty kilometres inland, back of Burnie; Every night about cow time it came ... the blast of noxious fumes from The Pulp. It was a part of growing up, the smell of The Pulp, the 73- year institution which once was Burnie’s heart and soul. Tony Thorne has drawn; Pete Hay has lyrically captured in verse - after countless hours of interviews with the old workers - The Last Days of The Mill. It’s a brilliant production. Do not miss this ...

What: Tim Thorne will launch Last Days of the Mill (Pete Hay and Tony Thorne).
When: Thursday August 16, 5.30pm
Where: The Hobart Bookshop

Crook as Maggoty Mutton

(Sulphur Creek shed, 2011)

I started East Mill warehouse on th off-size line – 
cartons was hand-packed then, and me bein th boy,
I had t’take th wrapped reams
and brand every bloody carton that come out.
Gawd I was young – knew nothin about sex,
cause th worst book y’ever read was th Truth newspaper.
I didn’t even know girls farted then,
but them Papermakers sheilas educated y’pretty smart.
We wasn’t allowed t’eat with em though,
and blokes and sheilas had their own First Aid people, too.
Unreal how fast they them women cd count th paper.
There was countin machines there, but th women was faster,
and when Papermakers shut they all went t’th Pulp.
Then in come that CSS line and 80 people jus walked out th gate,
them jobs gone jus like that –
now it’s all cut and packed by one machine
where once there was guillotiners, sorters, distributors…

I done time as a wettin boy and a cuttin boy
and then upstairs I went t’be a reel boy, hand-wrappin th reels.
Most’f th misfits was up there –
blokes with fingers chopped off and that –
I sort’f wondered why they’d sent me there.
One bloke’d point his knife and threaten t’stab yuh and that,
and when he done it t’th Leadin Hand,
out th bloke goes and he comes back with a twenty-two,
and they’re pointin their weapons and some are jumpin up and down
tryin t’drag em away. Pretty bloody hairy that was –
but y’had t’do somethin completely bloody stupid t’get th sack anyway.
Another bloke, he got so pissed up there
they jus wheeled him out t’th garbage truck,
drove him down t’th First Aid,
tilted th tray and jus dropped him.
But I shouldn’t talk – I was a real young tearaway.
I come in one day, I’d hit th turps big time
and I was pissed as a parrot in there,
crook as maggoty mutton, y’might say.
So down t’th coal bunkers I go
t’sleep it off on a platform there,
and then I thought, she’s bloody rainin, and I opens me eyes
and th fucken belt’s goin right beside me
and all this coal’s droppin on me.
So y’did learn t’wake up and look
before y’made a move.
When I started, like, y’addressed th foremen and supervisors
as mister, and them blokes all wore ties.
There was this bloke used t’go up to em
with a pair’f scissors, and he’d jus cut their tie –
he wouldn’t say nothin – he’d jus walk up and cut their tie.
No matter how many times they threatened t’sack him.
But it was fr their own good –
if they got their tie caught, that’s it,
they’re in th machine.
Anyway, that’s th sort’f thing that went on there –
but it was stuff like that got me interested in th First Aid,
and that’s where I went in th mill after a while.

Y’got some shockin injuries.
Th machinery was frm th steam age,
and a lot’f what they done was jus replace th steam engine
with an electric motor, but a lot was still belt-driven
with no guards round th belts like there is now.
So y’did get a lot’f injuries –
I seen a bloke one day, his fist went into a cutter
and when it come out it was jus spinnin on his arm.
Lots’f fingers went.
Once at Papermakers one’f th cutters
put his his finger in this guard hole
and there was a wheel in there spinnin superfast,
and phhht – off went th end’f his finger.
Then th foreman and th safety blokes was there investigatin,
and th foreman goes, he did this, and th silly bastard
puts his finger in th same hole
and off it come at exactly th same spot.
Well those blokes was dickheads,
but it wasn’t a safe place,
and mostly I don’t blame th workers.
It all come back t’production.
Once old APPM had gone th new lot jus pushed and pushed –
they didn’t care, cause it was all production.
Like, there was two work crews – production and maintenance –
but production got better money, better facilities
and better crib rooms.
Maintenance was second-class citizens
and their crib rooms was shit.

In th greasin gang y’had a section’f th plant that was yours,
and I had No. 10 and old No. 1 machines.
No. 10 was more modern and had oil feeds –
th spur gears was cased in windows and y’cd see th’oil runnin through.
When y’had t’go inside y’d go in th end where th paper comes out –
friggin hot it was, superheated steam y’couldn’t see, and it’d burn.
Y’wouldn’t do it t’day.
Y’cd be behind th machine when there’d be a paper break
but th crew didn’t give a shit –
next thing they’d be blowin dust and shit over yuh,
and y’d try t’get out th other end
where they got th hot water hose goin down th stack
and it’s bloody scaldin yuh.
Y’d be comin out’f there pretty fast.

No. 1 was more dangerous.
It had open gears and y’had t’put an open gear grease on it.
Real sticky shit this was, and what y’did there was
y’got up t’where th gear started and y’had a big wooden spatula.
Ideally y’d get th grease up th vat a coupla days before
so it got good and hot and runny,
But one day I jus went up there and got a heap on me spatula
and went slap – and th fucken shitty stuff stuck t’th gear
and ripped out’f me hand.
Yeah, they wasn’t too happy with me,
cause they ended up with grease all over th dry screen,
and bits’f timber frm th spatula,
and they had t‘shut down while they chemically washed th’screen.

Anyway, there I am at last in First Aid,
and First Aid cd be sad.
Sunday and Monday mornin there’d be all th footy injuries comin in,
but they tightened up on that after a while – wouldn’t have em in.
And some blokes – they jus had no idea.
They’d ring and say Joe Blow’s hurt hisself, but it’s not too bad,
and y’d get there and he’s half dead.
Or th opposite – they’d say Bill Smith’s hurt, y’d better hurry,
th poor bugger’s gunna die,
and y’get up there and it’s hardly a scratch.
Sometimes people was too stupid t’even know they’d hurt emselves.
Like, I was walkin through th plant one day
And I say to a bloke, where’s yr hard hat?
And he he says, I’m not wearin no fucken hard hat.
Bugger me, a coupla days later he presents hisself
with a real bad burn where th caustic had dripped down on his head.
He says, I want y’t’write on me report that I was wearin me hard hat,
and I says I’m not gunna do that mate.
He thought I was real prick,
but he brought it on hisself.
Caustic was a bloody problem, though.
There’d be blokes workin in th DARS Plant with air lances,
gettin out th shit that’d build up inside th hoppers I suppose y’d call em,
and at th end’f th day their noses’d be bleedin
and they’d have these caustic burns on th sweat line round their collar.
Bloody shockin it was.

Y’had y’share’f dramas, shit yeah.
One time they was havin maintenance on No. 1,
and they took off th big spinners at th front’f th machine,
and some bright spark sat her up on th butterfly end – lengthways –
and when they unhooked her she fell
and she nailed this poor bastard t’th floor by th leg.
And bugger me, this other bloke jus up and grabbed it
and picked it up clean off’f him.
Anyway th poor bastard’s up and he’s tore off,
runnin t’First Aid, blood everwhere –
I dunno how he even got there.
But th bloke that lifted th spindle up,
they said t’him t’pick it up again.
Now I’ll go heave if this is not true,
but he tried and he couldn’t even budge it.
It was th adrenaline in him what done th liftin.

Y’got yr funny things too.
When I started in First Aid they was tryin t’set me up
and I was a bit leery’f what I was bein told.
Well I was talkin t’this bloke and a welder come in, pushes in,
and he says, I’ve burnt me dick.
I says, is that right, and he says, yeah,
I’ve burnt me dick.
I says, give it a bit’f spit and see if it cools down a bit,
and he goes – I’ve burnt me dick, mate.
So I said, yeah, righto, let’s have a gander at it, then.
And bugger me, he had –
he was weldin above his head with his overalls open
and slag had dropped down
and y’cd see where it had burnt down his singlet
and ended up right on th end’f his knob.
Poor bastard.
He says, what are y’gunna do,
and I says, I’m not doin nothin mate,
you’re goin t’hospital mate.
And off he went.
Geez it must’f hurt.

Mostly it was sad, though, them last years.
Once th new owners junked th old family stuff I mean –
th kids’ Christmas party and th piss-up at th three week shut,
all that that sort’f thing.
When I started y’looked forward t’goin t’work,
but towards th end y’went in cause y’had to.
Though when I left it took me a long time
t’get used t’not turnin in when I was drivin past th gate,
and that’s fr sure.
There was nine’f us kids and we was all there, th old man, too,
so our lives was all about that mill.
T’me it’s a sickenin feelin that it’s shut.

First published: 2012-03-19 03:50 AM