Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Pleystowe Mill Reunion

1869 was the beginning of the Sugar Cane industry in the Walkerston area when cane was grown and supplied to Pleystowe Sugar Mill. The first sugar crushing season at Pleystowe was in 1872.

A distillery was added to the mill in 1873 in order to manufacture the quite popular - ‘Pleystowe Rum’. Allegedly, the distillery operated for just a few years.

In 1918 a disastrous cyclone hit the Mackay region dropping 84 inches of rain in just 6 days - 2134 mm! At that time there was another mill in the Walkerston area as well as Pleystowe - The Palms Mill, owned by Australian Estates. As it was badly damaged in the cyclone, its cane supply was consequently sent to Pleystowe Mill for crushing. The two mills were eventually amalgamated in 1925 to form Amalgamated Sugar Mills Limited.

In 1975 Pleystowe Mill became part of CSR – the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

Sadly, Pleystowe Mill ceased crushing forever in October 2008 - after 139 years, having been the oldest operating sugar mill in Australia at the time of its closure. Today the Pleystowe Mill site provides a few centralised services, and spare parts, to other operating mills of Mackay Sugar – part of the Nordsucker Group.

During 2010, a few of the staff of the old Pleystowe Mill decided that it would be great with a ‘Back to Pleystowe’ reunion. This was so popular that it became a yearly event coordinated by two well-known Pleystowe Mill identities – Jim Ross and Bob Dolan.

During last year (2022) - Jim and Bob, after 12 years of a job well done and greatly appreciated by all past Pleystowe Mill workers – decided to hand the planning and coordination over to the ‘younger generation’ in the form of Mark Gayton and Ian Ritchie. These two are set to carry the traditional Pleystowe Mill reunion into the future, no doubt assisted by a few of the Pleystowe oldies.

The 2023 Pleystowe Mill Reunion was held recently, with approximately 70 people attending – mostly past Pleystowe workers, joined by a few younger people employed by Mackay Sugar. Once again, it was a terrific reunion with work colleagues and friends catching up with one another – there was even a few people who had not seen each other for nearly fifty years. Quite special, and very nostalgic!

The next Pleystowe Mill Reunion will be held on the third Wednesday of April 2024.

Contributed by Bente McDonald

Reunion organisers Mark Gayton, Jim Ross & Ian Ritchie

Reunion attendees John Smith, Terry Doolan & Bill Hamilton. Photos supplied

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