“From the beginning, I was destined for the malting industry”, says Richard. “I was born in an old malthouse down the road from Crisp and I am also part of 3 generations to have worked at the site, and one of seven family members, who have worked for the company.
“My grandfather worked in the No.19 floor maltings. He was an employee at the time when the malthouse was devastated by the World War 2 bombings in 1942. My father later joined the company and worked as a maltster also in the No.19 malthouse.
“The family ties to the company don’t stop there. My mother worked over at the Dereham site. At Gt Ryburgh, my cousin has been a manager, my wife has done seasonal work, and my son in law is currently working in the Redler plant.”
“The company was very different when I first joined compared to now. My first memories of being on the site were from age 11, where I helped out with cleaning the directors’ cars. At 13, I worked on the weighbridge, collecting samples from the lorries to be tested. The health and safety rules in the UK were very different back then – you wouldn’t see someone so young working on the site now, of course!
“I officially joined the company in 1972 at the age of 17 as a cleaner. From there, I worked on the silos, bagging and loading malt to lorries.
“I went from working on the silo to being an assistant fireman. Coal was used to power the site, and I was on hand to help with making sure the machinery that was powered by coal was properly managed. I remember a horse and cart delivering the coal to us. I also remember when power shortages due to the miners’ strike meant we had to follow a 3-day working week.
I went on to work on the Saladin plant. We were loading and unloading the grain to the boxes by shovel. It was from there that I moved to the malt vessel and worked as an operator – where I have been for the last 30 years.
I have seen a lot of changes to the site in my time at the company. The biggest change has been the technology which has transformed the work over time. For instance, the system that has been installed in the malt vessel can shift 220 tonnes by the use of a computer – very different from doing it all manually. Adapting to the technology has been a challenging part in my role, but the people I work with have helped, and they are what have made it all worthwhile.
“I feel proud of the company and have worked with some really special people throughout my time here. They aren’t just work colleagues – we’ve been guests at each other’s weddings, supported each other at funerals – they are more like a family.”
“There will be a big hole to fill once I retire, but I’m looking forward to using some of the time to spend with family. I have seven grandchildren – ranging from 18 months to 19 years old – all of whom I’m extremely proud of.”
Site manager, Paul Thurston adds “I’ve known Richard since childhood. We grew up in the village together and went to the same school. He’s been a great friend and work colleague.
“In each of the roles, Richard has acquitted himself well and is a very conscientious worker. A popular member of staff, who is always willing to help others. He used to help with the barbecue for functions when we had the social club open during the summer months.
“Richard’s contribution here has been invaluable. He’s been a real stalwart over the years. Nearly five decades – that’s an absolutely amazing achievement. I’m sure everyone will join me in thanking Richard for his loyal service and wishing him all the best for the future.”
When he joined the maltings at Portgordon on a temporary basis in 1987, little did David know that he would go on to clock up 33 years of service in the company. He had been signed up as a barley drier operator for that year’s harvest, but during the time proved himself to be a very capable member of the team. So when his temporary contract was up, he was offered a permanent role of plant operator.
The 18 years he spent in this role gave him a vast amount of knowledge and expertise, and in 2006, he was promoted to plant supervisor, and in 2014 to production manager. He held this position until his retirement this April. Says Distilling Manager Richard Lake, “I’d like to thank David for his fantastic contribution over the years. His wealth of experience and intricate knowledge of the plant here at Portgordon make his act a very hard one to follow!
“We had planned a great send-off for him, but COVID 19 (and all the restrictions) meant that we had to postpone the celebrations. We’re hoping to do something at a later date. It’s important to all of us to recognise the part David played in the successful running of the maltings over such a long period of time – and to wish him well for the future.” Ronnie MacDonald has now taken over as Production Manager after being an engineer at the site for five years.