A moment of reflection with Neville Yeatman

A moment of reflection with Neville Yeatman | The Cultivator Autumn 2021

A moment of reflection with Neville Yeatman

Neville Yeatman played a pivotal role in the founding years of Manildra Group starting in 1952 when the company bought the flour mill in Manildra, New South Wales.

“I started as a Miller, well really I was the jack of all trades. I worked in the laboratory, lumped bags and was a wheat buyer in the wheat seasons,” said Mr Yeatman.

“My dad Harry Yeatman was the manager at Homebush flour mill and I was working there. I suffered from asthma living in the city so I was offered a job at Manildra when the Honan’s bought the Mill and the rest is history, my asthma improved and I never looked back, enjoying my job and country life,” he said.

Neville was asked to be Mill Manager on many occasions, however fearing he wouldn’t last long, he continued to turn down the position.

“One day I was given an ultimatum either take the manager’s position or leave, needless to say I managed the Mill happily from 1970 until my retirement in 1997,” he said.

When speaking of his time as Mill Manager, Mr Yeatman reflected on the “camaraderie, loyalty and banter with the employees” and the odd moments that came up whilst being on call 24/7.

“My role was to keep the mill running smoothly to full capacity and get the product out to all our customers. I was often known (much to my wife Dot’s horror) to open the door in my undies when someone came knocking with a problem at night. Within an instant I was in my dressing gown and ducking over to the mill to sort the problem out,” he said.

When asked about their time living in the Mill House, located beside Manildra Group’s flagship Manildra Flour Mill Neville reflected, “Dot and I enjoyed living in the beautiful old Mill house and magnificent gardens. We adored the many visitors that we entertained from various Businesses and overseas countries such as America, Japan, Indonesia, Switzerland and China.”

Built in 1911, the Mill House has continued to see guests and residents come and go.

With beautiful 12 to 15ft high ceilings, a grand fireplace in each bedroom, wide hallways and magnificent pressed metal ceilings,
the Yeatman’s felt it was an “honour to be able to reside and take care of the beautiful house”.

A valued member of the community, Mr Yeatman with the assistance of Manildra Group Chairman Dick Honan set up the Manildra Mill and Rail museum in the Railway Station House as a way to stay connected and share the rich history of the town.

Working at Manildra Flour Mill for 45 years, Mr Yeatman continues to stay connected to the mill to this day. “My son in law Bruce is Manildra Group’s Safety Officer working on the rail trucks and my grandson Michael is a miller at the flour mill,” he said.

“I often stop and have a chat to some of the blokes and Manildra Mill Manager John Brunner often checks on Dot and me. I like to think by setting up the museum I am still working for the mill by keeping the history |of the mill going,” said Mr Yeatman.

“Neville’s time at the Mill spanned more than four decades. A great leader, his finely tuned knowledge of the site and its operations was amazing to see,” said Manildra Flour Mill Manager, John Brunner.

In reflecting on his time with the company, Mr Yeatman described Dick Honan as “a good, firm, but fair boss and a great friend to me and my family.”

Playing a key role in Manildra Group’s growth and success, Mr Yeatman’s contribution to the Manildra Mill through leadership and work ethic undoubtedly set the mill in the right trajectory to become the largest flour mill in Australia.