NEVILLE YEATMAN Etched in the History of Manildra

Neville Yeatman etched in the History of Manildra | The Cultivator Spring 2021

NEVILLE YEATMAN Etched in the History of Manildra

The career of the late Neville Yeatman, who played a pivotal role in the founding years of Manildra Group, is remarkable, from the very start in 1952 when the company bought the flour mill in Manildra, New South Wales.

“Neville was instrumental in the growth of Manildra Flour Mill overseeing its development as it stands today,” reflected Manildra Group Chairman Dick Honan.

“Our family is very grateful to Neville for his long service to Manildra Group and he will be forever etched in the history of Manildra Flour Mill as well as the township of Manildra. He was also a good friend,” said Mr Honan.

Working many a role from flour miller, wheat buyer in the harvest, lumping bags of flour to laboratory worker, Mr Yeatman worked his way up to Mill Manager in 1970 with a fine-tuned knowledge of the site and its operation.

Known as a “fair” boss, he thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie, loyalty and banter with the employees, which continued after his retirement in 1997.

Manildra Flour Mill Production Manager Tony Fitzpatrick said Mr Yeatman was a man of routine, who continued to maintain a desk at the heart of Manildra Flour Mill beside the current Mill Manager’s. He would arrive promptly at 9am to collect his post, then sit at his desk and read the paper “in the thick of it all”, discussing the day’s schedule.

Always up for a chat, in the afternoon, Mr Yeatman would return, visiting the test bakery and collecting a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Mr Yeatman was a family man, loving husband to Dot, father to Sue Reynolds and Carol Gainey, and adored grandfather, residing for most of their married lives at the historical Mill House, located at Manildra Group’s Manildra Flour Mill.

Built in 1911, the Mill House made a comfortable home with magnificent, pressed metal 12 to 15ft ceilings and a grand fireplace in each bedroom.

Famous for being on call 24/7, Mr Yeatman answered the Mill House door to Mill Workers in his underwear, (making a quick retreat on the odd occasion that the visitor happened to be a local), and dashing to the Mill, at any hour of the night – donned in his dressing gown.

Reflecting upon her father, Sue Reynolds said that without fail on holidays, Mr Yeatman would visit bakeries along the way, quizzing the bakery on where they purchased their flour.

“If it wasn’t Manildra flour, he would start a spiel on how it was the very best flour and proceed to convince them into reconsidering their bakery ingredients,” she said.

When the Honan family visited Manildra Flour Mill, without fail the trip included a visit to the Yeatman’s, spending time yarning over a slice of Dot’s famous freshly baked sponge cake and tea.

Hat on and loudly whistling wherever he went, it was a signal to employees that Mr Yeatman was coming, if an employee was sitting or talking, he would say, if you’re doing nothing then at least have a broom in your hand.

Manildra Group Managing Director John Honan recalls on a childhood visit, he once cheekily took Mr Yeatman’s favourite hat and stomped on it. “Which he never forgave!” Mr Honan said.

“A great leader and friend, Neville was extremely funny and had the greatest attitude to life, with his passion, loyalty and work ethic playing such a key role in Manildra Flour Mill’s success,” he remarked fondly.

Mr Yeatman was a valued member of the local community and was fundamental in establishing the Manildra Mill and Rail Museum in the Railway Station House in Manildra – which celebrates the rich history of both the town and the Mill.

Mr Yeatman loved being connected to the township of Manildra and held a policy of hiring locals as much as possible.

In 1978, the Manildra community held a celebration, with Mr Yeatman arranging for the bulk grain silo to be emptied, ensuring that the entire town could fit in the space, with the community dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

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