Burnetts work stories wanted

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Finished just in time an International 3070 Burnetts Motors cattle truck and trailer.

Former staff of Burnetts transport and motor company, their partners and clients are being urged to register for a Burnetts Catch Up later this year.

The catch up, at the Ashburton Racecourse on September 5, is being organised by a handful of people keen to hear, and share, the workers’ stories. It is a BYO event, which costs $5, with afternoon tea supplied.

Jane Naish, Maurice Wotton and Carol Muckle say it’s a reunion that has been talked about and needed to happen while people were still around who could remember the days working at the old Burnetts yards.

They want to hear from people who worked at the company, started by Bob Burnett in 1927, and was one of Mid Canterbury’s biggest employers in its time; in its heyday nearly 300 staff were employed and the company had more than 100 vehicles.

The company offered a range of transport services including carting of goods, a workshop and transport depot, petrol pumps, earthmoving with bulldozers, scrapers, loaders and other heavy machinery.

In his time owner Bob Burnett also owned a coal mine and a high country station. He remained a company director during several ownership changes until his retirement in 1981, at age 72.

Mrs Naish said more than 100 people had already registered including Adrienne Francis, the daughter of Bob Burnett.

However, she thought it was unlikely the 20-or-so people who had registered from Australia would be able to attend due to Covid-19.

The pandemic had already caused the date to be rescheduled from mid-July and organisers were keen for it to go ahead as there were a few older crew looking forward to it.

The trio have spent the past few months trying to track people down and collate photographs of the time to show at the catch up. They are also collecting stories matter how small – and are keen to hear from people working in any of the yards and who they worked with and what they did at the time.

We want the workers’ stories, Mrs Naish said.

Anyone wanting to register, or who has a story to tell, or photographs from any of the Burnetts operations in any of the yards, or social events, that can be loaned for copying or be emailed can contact Mrs Naish via tonyjanenaish@nullgmail.com or by phone on 3082272 and leave a message.

– by Toni Williams