Work among the gum trees
SUMMER HOLIDAY READING
DES Lamprell has been right at home for more than 40 years cutting eucalyptus leaves and distilling oil.
He even cut and distilled a vat of leaves to pay for his honeymoon when marrying wife Marlene 46 years ago, reaping the then princely sum of $300.
“It was back in 1980, I was working in the flour mill but the dust was no good for my health and would have died if I had stayed there,” Des said.
“This job came up (at Bosistos) harvesting and distilling eucalyptus leaves, I applied and got it. There was fresh air and open spaces ... birds and nature ... and tractors, too.”
Des was glad to be working outdoors and for many years he was the only employee working the Inglewood and Glenalbyn
areas for Bosistos.
Bosistos’ CEO Henry Minson said: “My father-in-law Peter Abbott, who owns the business, was involved in employing Des and in those days Des would have everything done on his own.
“Des would distil two bins in the morning and cut in the afternoon,” he said. “He had a rhythm and it worked.”
Henry says Des would have a two-year cycle moving between the sites where the company had a licence to cut in the forests.
“He did it very well, enjoying the solitude and effectively being his own boss.
“As the operation evolved, Des has had a bigger part in training and schooling staff - his son Leigh who came to us about seven years ago and other staff.
“Des has skilled them in the art of harvesting eucalyptus leaves, distilling and managing the boiler.
“He’s very knowledgeable and has been very helpful.”
The growth of the eucalyptus oil industry saw Des have a local workforce of six when he retired last week.
The FGB company that includes Bosistos now has 1500 hectares under plantation where more than four million blue Mallee trees have been planted.
The skills Des has learned and shared over four decades have seen him become an industry icon and featured on rural tele-vision programs.
It’s a far cry from “jack of all trades” tag he says he had before the “life saving” job come up.
“When I left school, I worked for a grocery shop and would ride a bicycle making deliveries, I’ve carted water, was at the flour mill, picked tomatoes, worked for the shire for a while,” Des said.
“But I’ve loved being here cutting and distilling leaves. The area has been harvested for well over 100 years years.”
Retirement will mean time to begin tinkering more with his collection of tractors and agricultural machinery.
“I’ve got more than 100 although a lot of them don’t go,” he said.
And he is also an active member of Inglewood Historical Society.
Des and Marlene know the family tradition in the eucalyptus industry will be continued by son Leigh who takes on the role of farm manager.
“I’ll still pop by and perhaps do some casual work still,” Des said.