Apprentice Mechanic at Burgess of Keith by Peter MacLeman

Peter’s family background was in farming but he wanted to train as a mechanic. He went to Inverness Technical College at the age of 16 in 1961 to train for a City and Guild course in Mechanics. When completed the qualification he went back to Keith to work for the garage, Burgess of Keith. The work involved dealing with farm machinery, tractors, vans and pickups. Generally he worked Monday to Friday but he could be called out at the weekend. The pay was £7 a week. He really enjoyed the work. next he worked for Barclays in Portsoy working with haulage vehicles and livestock carriers. Later on was a Glenfiddich Distillery as a fireman stoking fires under the stills. The work was very warm as you would imagine and very hard.

The shifts were as follows:–
Day shift     7.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Back shift   3.00 p.m.- 11 p.m.
Night shift 11 p.m. – 7.00 a.m.

The days would work as follows:-
7 days Day shift  then 3 days off
7 day Back shift then 3 days off
7 day Night shift and then 3 days off

The weekend had 12 hour shifts during the holidays. When the mechanic was suddenly taken ill Peter stood in for him and ended up staying in the new position for the next 14 years (the original mechanic retired). Later Peter went to work on the transport vehicles including HGVs. He took his licence to drive them.

While working at the distilleries in those days there were daily dramming sessions, usually three – morning, lunchtime and afternoon when the employees were served with a dram of clearic whisky. Clearic is the pure spirit whisky straight out of the still before being sent to storage barrels to mature.

Memory contributed by Peter MacLeman


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