Field Day Interview Eveleigh Workshops – Ian Mair

Australian Workers Film Guide


Produced by the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, this is an interview with former Eveleigh Workshop worker Ian Mair. Once the centre of rail assembly and maintenance in New South Wales, the Eveleigh Railway Workshops now form part of the Australian Technology Park.

Ian Mair started work at Eveleigh in 1976 as a shop boy, which included taking tea and lunch orders, general office duties and the cleaning of wash buckets. He then became a junior labourer, a brickie’s labourer, a fitter’s assistant and then the youngest overhead crane driver in the workshops, which involved him lifted the locomotives. 

Mair talks about the tough nature of the working environment Eveleigh, which includes a story about a foreman dealing with cheeky shop boys or apprentices in the boxing ring. It was a strict working regime and management wanted to extract the maximum amount of production from the workers. Men washed in buckets as there were limited washing facilities, in the summer it was hot and in the winter it was cold. Mair describes the process of pouring molten metal and the manufacture on railway parts.

Mair equates the area of Alexandria in Sydney, where the Eveleigh Workshops were situated, to the heavily industrialised city of Birmingham in the England. He talks fondly of the Boundary Hotel, where most of the workers went to drink.  14 pubs in the area have now closed because governments, both Labor and Liberal, have shut down the manufacturing and the workshops and deskilled the workforce. Mair argues that this pillaging of industry has left people cash strapped with expensive rents and mortgages or living in Department of Housing in high rise accommodation.  He proposes that the Eveleigh Workshops are reopened and young people are given a chance to learn skills, instead of being thrown onto the dole heap. For Mair, Australia is no longer the lucky country.

Special Notes/Achievements

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 15 mins 39 secs

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