Environmental News

Ron Durrington: Five decades of dedication to business improvement

Ron Durrington, fondly known as Durro, was in 2016 presented with his 50 years’ service award by Boral.

He has worked at the same work site, in Grafton, for the same organisation, Boral and its predecessors BMI Group and Fraser’s Timber, continuously for that time.

{{image2-a:r-w:200}}Durro is widely known throughout the industry in northern New South Wales and respected for his broad knowledge, his willingness to mentor others, including successive quarry managers, and his ability to master machinery.

His regular role is the operation of a custom-built long reach excavator that, chained to a barge, extracts sand and aggregates from the Clarence River. After years of operating one of the cranes that preceded the new excavation system, Durro’s knowledge was instrumental in the new system’s design.

Similarly, his extensive experience proved invaluable in redesigning the quarry’s crushing plant. His advice in relation to the new wash plant proved the key in increasing the quarry’s production capacity.

Durro is not ambitious in a conventional sense. However, he has a driving desire to maximise his own productivity and the business’ output. His willingness to embrace change has made him a key employee for successive quarry managers.

His empathy with machinery and equipment is evident in the operator tickets he has acquired – nine in all – including marine operation of vessels and barges.


1966-1969 – Timber yard labourer, machinist, foreman, quarry operator

Durro’s father Lloyd worked at Fraser’s Timber, on the bank of the Clarence River. At high school, in the early 1960s, Durro earned pocket money at the timber mill on weekends, painting cross-arms and timber blocks for export.

He was already a valued employee when he accepted a permanent job as a labourer in 1966, at the age of 15.

Durro rapidly acquired skills as a machinist, saw-sharpener and foreman.

His memory of those early days is dominated by the camaraderie of the workforce. Many of the employees were very experienced and he recalls that they mentored and generally “looked out” for him.

The experience would fashion his own behaviour in later life, when he made it his business to see that new employees understood their tasks and were able to perform them safely.

1969-1983 – Quarry operator and truck driver

Durro moved to the concrete side of the business for a trial period, driving yard trucks “and shovelling”, and later delivering quarry products to customers throughout the Clarence district.

In those days, truckloads of aggregates were judged by volume, not weight. The driver was expected to level the load with a shovel, a task Durro attacked with customary enthusiasm. His best day was 17 loads in a six-wheel tipper.

He gained a reputation as a handy man with a spanner and was introduced to other aspects of the concrete supply business that operated in conjunction with the sand and gravel quarry operation.

Development and high population growth in the region ensured robust demand for construction materials, and the operation steadily grew. BMI Group took over Fraser’s business in 1978. Boral took over BMI in 1983.

1983-present – Quarry operator

At 27, Durro was an experienced hand when Boral took over Grafton Quarry. When the quarry devised a dredging system to extract sand and aggregates from the Clarence, using two cranes working in tandem, Durro was first in line for a crane operator’s job.

It was a skilled role, particularly given the high potential risks of two cranes working close together. The cranes operated without incident from inception until – due to revised, more stringent safety regulations – they were retired in 2012.

Durro is the senior operator of the excavator that succeeded the dual crane system.


Part of Durro’s great value is that he has performed every production role in the quarry. Successive managers have noted his willingness to tackle any job, large or small, and the skills he brings to those tasks, including construction techniques such as concrete form work, operating machinery, contributing business and safety improvement ideas and performing training roles.

{{image3-a:r-w:200}}“He is always the first man to pick up a shovel,” Grafton Quarry manager Brad Doyle said.

Durro contributed advice and ideas when a crushing plant was constructed and he was instrumental in problem-solving when a new wash plant, installed as part of the project, proved to be a bottleneck.

He recalled that heavy siltation was characteristic of Clarence River quarry products and suggested the design should be modified to introduce more washing water. His instinct proved correct. The plant promptly doubled its nameplate output.

Durro was a key adviser when a new barge-borne, single long-reach excavator system was proposed.

Operating such equipment on water has inherent stability problems and this presented design challenges. Doyle relied heavily on Durro’s operational experience in devising systems to secure the excavator and dampen the impact of the jib’s movement on the barge and the receiving vessel, The Deepwater, to which the barge was tethered.

Durro also played a part in the design of a customised grab bucket, for the excavator to retrieve sand and gravel from the river bed.

The system won a continuous improvement award and was nominated for safety, innovation and environmental awards.

Throughout his career, Durro has amassed nine operator tickets to operate heavy mobile equipment. They remain current and include:
•  Heavy combination driver’s licence.
•  Truck and dog operation.
•  Semi-trailer operation.
•  Coxswain (to operate tug).
•  Crane – lattice.
•  Crane – hydraulic.
•  Front-end loader.
•  Excavator.
•  Forklift.


Durro is a great team contributor. When new employees are hired, Durro is assigned to train them in various operational tasks.

His colleagues universally respect his knowledge and he is a “go to” person for advice for workmates and management. Successive managers have found Durro’s counsel and experience profoundly valuable.

{{image4-a:r-w:200}}Away from the site, Durro is an ambassador for Boral, enthusing others with his obvious love for his work and the company.

Durro’s experience extends beyond the quarry. His early truck driving role brought him into contact with customers and the public, to whom he was always unfailingly polite.

On a memorable occasion, Durro was driving a load through Grafton when a funeral procession appeared, about to cross his path. He swiftly pulled to the side of the road, removed his hat and respectfully bowed his head as the cortege passed.

This came to light when a participant in the funeral procession phoned the quarry manager to effusively praise the driver’s courteous behaviour. (Naturally, the workmate who radioed Durro to tell him the manager wanted to see him as soon as he got back helpfully added: “Boy, are you in trouble, Durro!” He was relieved to receive praise instead of scorn.)

All of Durro’s performance reviews have commented on his general helpfulness and his positive attitude to work and life in general.

Durro has been married to Elaine for 45 years. They have “a pigeon pair” – a boy and girl – and four grandchildren. Durro cooks Elaine’s breakfast every day; she packs his lunch and sets him on his way (until four years ago, he rode his bicycle to work). Aaron, their son, works in the quarry’s laboratory.


Durro is devoted to his work at Grafton Quarry and to the Grafton and Boral communities.

Business improvement at Grafton Quarry has been his life’s work and he has been happy to pass on his knowledge and experience to others.

He is a legend in the quarrying industry locally and, within Boral, throughout the region. On several occasions, Durro has been seconded to other Boral quarries in northern NSW, either to assist in specific projects or to train others. He has always done this with distinction.

His legacy has been appreciated by two generations of quarrymen and women. His knowledge and experience have influenced scores of workmates over the years.


Quarry materials often end up in monuments, but quarrying itself is largely an anonymous process.

Ron Durrington is an unsung hero of the process – a man who loves his work and performs each task with forethought and to the best of his ability.

An early workplace accident, which resulted in the reconstruction of his right hand, made an indelible impression. Ever since, Durro has been meticulous about safety and an enthusiast for the safety improvements that have taken place throughout his long career.

He praises Boral as a company that goes above and beyond regulated safety standards. He uses “Take Five”, SafeStart and other safety programs as the basis for all his actions, not just at work but elsewhere. He is proactive in reporting near misses and potential hazards.

As a result, at the age of 66, Durro has been a highly productive employee who inspires and mentors others. He has been greatly valued by a succession of quarry managers and by Boral management generally.

Durro has recently announced he will be retiring in mid-2017 after 51 years working at the corner of Fitzroy and Turf streets in Grafton.

His skill, knowledge and friendship will be greatly missed by all he has worked with throughout his long and successful career.

He is a complete quarryman and, having worked at the same site for the same organisation for 51 years, his remarkable work record is unlikely to be rivalled at any time. He is thoroughly deserving of the Sydenham (Syd) Hill Industry Award.

The IQA Sydenham Hill Industry Award, sponsored by Retracom, recognises the demonstrable achievements of a quarry professional, not only within the IQA but the quarrying industry at large. To self-apply or nominate a colleague within the industry, submissions should be forwarded to the IQA by 31 August, 2017. To view a copy of the application form, visit quarry.com.au/Networking/Awards/2017AwardInformation.aspx

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend