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Story Highlights

  • Twenty-six retirees of spirit distillers, J. Wray and Nephew Limited, who have collectively given over 800 years of service to that entity.
  • The retirees, all men, were recognized for service, ranging up to 50 years.
  • Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, headed the guests attending the luncheon.

Some 26 retirees of spirit distillers, J. Wray and Nephew Limited, who have collectively given over 800 years of service to that entity, were recently honoured during a special luncheon hosted by the firm in Mandeville, Manchester.

The retirees, all men, were recognized for service, ranging up to 50 years, which they gave at various levels and in several capacities at J. Wray and Nephew’s agriculture division. These included positions on the farms, and in the factories, distilleries, and administrative departments at the Appleton and New Yarmouth sugar estates in St. Elizabeth and Clarendon respectively.

Their inputs over the years were deemed to have contributed significantly to J. Wray and nephew’s development into one of Jamaica’s leading spirit distillers. In this regard, they were presented with special commemorative plaques.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, headed the guests attending the luncheon, held at Neil’s Auditorium, Ward Avenue, Mandeville. Others joining J. Wray and Nephew’s company directors, managers, and line staff included: union delegates; and family members.

In a glowing tribute, Senior Director of the Agriculture Division, Ian Maxwell, noted that the honourees were instrumental in modernizing the firm’s operations by assisting in various inputs which transitioned the entity into the 21st century.

“You would have witnessed and participated in the numerous changes and challenges that faced this company over the years. I am quite sure you are proud to have been…members of the team that has transformed our operations from a third world… to…first world (standard),” he said.

Citing examples, Mr. Maxwell said the field workers assisted in transitioning the reaping process from manual to mechanical methods, and significantly modernizing the irrigation procedure through the introduction of drip irrigation systems. The latter, he informed, helped to significantly increase sugar cane yield, pointing out that one of the estates recorded outputs totaling approximately 170,000 tonnes per hectare.

The Senior Director also pointed to significant developments occurring in the factories and distilleries at both estates. These, he outlined, included: re-tooling and modernizing of factory operations through the implementation of an automated process to facilitate the milling of 150 tonnes of cane per hour, up from 65 tonnes; construction of state of the art bagasse operated boilers to replace three older outdated versions; installation of five new 5000 gallon stills at Appleton’s distillery; and replacement of old fermenters at New Yarmouth’s distillery with modern versions.

Mr. Maxwell also pointed to significant developments recorded by J. Wray and Nephew in environmental preservation.

“You (retirees) have helped us in the transformation  from the (less than ideal) way in which we used to dispose our waste from the distillery…(and) we have moved in a more environmentally friendly (manner) whereby the waste is now applied to the cane fields to take advantage of its nutrient value,” he outlined.

While noting that “we are still not there yet”, Mr. Maxwell said the firm will be moving to advance the treating process to the stage where “we can recycle the end product in our production process.” He informed that J. Wray and Nephew hopes to commission a treatment facility into service by the 2015 sugar cane crop season.

The senior director also highlighted the work of persons attached to the administration department, whom he said were instrumental in the upgrading of the firm’s management information system (MIS). This undertaking, he pointed out, “has greatly enhanced (efforts) in managing our business in a very efficient way.”

He said retired members of the administration department also played a part in developing J. Wray and Nephew’s recreational programme and activities.

“You have helped in the development of our playfield, inclusive of the cricket pitch, the fencing, the lighting, and the (general) upkeep of the recreational areas. As a result, we have one of the top football teams in the (Jamaica Football Federation’s) South-Central Confederation area, comprising St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth, (the team) having made it to the semi-finals of that (that region’s major) competition last (2012/13) season,” the director stated.

He also had high praises for retirees who represented Jamaica in various sporting disciplines. Among those singled out were footballer, Altamont McKenzie, former safety manager and distillery manager at Appleton; and cricketer, William Haye, who was attached to New Yarmouth.

Mr. Maxwell noted that J. Wray and Nephew has experienced “changes of ownership” of its parent company, particularly over the last decade, with the latest being Gruppo  Campari out of Italy.

“We are proud to be a part of…Gruppo Campari, which ranks sixth in the world (as a spirit distiller)…and that was before the takeover of J. Wray and Nephew Limited. I can safely say that with the inclusion of J. Wray and Nephew Limited in the Campari Group, this ranking will improve considerably in a short space of time,’ he stated.

The director also thanked the families of the retirees for their support in enabling the honourees to contribute extensively to J. Wray and Nephew’s development.

“To the wives and spouses and members of the retirees’ families, you have loaned us these gentlemen for many years and many of them have spent more time with us than with you. Many times they had to leave their beds to attend to emergencies at the workplace. We thank you wholeheartedly for bearing with us because we would not have made it without them,’ he said.

In expressing gratitude to the retirees on behalf of the management, Mr. Maxwell said “I would like you to know that your years of service and, sometimes, personal sacrifice have been well appreciated and, in this small way, we show our appreciation through this gathering when we celebrate with you and your spouses, the end of another era in your lives. I wish for you, good health, plenty of rest and long life.”

In his remarks, Minister Clarke, who also worked at Appleton as farm manager, described J. Wray and Nephew’s recognition of the retirees as a “fine gesture” and a happy occasion for them.

“Congratulations to Appleton for putting on this (function). It is the least that you can do to the people who have given their lives to the service of the company, and they did it, not for any great gain; your (retirees) loyalty to the company is unquestioned,’ he said.

In lauding the honourees for their sterling service, the Minister noted that: “the contributions that you (retirees) have made in the growth and development of the industry is something that you must be commended for. Wray and Nephew is what it is because of your… hard work and your dedication.”

Mr. Clarke pointed out that many, if not all of the retirees, “will leave with a heavy heart”, having grown attached to their jobs and the entity.

“There are some (persons who) get so attached to the job that…some of you might even want (to) go back to work. Those are some of the tings which will give you some (nostalgic memories) for a (long) time, the attachment that you have (had) for your jobs,’ he noted.

The Minister, however, encouraged them to enjoy their deservedly earned retirement, emphasizing that “this is the time, now, when you must put up your feet and feel at ease.”

“I hail you; I congratulate you. You have been a wonderful set of people. You have done (great) service to your company, you have done (great) service to your country…you have done yourselves…your country and your company well…and for that you are fully and truly (deserving of being) recognized. (For this) Wray and Nephew will always grow from strength to strength,” Mr. Clarke said.

Replying on behalf of the honourees, Altamont McKenzie, expressed appreciation for J. Wray and Nephew’s gesture, noting that “it’s good to get the recognition while you are around and still going strong.”

Human Resource Manager, Venton Brown, advised that a workshop to assist the honourees to transition into post retirement is being planned for later in the year.