Six million in 50 years.
That’s the estimated number of bricks Tommy Tung has laid in his career. After almost 51 years in the industry, the veteran bricklayer is laying down his trowel.
Starting as a 15-year-old apprentice with A.W. Nicholson in January 1966, Mr Tung learned all the aspects of building in his training while specialising in the difficult bricklaying craft.
The Garden of the Grieving Mother will be Mr Tung’s final job, a project he thought was fitting to finish his working life.
At a presentation at the site, Mr Tung received recognition for his years of work from Nicholson Construction directors Dean Stevens and Richard Nicholson and former general manager Joe Bentley.
“When the Grieving Mother project came along… there was only one bricklayer that came to my mind that needed to do this project,” Richard Nicholson said.
“It’s very fitting that this be your concluding project.”
Mr Tung says he had ‘made up his mind’ to be a bricklayer from a young age, studying at St Paul’s Technical College in Lydiard Street.
“It was hard work, very hard work, in the olden days, because there were no Readymix trucks or anything like that,” Mr Tung said.
“We had to pour all the concrete by hand and that sort of stuff. It took a few years to get onto the trowel.”
Mr Tung said he learned all of his trade with A.W. Nicholson, not just bricklaying.
‘Concreting; we used to help them put up the frames – we used to do everything.”
As for the most memorable projects he’s worked on, Mr Tung says there have been too many to make one stand out, but he’s very proud of the Garden of the Grieving Mother.
“This is a nice project, that’s why I said I’d do it. We’re doing all the paving here.”
Which leads to Mr Tung’s first port of call following his retirement – a trip to hospital for knee surgery after a lifetime of hard work on the ground, then pursuing his love of travel.
Mr Tung says his distinctive surname is a reflection of Ballarat’s gold mining heritage.
“Half-Irish and half-Chinese,” he says.