Whistle blast part of town life again

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Nigel Oakey and Alep Mydie prepare to sound the Katanning Flour Mill whistle for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Camera IconNigel Oakey and Alep Mydie prepare to sound the Katanning Flour Mill whistle for the first time in nearly 40 years. Credit: Picture: Jennifer Shepherd

After nearly four decades of silence, the firm blast of the Katanning mill whistle was greeted by everyone at the Katanning Harmony Festival last Saturday.

Crowds gathered outside the Premier Mill Hotel to watch Dome Cafe Group managing director Nigel Oakey sound the whistle for the first time since the closure of the mill in 1981.

For generations, the old flour mill whistle marked the start and end of the working day in town — and signalled the breaks in between.

Premier Mill Hotel.
Camera IconPremier Mill Hotel. Credit: Allan Myles

The sound of the whistle was long a prominent part of Katanning daily life and its restoration has been anticipated by many.

“The mill whistle was so much more than just a tool to mark time for the factory,” Mr Oakey said.

“It has a strong emotional memories and connection for a lot of people in Katanning.

“Just the other day we had a lovely message from folk on a farm 2km away who were very excited to hear the 12 o’clock whistle. Everyone in town seems to miss the sound of the whistle.”

The mill whistle is now back to being a part of daily life and will continue to sound every day at midday and 6pm.

“Thanks must be given to the ingenuity of the Collie Railway Heritage that restored the whistle to working order and re-installed it at the mill,” Mr Oakey said.

“I am also thankful for the Men’s Shed Group and local engineer extraordinaire Daniel Crane who helped in the restoration process.”

Mr Oakey said there would be a daily draw for anyone who would like the chance to sound the mill whistle.

The winning “whistleblower” will be given a special limited-edition badge to mark the occasion.

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