Why JA Martin
In June 1967 John Martin was at a crossroads, should he go underground as a pit electrician or start a business and work for himself?
John decided to pass on the big mining wages which at that time were in the order of $56.00/week for an electrician and instead he started JA Martin Electrical.
Having a base workload maintaining equipment at J&A Brown Hexham Washery was important and gradually he picked up the maintenance of other industries in the area. John also picked up a bit of cottage and house rewiring on the side, but Industrial work was his forte.
The first employee Greg Martin (no relation) was a handy asset given his sister was on the switch at J&A Brown’s main office and would transfer telephone calls to us.
Back in those days communications was a major problem as John had to regularly check with home, or the J&A Brown switch to see if he was required for a breakdown. Needless to say, he was a big user of public telephones!
First tradesman was (the late) Graham Nevin who was employed at $100.00/50hour week. We used the Award System as the minimum employment entitlements at that time.
With the business starting to gain momentum, Dallas Fletcher & Bob Dunn joined JAM as first year apprentices in early November 1973, on a 3 month probation period. It wasn’t until 4th February 1974 that the boys signed their indenture papers.
By the end of 1974, the JA Martin team was, John Martin as the owner, and Ivan (Jeff) Brown, Graham Nevin, and Greg Martin all as Tradesmen Electricians, plus the 2 apprentices.
The JA Martin fleet consisted of a three Holden 1ton utes, a Toyota High Ace Van, and Ford Falcon Panel Van. These were fitted with rudimentary valve operated 2 way radios.
Dallas has fond memories of his first job working out of John Martin’s garage, drilling and wiring Meter Panels for milk vat installations on dairy farms around the Hunter Valley for the OAK Milk Factory.
JA Martin’s Main Clients then were:
- Coal and Allied Hexham Coal Washery
- Raymond Terrace Blue Metal and Gravel Quarry
- Monier Concrete Products at Sandgate and Edgeworth
- Steetley Commercial Minerals at Sandgate
- Carrington Industrial Galvanisers at Hexham
- Steel Mains Pipes at Hexham
- Hexham Bowling Club
- Charles David Abattoir at Warabrook
Dallas remembers going to Industrial Galvanisers, an old plant with vats of acid, alkaline, and molten zinc. If a crane broke down over these vats, the only option to repair them was to put a ladder on the crane rail and climb up over the vat. There was no EWP’s then and WHS was not what it is nowadays!
During 1974, John moved out of his garage setup and into premises at Tomago, initially sharing a workshop with Raelec Engineering (now known as Ampcontrol). After a couple of years, John purchased the land for where the current JA Martin Tomago premises are located and built a workshop and office.
1975-76 saw work initially in the timber mill industry (in association with Raelec) where they completed works at East Maitland, Millfield, Kyogle, Gloucester, Orbost, and Canberra.
After John secured major works for Charles David Abattoir at Gosford which included wiring of a new Meal Plant, wiring of new Cold Storage rooms, wiring of a new kill floor, and rewiring of the blood house, the next 2 years were spent doing similar projects.
Safety requirements in the late 70’s and early 80’s were very basic and it was not uncommon for staff to work in shorts, t-shirt, and Dunlop Volleys, a far cry from today’s requirements.
The early 80’s saw JA Martin starting to do installation works in the Cotton Industry as well as carrying out works on coal mine sites in the Hunter Valley, Singleton area.
Train loader systems were becoming big business at Mine sites and they were to become the precursor for Iron Ore train loaders, then done for Anderson Rea, aka Long Airdox, and now Schenck Process, for whom we are still carrying out this type of work today.
The early mining and cotton work saw JA Martin rely on Raelec/Ampcontrol for low voltage switchboards needs, however Raelec ventured into the High Voltage market place, which created a void for JA Martin to fill. This was the beginning of JA Martin’s LV Switchboard manufacturing.
The switchboard section evolved into a major part of the business over the years, which allowed JA martin to expand their Design, Engineering, and Drawing Department.
The late 1990’s and early 2000’s saw the eminent retirement of John Martin, so Dave Priestley, Phil Lowbridge, and Dave Winchester were promoted through the ranks as reward for their hard work and dedication to the company. In the ensuing years these guys along with Dallas Fletcher became predominantly responsible for the “modernisation” of JA Martin Electrical, bringing it into the ISO9001 accredited company we know today. While Dallas retired early in 2013 the other 3 guys remain with the business to this day……