Ian hangs up his cleaning gear

A GRANDFATHER who started working on sewage tankers more than 40 years ago - abandoning dreams of a football career - has hung up his cleaning gear.After starting his working life in a chicken processing factory at 15, Ian Thompson, from Mildenhall, switched to the rather less desirable role of collecting waste from cess pits across the town a couple of years later.

A GRANDFATHER who started working on sewage tankers more than 40 years ago - abandoning dreams of a football career - has hung up his cleaning gear.

After starting his working life in a chicken processing factory at 15, Ian Thompson, from Mildenhall, switched to the rather less desirable role of collecting waste from cess pits across the town a couple of years later.

But since then he has risen up the ranks to become a senior refuse, recycling and street cleaning manager for Forest Heath District Council.

Now, however, the 61-year-old father-of-two and grandfather-of-four has decided it is time to move on.


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Mr Thompson was 17 when he joined the then Mildenhall Rural District Council working on what were ironically nicknamed the “honey” carts.

He said: “I left my job at the time and saw the job for the sewage trucks advertised in the local paper and thought I would give it a go - I did have dreams of becoming a professional footballer but settled on this for career.

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“In those days the waste from the toilet would run to a hole at the end of the garden of each house, then we would put pipes in and pump it all out.”

“I was then asked to work on the refuse trucks for part of the time but I was working on them more than I liked so they moved me back to the sewage trucks full-time. A few months down the line I was told there was a job on the sewers and I never looked back.”

In 1974, when the rural district councils joined together in Mildenhall and Newmarket to form Forest Heath, Mr Thompson took on a new role of sewage and refuse foreman. He was responsible for both the Newmarket and Mildenhall depots.

Then in 1980 Anglian Water took over the sewers, and Mr Thompson began working on refuse as a foreman, which then transformed into recycling and street cleaning.

He played a key role in the area's recycling efforts in the area, which led to Forest Heath becoming second best recycling unit in the country in 2006.

Mr Thompson said he was sad to go: “All we want to do is empty the bins and clean the streets. We have done a lot of work with educating people about recycling, and resources might have to be put in to keep up what we achieved.

“Now I am retiring I will probably get a part-time job to keep me going, so I won't be relaxing completely just yet.”

Mr Thompson is also celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary with his wife Joan this year.

lorraine.price@eadt.co.uk

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