This family tradition of five generations of bricklayers would be very hard to beat anywhere in the world! You really need to be looking at the family tree, below, to follow all of the connected bricklayers in the Fleming clan. Amazingly this combined family of 21 bricklayers down through the generations since Great Grandfather William 1st, have laid the equivalent of 75 million bricks or 750 years of bricklaying between them.
That’s about 10,000 houses they’ve built!
Mark Fleming is nearly 61 years and runs his successful bricklaying business in the outer east of Melbourne. Like father, like son, Marks grandfather became a bricklayer. Marks grandfather and dad lived around Shepparton, starting out doing the brick chimneys etc on the mainly weatherboard WW11 soldier settlement houses up along the Murray River, moving wherever the work was. Each of Marks grandfather’s four sons became bricklayers, at the time not too unusual as it was common to follow in your father’s footsteps when work was hard to get.
However, that tradition carried on in part to the next generation when four more bricklayers emerged from (uncle) Ted Fleming, father of Jeff Fleming who studied at Preston and was Apprentice of the Year (now part of the North Melbourne Institute of TAFE).
The Holmesglen TAFE honour board lists two Flemings, cousin Jeff and son Luke.
Another uncles’ wife, (auntie) Rose Fleming was also a highly respected, qualified bricklayer based in Poowong in the heart of South Gippsland – now in her late 60’s she has only just retired. Mark employed her for several years “Rose is one of the best bricklayers I’ve ever hired. She was very highly regarded by the trade teams and could stand up for herself. She was petite in stature but could handle everything required by the job. Bricklayers don’t generally have to do the heavy lifting, but if she needed to she could and she used her sense – she’d put 35 bricks in a barrow, whereas I’d load 50”.
Mark reminds us “Times were much tougher on site in the past than today, conditions were poor for women. Even now though, the biggest issue is the other males. Some have no respect.” But, wait for it. Rose’s daughter Heather (Mark’s cousin) is also a qualified bricklayer in the Poowong district. Today Mark says it’s much more common to have females on the site, across many of the trades and most guys are very relaxed about it.
The story continues …Mark’s son Luke is now a qualified bricklayer in partnership with his father and the business is thriving. Luke started university and considered other careers but – when it’s in the blood, you can’t fight it! They currently have two apprentices who are doing extremely well. “We get them on the trowel from the start and they love it. But they come back from trade school with horror stories of apprentices still not on the trowel after 12 months.”
Mark has had 7 apprentices and knows how important it is to give them the hands-on training. He believes he’s paid back heaps in the quality of their work and therefore the efficiency and profit of the job. Mark’s is a gang of 5 at present, with Luke being his partner, 2 apprentices and a labourer on the team. Though generally home building is slow, Mark and Luke’s business has plenty of units and new houses ahead, plus a buffer of around 20% commercial work.
Mark is carrying on the proud family traditions and each day adding to the 75 million bricks the Fleming family has laid. A great Australian story.
General Manager, ABBTF