Thanet’s long-serving dustman Ross Palmer retires after almost four decades of keeping the isle clean

Ross Palmer is looking forward to a lie in!

One of Thanet’s longest serving dustmen has retired after almost 39 years .

Ross Palmer put away his gloves and hi-vis last Friday after almost four decades of 4am work starts!

Ross, nick-named Ross-co by colleagues in a reference to the 80s series the Dukes of Hazzard, started his rounds in 1978.

He spoke to Katie Newton about work, changes over the years and being asked to take away someone’s pet!

39 years  is a long time, Ross! Tell us more…

Well, I started in 1978 as a dustman. I’ve helped collect waste and recycling from pretty much the whole of the district in that time. And despite the jokes, funnily enough I have enjoyed my time here – you couldn’t spend 39 years somewhere and not enjoy it really! I’ve got on well with everyone, so that’s helped

Things must have changed quite a lot in that time?
Yes! A lot has changed. At the start, I would ride on the big metal plates which were on the back of the dust carts. This was obviously before any health and safety came in! We’d just ride around and jump off to collect the bins, which is quite different to what we do now. Health and safety has definitely changed since those days.

Has your role changed much in the 39 years?
I’ve moved around a bit, but I still class myself as a dustman. I love being with a crew, but also enjoy working on my own. More recently, I’ve been driving one of the smaller vans to collect rubbish from restricted areas, like alleyways, tracks and farmland. I’m on first name terms with a lot of the people I collect rubbish from, which is always nice. They’ve given me cards to thank me for my work as they know I’m retiring this week.

Have you got any funny stories about your time here?
I have quite a few!

Years ago, I was asked to take a pet away for a customer who was clearing a house for man who had passed away. We didn’t want the pet to go uncared for, so a colleague and I agreed to help take it away in the van to its new home. We didn’t ask much about the pet before we had arranged collection, and couldn’t believe it when we turned up and were showed round the back of the house and there stood a donkey! When you think ‘pet’ you certainly don’t expect to see that waiting for you! As I say, it was years ago now – we wouldn’t get away with that now!

Another funny memory I have is working with Alan Farra, who left a couple of years back (many of the team over in Manston Road will remember him!). We were out collecting an old carpet from the side of a shed. I picked up the carpet, swung it round for Al to catch. Little did I know, in the rolls of the carpet was a wasp’s nest! I’ve never seen Alan run so fast…he just dropped the carpet and legged it!

What are you most looking forward to about retiring?
Definitely the lie-ins! After 39 years getting up at 4am, I’m certainly going to have to re-train myself to stay in bed longer!

Are there retirement celebrations on the cards?
I’m sure there will be with my family, yes! It’s quite a milestone.