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Remember those days . . . Longtime friends (from left) Dick Pringle, Alan Finlay, Ted Lory and Mike Firman are thrilled to see the Phoenix Mill water wheel back up and running. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

The Phoenix Mill water wheel has always been an important part of Dick Pringle’s life.

As a teenager, he and friends Alan Finlay, Ted Lory and Mike Firman would often visit the spot to catch up with each other.

In 2011, the wheel was dismantled at its site in Old Mill Rd and placed in storage in Oamaru.

About that time, Mr Pringle helped form the Phoenix Mill Restoration Trust in a bid to restore the 10m-diameter wheel.

Over the years, planning, fundraising drives and countless volunteer hours were put into the restoration project.

Mr Pringle managed to rope in his old mates.

“We got a crew of local guys together – we sort of knew one another as teenagers.”

Each person involved put a substantial amount of work into the project, he said.

Mr Finlay said the group had patches of doubt over whether the wheel would be restored.

“There were times when we thought, ‘oh, this won’t happen in our time’,” he said.

During the restoration process, the group even lost a couple of other mates who had been involved.

So, when the wheel was returned to its original site in Old Mill Rd recently, the men were thrilled to see it returned to its former glory.

The historic wheel was special to Mr Pringle because each time he came back from his home in Australia, it would take him back to the good times with his mates.

“It’s all memories,” he said.

Listed as Category 2 with Heritage New Zealand, the wheel was installed at the site of the Phoenix Flour Mill in 1878 and used to power the mill before the mill building was removed in 1905.