Five Ways to Remember: Butching

This butcher fellow was only an employee in one of the two butcher shops in Five Ways. He was very very helpful. If I asked for a set of brains of a sheep (or perhaps of an idiot) I got them always large and soggy. He was about as obscure with his dirty jokes as the people I know now.

Harry Edgar White, c.1905

Uncle Harry had a bag full of meat – a Gladstone bag full – not of good quality but still meat. It was 1917 sometime, Uncle Percy had been killed in France (1). Perhaps only Grandpa White. The kids needed meat, otherwise Uncle Harry would hardly have gone to all those shenanigans to get it. He got around saying little against the Railway strikes. He said little against anybody. I suppose that’s how he got it. Meat was hard to come by. Possibly he was the only pink in the white White household. True Blue rinsed White our family, circumspect and unquestioning, we ate the red red meat.

It’s not much good trying to tell you what a butcher was like in the bad old days and just after I started running messages for two families for a penny a day, I got to recognise meat when I saw it. Dead that is; and off a lawfully killed scrub goat or bobby calf.

Uncle Percy, did I mention Uncle Percy? No, it was Uncle Harry, he was the longest thinnest one of all. You never knew, anyway, any of them. Harry or Percy, Uncle for sure, had, round about nineteen sixteen or seventeen, a work bag one day, full of meat. Quite full, enough to do all the White family a meal, and there were plenty of Whites in Paddo then. Modern social science calls for an extended practical education, but one peep in that old Gladstone taught me one aspect of it for life. Never had I imagined that such seemingly warm and jovial people as my uninhibited relations were, could be sustained by those unpalatable and revolting slabs of meat – perhaps it was the meat strike which had affected their discrimination.

Afterwards I took much notice of the old butch shops. It might seem Dickensian to you but they were a source of wonder and colour in my youth. A butcher really butchered in those days. The shop meat and fat, blood, sawdust ferns, running water down the windows, lights (or lungs to you) in buckets, livers on hooks, brains in the head, tails in the hair, yards of sausage gut skin, smiles, plastered down hair and credit too. None of your prefabricated T-bone steak or short loin chop which extends from tail to neck. No plastics – no prices.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1974]

Driver Percy Rowett White, October 1917

Notes:

  1. Percy Rowett White enlisted 5 Sep 1916. He died from wounds, 24 April 1918 at Amiens, France.
  2. Freddie Thompson and Son, Butchers, Glenmore Road
  3. George Low’s Butcher shop, Glenmore Road

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