Memories of the meat trade

Many people in the district will know the name Bill Waring.  He spent his entire working life in the meat industry – as did his father and grandfather before him.  In this series exclusive to N8N Bill shares his memories of a significant part of the area’s commercial history.

My Grandfather, A H (Harry) Waring, was the son of George Thomas Waring, a cattle buyer of Aston on Clun, Herefordshire England. On emigrating to New Zealand in 1881, and after a time as the butcher at Woodlands Estate at Hukanui (now Gordonton), he established a butchery business at Taupiri.  At the same time he purchased 1770 acres of land two miles from the Taupiri village, with some good flat pasture and ridges, the balance in peat swamp. The `home paddock’ fronted on to a road that eventually was to carry the name Waring Road. From a humble shed in 1896, he built a butcher shop in the village.

Judging by a meat invoice (unfortunately misplaced) made out by Horwood and Waring – Butchers, Huntly, to a Mr Collins of Huntly South in 1902, it  appears that just after the turn of the century, a branch shop was also established for a time in Huntly.

Harry Waring married Mary Speake, almost in the manner of a mail bride. The story is that my grandfather, while working at Woodlands Estate, was sharing a Sunday moment with a John Speake, both recent immigrants from England. John was showing Harry some photos of his family that included his sisters. Harry, referring to one of the sisters, remarked, “She is lovely, if she came out here I would marry her.”  That is exactly what happened; she and some others of her family came to New Zealand.  A courtship of around 12 months was followed by a wedding at St Peters in Hamilton.

From this Waring/Speake union were born five boys and five girls.  Unfortunately of these two died while young: a boy was killed (scalded) and a girl through illness.

Of the boys only Robert and Willie showed any aptitude for the meat trade, although during their absence during the First World War years, the two elder sisters Gertrude and Rita had to assist in the business.

After World War 1 my father, Willie Waring,  at 25 years of age, purchased from his father the Taupiri Butchery and also through the Soldiers’ Settlers Farming Scheme, 96 acres that included the slaughterhouse and adjacent paddocks. This land was sold to the Government by A H Waring (Grandfather) and immediately sold on to my father.

A few years later, Father replaced the shop that had been the original meat retail outlet for Taupiri.  This would have occurred about 1929 as I started school towards the end of  1930 and the new shop was completed by the time I commenced.  By the standards of the time, this shop was as modern as the pre-depression period knew. It was built of double brick and was plaster lined. It had stainless steel hanging rails, marble counters and a `chopping block’ of kauri, plus a six-legged cutting table made of compressed brick-sized wooden blocks, again kauri.

Butchers on Victoria St, 1927. Supplied by Perry Rice, Hamilton Central Library

A rotating-drum Avery scale was used for retail sales, and a Steel Yard weighing scale for heavier cuts. Sales were recorded on a Remington cash register.

For the cool room’s insulation, pumice stones had been rammed into a 12-inch wall cavity between a concrete wall and dressed native tongue and groove timber boards. A concrete brine tub was also situated in the cool room. This cool room was initially refrigerated by compressed ammonia pipes, a large fan distributing the refrigerated air through ducts in the wall.  Finally there was a cool room door, large and thick enough to have graced the outer defences of any feudal castle.

On the plastered shop floor, slightly graded for drainage, was always a thick matting of freshly spread manuka sawdust.  In the rear was the small goods manufacturing room  and adjacent to same was a second, larger ammonia ice making plant (it must be remembered that `ice’ was the popular means of refrigeration at that time).

Ice was sold commercially from this shop until a few years later when the ice making machine was traded for shares in the new `Alpine Ice Cream Company’ established in Huntly.  The three shareholders were Mac McDonald, George Jew and Bill Waring.  This building is today part of Roger Gill Motors, just north of the Huntly bypass. The Alpine Ice Cream Company was later sold to Robinson’s Ice Cream Co., who later sold it on to the emerging giant in that field, TipTop Ice Cream Co.

The meat retail operation was supplied by the 96-acre farm, with its own abattoir and piggeries, only one and a half miles away.

As stated (and I say it again because some would have it that it was a gift from Grandfather to Dad), this property, originally part of my grandfather’s holdings, was purchased by my father through the government rural loans available at that time for returned soldiers from World War 1. The farm was used for fattening sheep and cattle purchased as forward stock, sometimes well-bred cattle from William’s, Gisborne. Gisborne cattle had a good grass to meat conversion ratio.  Any shortfall in required numbers of prime cattle were purchased at the weekly Frankton Saleyards and railed to the Taupiri railway yards, offloaded and driven through Taupiri to the farm.

Cattle and sheep that had been selected at the farm for slaughter were stood in holding yards adjacent to the abattoir over night to ’empty out’ and to ‘cool’ in order  to eliminate the possibility of bone taint.  The dressed carcasses were then hung, and having chilled overnight were brought to the shop early the following morning by a horse-drawn dray. The iron-shod hooves striking the wooden bridge that crossed the Komakorau Stream on the edge of the Taupiri Village was my alarm clock for many a morning during my primary school days.

Looking Back, Chapter 2, is here.

Share this page:


Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

10 thoughts on “Memories of the meat trade

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: