Big thank you from

Where were the sanitary inspectors

The Rambler looks back at how hygiene used to be treated

The Rambler 16/02/2001

ALL the publicity about the food poisoning set me wondering.

How did people escape E. Coli and so on in the days when animals were slaughtered in outhouses on farms where there wasn't even basic hygiene? I recall how delighted we were on our way home from primary school to get a chance to operate a sausage-making machine in a local slaughter­house.

One lad fed the ingredients: chopped up meat, red powder into the bowl of the machine, another turned the handle, and a third, myself, kept an eye on the pipe where the seemingly endless skin twisted and turned like a live snake as the filling was rammed into it.

Did we even wash our hands first? I am quite sure we did not.

Washhand facilities would have comprised a bucket containing water from a nearby stream, a bar of soap and a non-too-clean towel, probably an opened-out cotton flour pack. Where were 'the sanitary officers' as they were called (now Public Health Inspectors)?

The background to my story is this. We were 'new fangled' with what was going on. It had not been long established.

A neighbour who had been in a management position in a leading town centre grocery business had been made redundant.


Farmers were fetching cattle home from fairs unsold as they, and other farm produce, had become almost unsaleable. They had no feeding for the animals and were in dire straits.

Victuallers from the town were still hawking their wares locally, but Tommy X saw a chance to cut out the middlemen and make a few quid.

He got the use of a disused shed from a neighbouring farmer, put in a concrete floor, a few benches made from disused railway sleepers, a stout metal ring at floor level far slaughtering purposes, and his premises were ready – no plans, no license, no nothing, and definitely no humane killer.

Then he got a fat beast from a farmer who was almost ready to give one away, persuaded the local pig butcher to slaughter the animal, skin it and carve it up.

Next, he got an old banger of a motorcar - a T model Ford, I think, loaded it up and away he went on his sales trip.

He got rid of his meat easily, for he was well known and deservedly popular and the price would have been right.

The sausage-making machine came at the second phase, and the sight of long skins twisting and turning on the bench like live things as they were filled, fascinated us as we peeped in on our way home from school.

The slaughterhouse was only a quarter of a mile from our place and it was a closely-knit community. Everyone lived in everyone else's pocket.

Tommy's venture was community based, and community approved. TB was rife both in the human population and no doubt in the animal one as well.

Yet I have no recollection of anyone suffering any ill-effects from consuming Tommy's meat.

No doubt the NSPCA and the sanitary people closed him down eventually or maybe they liquefied his assets and his cash flow ceased? I don't remember. The date was circa 1927.

Ulster Star