It is always interesting to learn more about the heritage buildings across the hinterland, whether homes, shops or halls. Writer, Gay Liddington, recently delved into the history of the Maleny Butchery, celebrating an impressive 100 years of operation this month.
Maleny hosts 15 heritage listed sites, one of which, celebrating 100 years and still being used for its original purpose, is Maleny Butchery built during World War 1. This historic building is being acknowledged as part of the Remembrance Day celebrations as it was there from the beginning.
On December 6, 1918 Maleny welcomed home its soldiers from war with a Victory Parade. At the time, it was reported in the Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser:
‘Maleny’s Great Day Victory Celebrations. The weather was admirably suited for the event, the people nobly rose to the occasion, and the pageant entirely eclipsed any previous function ever witnessed. Practically every person in the district was present, and the crowd numbered many hundreds, all of whom carried some patriotic emblem… The procession was over ½ mile in length, and started from the doctor’s residence, passed through the township to Mr. Dunlop’s paddock.’
In Queensland, between 1915 and 1929, a wartime Labor government introduced state butcher shops enabling the price of meat to be fixed. It assisted people in deprived circumstances to make ends meet. While there were 90 such butchers, the Maleny shop remained privately owned.
The local butcher shop was a fundamental part of each community; meat central to the Australian diet. Butchers wore navy blue and white striped aprons and a scabbard fixed in place by a large leather belt, knives and sharpening steel at the ready.
The business of selling meat was a family concern. Butchers closely associated with their customers. It was where tales were told, stories shared. Meat hanging from butcher’s hooks on a rail hovered above a sawdust strewn floor while the shop’s centrepiece was an oversized wooden chopping block, usually scrubbed daily with salt. Raw meat smell permeated the air.
A ‘sign’ of the times was often seen on the wall of a butcher shop. It authoritatively stated ‘No Expectorating’ meaning no spitting, which was a social norm for men of that time.
The history of Maleny and its butchers is told by the Historical Society’s Desley Malone:
“The first butcher shop was where the primary school is today. That was in Francis Dunlop’s paddock with a bunya tree and little slab hut. Dunlop, an original selector, started butchering on February 19, 1898.
“Conditions for selectors were tough. People often say to me, ‘Why did they cut the trees down?’ Our pioneers were timber-getters. The government around the 1870s issued a licence to anyone for a fee of 10 shillings a year to enable the holder to fell red cedar anywhere.
“The selector paid two shillings and six pence an acre and had to pay rent, like rates, before the end of March.
“They had to reside on the land continuously for five years. Failure to reside on it for six months could see the selection forfeited and all improvements reverted to Her Majesty the Queen.
“Then, during the five-year term they had to prove they’d spent ten shillings an acre on improvements. At the end of that time they could go to the council and apply for a Deed of Grant.
“As the township developed, Francis Dunlop moved his butcher shop to the roadside near where the pine trees are at the primary school. We don’t believe he built the Maple Street shop.”
A docket headed ‘Dr. to Francis Dunlop, Family Butcher’, dated October 31, 1912 to Mr W.F. Gardner outlines the meat purchases over a period of several months in spite of the invoice terms being ‘strictly monthly’.
On average, meat was purchased every three days and was mostly beef. The order was recorded by piece rather than weight. In one instance, 42 pieces of meat cost 12 shillings, three pence.
This is at a time when meat was a staple food and the weekly per capita consumption of meat in Australia was around five and a half pounds in weight.
Research paints a hazy picture as to whether butcher, Mr P.J. Heenan relocated the shop to where it stands today or if it was built sometime between 1915 and 1920 by Mr Jack Grigor.
J.A. Grigor Family Butcher in Maple Street sported a dunny out back and, in the early days, the cold room was water cooled. The heritage listed building embraces its past within a timber frame, clad with fibro, timber and corrugated iron. Old metals fittings can be seen in the ceiling of a room at the back of the building.
Desley adds: “While there was a succession of owners, the butcher shop served Maleny for 50 or 60 years as their sole butcher. Years ago, bread, meat and other supplies used to go out to all the farmers on the cream truck. People would put in their order and the cream truck picked it up.”
In spite of the fact our diet sees us eating less meat and supermarkets attract a large portion of sales, the traditional butcher survives, still offering quality products and personal service. Call into Maleny Butchery, view its unique features and check out the display of historic photographs.
Maleny’s re-enactment of the 1918 Victory Parade will be on Sunday, November 11, commencing 10am out of Fig Street. The procession will proceed down Maple Street to the RSL Hall’s cenotaph.