Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Everyone Ate Meat - Butcher shops in the Blue Mountains

Everyone Ate Meat – The Butcher Shop

Butcher shops in the Blue Mountains in the early 1900s were an important and vital part of the community. These were places where the sight and smell of raw meat was pervasive, quite different from the packaged meat at the supermarket counters of today. Butchers were men of influence and closely associated with the life of the local community. At the funeral of the Blackheath butcher Nick Delaney in 1928 it was said “It would be difficult in the future to know or appreciate Blackheath without his kindly face and fine figure. He never tired of doing good deeds, and extending a helping hand to people in trouble, without thought of reward.”

These were times when most Australian families ate meat at every meal, in the 1890s per capita meat consumption was 2.6 kg per week compared with 1 kg in Britain. Meat was widely available, fresh and local, because unlike most other shopkeepers of the time, many butchers retained control of the whole supply process. Fom selection and purchase of livestock from local farmers, some even ran their own sheep and cattle, to slaughtering in or near their shop, butchering of the carcase and preparation of sausages and corned meats, personal service and home delivery.

William Rayner, Springwood’s first butcher, opened his combined butcher shop, general store and bakery in Macquarie road in 1877, now the Old Bakery Arcade. Rayner had slaughter yards at Yellow Rock and prepared tallow for sale from trimmings and poor quality carcases In December 1892 Rayner bought up a shipment of cattle that had been killed and maimed in a goods train derailment just west of Springwood station and proceeded to boil them down at his shop. The weather was hot and the stench pervasice, eau de cologne was said to be at a premium and after two court sessions Rayner was forced to move his operations to Cable’s Spring near St Columba’s, a sparsely settled neighbourhood at that time.

Katoomba’s early butchers included George Davies who advertised his state of the art refrigeration in 1912, George Shaw and Sons and ‘Honest’ George James, who opened his first shop in Main Street in the 1890s and had shops in Katoomba Street 1913, Leura Mall 1905, and Wentworth Falls.

George James was not only a butcher but a prominent citizen, businessman, man of property, alderman and twice mayor of Katoomba Council - in 1909 and1914. As a member of the Council Parks and Reserves Committee he was also active in establishing many of the lookouts and walking tracks we enjoy today. Among the many buildings he owned and erected in Katoomba, he considered James’ Building 1925, still standing opposite Katoomba Station, his proudest achievement for the town. His home, McClintock in Abbotsford Rd, is now a B&B. Four of his five sons also became butchers and operated James Bros Quality Butchers at Circular Quay in the 1920s.

Transformed during the 20th century by refrigeration and electric cutters, mincers and saws; the traditional butcher's offerings have diversified to include chicken and game, which was once never sold by the butcher, along with fancy sausages, marinades and seasonings. Although we now eat less meat, the greatest threat to the traditional butcher is the supermarket, which now accounts for over 70% of meat sales. Yet butchers do survive and continue to offer quality and service to their customers, many of whom they still know personally, something few supermarkets could claim.

Photos from Blue Mountains City Library
Delaney's butcher shop, Mount Victoria, from left - a police trooper, Charles Delaney, the horse, Dave Barosse a Solomon Islander, Tom Baster, Adeline Delaney, Reg Delaney, Nick Delaney, unknown, c.1890. Nick Delaney also operated a butcher shop in Govett St Blackheath for over 50 years and was a prominent member of Masonic Lodge Blackheath.

The butchers' picnic at Berg's Falls Hotel, Katoomba 1910

Two photos of Shaw's Butchery, Katoomba 1930s: the staff in the chiller room; behind the counter - Tom Porter, Bill Gilroy, George Shaw, Ern Howard, Eric Shaw, Jack Breen.

The Earliest Butchers
In fact when you think about it, butchery is one of the oldest human skills and may even predate hunting by our human ancestors; because evidence suggests they may have scavenged kills from other more powerful carnivores such as lions. When we look at the massive bone smashing hammer stones and cleavers from Bed II at Olduvai Gorge made by Homo ergaster, this layer dates to around 1.5 million years ago, we can see the importance of bone marrow, and later meat, in the diet. There could well have been specialists, with advanced skills in dismembering carcases for ease of transport back to base camp - how's that for a line of descent to modern butchers.

A Note on Rech-tub Kla-tay the Secret language of Butchers
Butchers’ back slang originated in Smithfield Market in around 1850 and was used by the meat traders to insult each other without offending members of the public and to speak about the prices, age or quality of the meat without letting on to customers that they might be being sold something sub-par. It was also used to make comments about customers, be they old men or young girls, and in this way it is similar to Cockney rhyming slang as a thieves dialect; they wanted to keep their conversations private but still be able to shout to each other in public.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
(c) Blue Mountains City Library 2015

Mr Evans, the Felixman of Echo Point

The Lillas family at Echo Point with the Mountain Devil 1960;
Ron Lillas, son Timothy, Robin Lillas (sister of the donor, Colin Slade)
John and Jim Low with their parents May and Basil, Echo Point, about 1954

Jan Koperberg with her mother


Jim and Gladys Ryan on their honeymoon, Nov. 1950
Iris Cammack, Neil and Carol Roberts, Enid Schneider, c.1948
Image courtesy of Carol Roberts
Eileen, age 19 with her parents Elsie May &  Horace Kelly
from Peakhurst, NSW, 1952
Kindly donated by Stephen and Michael Kelly 

Eileen Kelly, 1952
Kindly donated by Stephen and Michael Kelly
Stephen Crawshaw with his cousin, 1952 

Dan Evans at Echo Point, 1950s
Mr Evans, the Felixman of Echo Point

Dan Evans, also called the Felixman, was a widely known local identity at Echo Point, Katoomba from the 1920s to the 1950s, with his Felix the Cat and later Mountain Devil props. Visitors, mainly families with children, would pose for a souvenir photograph which was developed on the spot. A number of these surviving photographs are in the Local Studies collection of the Blue Mountains City Library.

One early photo in the collection is a tintype, the rest are printed on photo paper and mounted in a card frame. Few facts of Dave Evans' life are known; he was apparently Welsh and lived in Darley St Katoomba, within walking distance of Echo Point. His income would have been highly seasonal and dependent on weather and holidays, never large enough to warrant a shop or staff and professional darkroom setup.

One witness says he would be at Echo Point taking pictures 'rain, hail or shine'; so his business address was right there in the open air where his customers were - what a workplace. A little draughty perhaps, but in the absence of customers one always has the view, or the mist, or both.

The early photos from the 1920s and 1930s show the child size Felix the Cat mannequin accompanying one or more children or family groups, some kids needed mother close by as their looks of apprehension suggest. The later images from the 1950s show the large Mountain Devil doll. This may be a response to the commercial success of Felix and concern with copyright.

The majority of his surviving photographs are taken at Echo Point and they cover few other subjects but tourist portraits; although he may possibly have also operated at the Scenic Railway and there is a group portrait of working men at the Hydro Majestic with a Felix figure. He was quite unlike a photographer such as Harry Phillips who took few intimate photographs and published widely and commercially on landscape subjects.

The 1891 Welsh Census shows Dan was born the second of seven siblings about 1883 in Ferndale (Glynrhedynog), Glamorgan, Wales; his father, William, was a miner and his mother was Naomi Owens.  Dan emigrated to Australia about 1927 and is shown as a property owner in council’s rate records from 1937 – 1957, residing in “Cartref” Darley St, Katoomba, occupation - photographer. Records show he married Edith Anne Taylor, her second marriage, in 1932 at the Registrar General in Sydney, their residence was in Liverpool St in the inner City. Dan had been previously married in Wales to a Minnie Griffiths in about 1905. A 1933 commercial directory lists him as D Evans, photographer of Katoomba.

In April 1932 the Blue Mountains Times newspaper reported that Mr Evans, the Felixman at Echo Point, had complained to Katoomba Council of unlicensed persons plying a somewhat similar business without paying a fee. Katoomba shopkeepers were also complaining of the many street musicians collecting from passers by – they had ‘become so common as to be quite a nuisance’. The Great Depression produced many unemployed men who tried their hand at busking for a few coins.

Dan died in Katoomba Hospital in October 1961, aged 78 years and was cremated at Rookwood Crematorium, the informant was his older brother William from Newport in Victoria. In 1962 the ‘late D Evans’ photographic license was transferred to Souvenir Snapshots of Katoomba.

It is likely that Dan retained his Welsh lilt all his life: "Sit you down by your Mam and I will take your photograph, now look you at the dicky bird!"

Ferndale -,_Rhondda_Cynon_Taf

1932 'Katoomba Council', The Blue Mountains Times (Katoomba, NSW : 1931 - 1937), 8 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jan 2017,

Thanks to the many people who have donated copies, or originals, of their family photos to the Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies Collection. Without their kindness, this page would be the poorer. 

Please contact the author if you have more information about Dan Evans The Felixman, or have any of his photos you would like to donate as originals or copies.

© 2009 Blue Mountains City Library, revised 2016.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

The Sidneys of Megalong Valley, Blue Mountains

The Sidneys of Megalong

Isaac Walter Sidney was born in Bristol, England (circa 1857) and emigrated to the U.S.A. There he took up building as a trade although he described himself as a "skilled labourer" on his marriage certificate. He became an American citizen but later moved to Australia and Megalong where he purchased land neighbouring Donald Boyd's "Yaralta" (Parish Kanimbla Portion 25).

On Australia Day 1903, Isaac married Eliza Ann Campbell, described as a domestic servant from Hartley, at the home of Edgar Chapman, with the Reverend Pratt, Congregational Minister, officiating. Eliza had been previously married to a man by the name of Campbell but was known by her maiden name of Hunt. Eliza purchased land (Parish of Kanimbla Portion 170 & 166) and later her daughter, by her first marriage, Doris Fennell, took up land with Isaac and Eliza's son, and only child, Isaac Junior (Parish of Kanimbla portions 20 & 171). Isaac senior and Eliza built a pise cottage on their land which is still extant.

They were known as "poor" farmers as they had little stock. He did some building in the Valley and is chiefly remembered for his long and bitter arguments, for the British side, at the time of the Irish "troubles".

Eliza acted as the local midwife and was responsible for seeing some of the present residents of the Valley into this world. She died in 1943 aged 78, and is buried in an unmarked grave with her husband Isaac in Blackheath cemetery.

Isaac senior’s step daughter, Doris Fennell and her husband Harold, built a pise cottage near her mother and stepfather. She is alleged to have taken a stock whip to her husband, quite frequently, lashing him around the ankles, "because he moved too slow!". Harold died, aged 53, in May 1948 and Doris lived alone in her cottage until she too died in August 1960, aged 73. They share an unmarked grave in the Blackheath cemetery.

Isaac Walter junior (1905-1982), known as Ike, enlisted in 1942 and served as a private in ordnance during WW2; he married late in life to Esther Mildred Cox in 1957 and moved to Faulconbridge where he died, having sold the property to William and Joy Pringle in 1963 which is now named “Yapunyah”. Ike junior is also buried in Blackheath Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Note on the photo: in the early 1900s Ebenezer Vickery of Kanimbla Station established a freezing works on Blackheath Creek to process rabbit carcasses which were transported to the railway at Mt Victoria for sale at the Sydney markets; it is said over 1 million rabbits were processed out of the Megalong Valley.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
© 2008 Blue Mountains City Library
Photo: Blue Mountains City Library Collection

Ref: Historic Megalong Valley (1988) Mary Shaw

Harry Peckman - the poetical whip (1846-1934)


Harry Peckman was a true ‘Blue Mountaineer’. Born at Kurrajong in 1846, he lived the whole of his life in the Blue Mountains region and died in Katoomba in 1934. As a young man, in the days before the western railway line was built, he drove wagons and coaches on the road between Penrith and Hartley. Then, when the Mountains developed its reputation as a tourist destination, he began taking visitors to the local scenic attractions.

In the early 1880s he and his brother, John, established livery stables in Parke Street, Katoomba, at the back of the Carrington Hotel. Their business flourished. Both men were expert horsemen and knew the Blue Mountains intimately and their patrons soon included a growing number of holidaying dignitaries and their families. In 1887 Lord and Lady Carrington were taken over the newly opened Six-Foot Track to Jenolan Caves1 while, in 1893 the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos was entertained with a billy tea and damper picnic at Govetts Leap2.

But knowledge of horses and the bush were not the only skills Harry possessed. To the many visitors who engaged him he became known as ‘the poetical whip’ who would take them to places off the beaten track and entertain them en route with selections from his repertoire of mostly self-penned songs and recitations. As more than one observer commented, his verses, performed in the midst of a grand, open landscape, provided visitors with a glimpse into the heart of the Mountains that no other driver could offer.

While no one could claim that Peckman was a great poet, it is clear that his skills as a performer made up for any deficiencies in craft. “No free verse for this poet”, observed cartoonist and journalist Hal Eyre in 1922, “but rhymes tuned to the beat of his horses’ hoofs.”3 His subjects ranged over the Blue Mountains itself and included dramatic and patriotic war ballads and heart-felt ‘farewells’ to friends who had died. There were also tributes to popular heroes like the sculler Edward Trickett, the first Australian to win a world sporting title, and the popular aviatrix Amy Johnson who visited Katoomba in 1930.

Like many self-educated men, Peckman was clearly a wide reader and his verses are dotted with various literary and Biblical allusions. He was also acquainted with a number of Sydney literary figures who sought him out when they visited Katoomba, among them the poets Roderick Quinn and Henry Lawson.

Though he performed for the gentry his audience was in the main a popular one and his work, when published, appeared almost exclusively on privately printed broadsides and later, when a newspaper became established in Katoomba, in the local press.

It seems that he was performing his songs and poems and peddling his broadsides from the time he worked as a young labourer and coach driver in the Hartley area in the 1860s and 1870s. In some of his reminiscences, recorded by local journalists, he mentioned the lively sessions of song and recitation he participated in at this time, particularly at ‘Kelly’s in the Glen’ halfway to Jenolan Caves.

Some of his work attained for him what is possibly the highest accolade a popular audience can bestow, a passage into the anonymous oral or ‘folk’ tradition that carried it to places far removed from the Blue Mountains.

Towards the end of his life Harry Peckman experienced hard times and, though visitors still often sought him out even in the late 1920s, he watched as the age of the motor car gradually rendered his coach and pair obsolete. At the time of his death he had become something of an icon, a symbol of a past era. On a slow news day the local journalists would seek him out and trawl his still alert mind for reminiscences of the ‘old days’.

For his 88th birthday, in August 1934, his friends organised a party. He performed his poems for the last time and, some seven weeks later, died. His grave in Katoomba Cemetery looks out over the tributaries of the Grose River that flow into what he once described as “the Hawkesb’ry silver Rhine”.

His name is publicly remembered in Peckmans Plateau and Peckmans Road, both in Katoomba.

Note: In 1993, nearly 60 years after his death, a small biography and collection of Peckman’s surviving poems and songs, The Prince of Whips: The Life and Works of the Blue Mountains Pioneer Harry Peckman, Jim Smith and John Low, was published. Copies of this book are still available, for more information contact Blue Mountains City Library Local Studies.

© 2008 John Low

1 For an account of this trip see Smith, Jim. From Katoomba to Jenolan Caves: The Six Foot Track 1884-1984, Katoomba: Second Back Row Press, [1985], pp. 33-4.
2 Duchess of Buckingham & Chandos. Glimpses of Four Continents, London: John Murray, 1894.
3 Hal Eyre wrote of his experiences touring with Peckman in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 13th September 1922 and 26th September 1922. Three caricatures of Harry were also included.

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