Blog post

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bad smelling fat and putrid bones

My ancestor Daniel Miller Couper, a butcher, gives every impression of being a respectable citizen. Well, almost every impression.

I knew there was an 1887 newspaper article that discussed the offensive state of his butcher shop and slaughter yard as I had seen reference to it in a local history book. Sadly, the issue of the South Bourke and Mornington Journal I needed wasn’t available at the National Library of Australia.

The good news is that the State Library of Victoria has funded the addition of a number of Victorian titles to the Trove newspaper collection. Now I can access the newspapers I’ve been wanting, and they are a goldmine for me. Here is the text of the the article in question:

Shire Council Meetings
Oakleigh Shire Council

Thursday, December 1, 1887

“Received. From J. Colville, Secretary, Central Board of Health, forwarding copies of the following reports by an Inspector of the Board relative to butchers' premises at Oakleigh:--"1 Report of John Taylor, relative to D. Couper, butcher, Broadwood street, Oakleigh. Visited this day (24th November); accumulation of manure; two pig-styes with boarded floors in an offensive State; coppers and boiling sheds in an offensive state; accumulation of bad smelling fat, putrid bones and and generally in an offensive State." Slaughter yard about quarter of a mile from the shop; quantity of manure with blood and offal exposed in an offensive state

“In reference to Couper's case some improvements had been made, and he had reasons to believe that in a very short time the premises would be in a proper sanitary condition.-- Mr. Leonard moved that the local inspector draw up a report on both matters and forward same to the Central Board.-Seconded by Mr. Lavidge and carried.”

Source: Shire Council Meetings. (1887, December 7). South Bourke and Mornington Journal (Richmond, Vic. : 1872 - 1920), p. 3 Edition: WEEKLY.. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from

This sort of thing wasn’t so unusual. Other butchers were also pulled up for similar offences.

There is a lot more about the state of hygiene in the area in general, and I have some ideas brewing about research I want to do (so frustrated that I am at present an “internet-only” genie) and maybe even papers I want to write (not sure if that will ever happen)… but for now I am trying to be systematic about digging out all the relevant newspaper articles and putting together a timeline.

1 comment:

  1. It's enough to make one think about becoming a vegetarian...