We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney


Butcher and Stock Marketer Sydney Fyson



Interior of a typical butcher shop at the turn of the 20th century.

SYDNEY FYSON CAME TO HARTNEY from Boissevain in 1904 and was connected with meat marketing. He had a butcher shop and was connected in buying furs and cattle hides for shipment, and in hunting foxes and wolves for their hides. He was a tall rangy Englishman and when, with a perpetual cigar in his mouth he drove through the streets or along the country road in a democrat drawn by a team of equally rangy roan horses, followed by a pack of lean hounds, he presented a sight not easily forgotten.

When he ceased to own a butcher shop, Syd Fyson became the butcher for the beef-rings set up in the rural districts. A beef-ring was a combination of neighbouring farmers who took turns in contributing a well-fed cow or steer to be butchered each week to provide beef for the members of the ring. The districts around Hartney chose different days of the week for butchering their beef and Sid Fyson drove to each in turn to prepare the roasts, steaks and lesser cuts for the customers whose turn it was to receive each. Through this contact with the farm people Syd became well known and liked by the entire community. When the use of horses was discontinued, Syd, sitting erect and tall at the wheel of an uncovered Ford car, a cigar still in his mouth and a hound or two riding in the car’s rear seat, continued to attract attention.

Adapted from The Mere Living, page 175.

A Beef Ring Building

Essentially a small slaughterhouse, this structure in Gilbert Plains, completed in 1923, facilitated the co-operative efforts of a rural community to ensure a supply of fresh beef in times before refrigerated storage was available. Each week during the summer a member of the Beef Ring supplied a steer to be kept overnight in the holding stall, killed and butchered in the compact but ingeniously equipped main room and then shared. The utilitarian building thus belies its internal inventiveness: like the inclusion of a holding stall separate from the killing floor, the large wooden built-in hoist for lifting the carcass, a metal ring embedded in the concrete floor to secure the animal before slaughter, and the row of large nails along two walls, each numbered, where the members’ portions of beef were placed in sugar sacks.

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