Friday, November 2, 2012

What I learned from Welsh – Canterbury Bacon


Probably before I talk about what I learned from Welsh, I need to explain who Welsh actually is, and that’s a whole very intriguing story unto itself which most definitely warrants a full blog post, but in the mean time here’s a brief synopsis.

Jane Middlebrook ( sister of my 2xG Grandfather Samuel Middlebrook) – apparently married James John McRa some time around 1868  and together they had 6 children.

It seems that at some point the marriage must have hit a rocky patch and the story is that James and Jane divorced ( though at this point we can find evidence of neither marriage nor divorce)

At the end of December 1890 Jane married James’ youngest brother Hector.

James and Hector had another brother named Welsh. Welsh seemed to have a firm friendship with his sister-in-law Jane as evidenced in the 3 letters written to her ( and no doubt there were many  more than 3 originally) that I have transcripts of given to me by my cousin Judith.

Letters are such an amazing insight into both general  life at the time they are written , and relationships, so I feel very lucky to have these 3 letters to add to my research documents.


There are many blog posts worth of information contained within the 3 letters, and some of the information contained requires more research but for todays post we are talking bacon!

Yes bacon!

In Welsh’s letter to Jane dated 14 November 1887 he states

“Dear Jane,

Yours of the 9th to hand, and contents noted. In reply, will say, am pleased you received the beef in good condition. Sorry bacon proved fraud. Will forward some “Canterbury” this trip.. tested and proven good.”

This sentence got me wondering what was so good about Canterbury bacon so I googled Canterbury bacon 1887 and found this insightful article into the quality of NZ made products – This is so interesting as today we pride ourselves on our agricultural exports and see ourselves as providing the highest quality especially in meats and dairy products – but it seems this was not always the case.

From the Evening ( Auckland) Star Volume XVIII, Issue 84, 11 April 1887, Page 2

“The statement made by Mr F.J.Moss M.H.R in an interview with our reporter that New Zealand products are held in disfavour among the Pacific Islands because their standard of quality is low, should stir our producers and manufacturers up to renewed exertions.  The same indictment might, we fear, be alleged as a reason, in many instances, for the preference shown for imported over colonial- made goods.  It is all very well to say that this preference arises out of prejudice and pure cussedness or the vagaries of fashion.. In some instances we know it does, but there is no use in shutting our eyes to the fact that in many cases it is because quality is not sufficiently studied  by those who are catering for custom. Even within the colony we know that this is true.  For example, there is plenty of good Auckland bacon, and yet producers of first- class qualities find such a “prejudice” in favour of Canterbury bacon that they are tempted to sell their wares with Canterbury brands. Now why is it that Auckland people prefer Canterbury bacon?  Is it from a foolish love for anything that is not home made? Some people will promptly answer “yes”. but any practical provision merchant will tell them that Canterbury bacon is helped in esteem simply because the average of quality is good and can be relied upon, while Auckland bacon cannot. Wanoa cheese, for the same reason, for many years held the premier place in Auckland favour. The sooner manufacturers realise this truth and draw the moral which it teaches the more rapidly will disappear the could of so called “prejudice” which envelops the prosperity of many of our industries. Consumers are not such dolts that they cannot tell when they get a good thing. A maker whose  brands are to be relied upon rarely fails to find a good market for his wares, at the very moment  when inferior or unknown goods of similar description are being slaughtered at a loss to everyone concerned. “


The writer of the article goes on to use other industries  Timber, butter, biscuits and canned goods as being examples of NZ exports where the consistency of quality resulted in a bad reputation for the entire industry.


It seems that perhaps in regards to exports at least the lesson may have been learned at some time between the 1880s and today although the main lesson in this article that consistency of quality affecting reputation is still one that many industries could take note of don’t you think??


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