Gunners the Butchers

Christmas 1950

By Ray Crawley

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Gunners the Butchers' page

Donated by Ray Crawley

When I was seventeen I worked at a butcher's shop about halfway along the parade of shops. It's not there now. It was called Gunner's. At that time meat rationing was still in force so it was a big help to my mother as the 'guv', as he was called, gave all the staff some meat every Friday! It wasn't much, a couple of chops for example, but it was very welcome.

At Christmas 1950 we had to truss lots of chickens and turkeys. I remember the day before my first Christmas Eve at the shop. The guv had told me to come in early as it was going to be our busiest day. I was looking forward to it as we had a staff box on the counter and money was short. So I was up and getting ready to leave at 7 a.m. when there was a hammering at our front door. It was Steve and Fred from the shop. "Come on," they said, "where have you been? We've been on the go since five o'clock!"

When we arrived at the shop it was all lit up with the window dressed with turkeys, etc. I can still remember that sight. It was still dark except for our shop and it really was a seasonal picture. After we pulled the shutters down, the staff box was shared out and the guv took me and Fred over to The Rose for a Christmas drink. I had my first whisky and I think it was my first visit to a pub! Afterwards I bought lots of fruit from the barrows with my bit of cash to take home for my mum. That was the best Christmas after the war years.

The staff that I can still recall were the 'Guv', Fred, Steve, Barbara on the till with another girl and old Bill - he was short, loved a bet on the horses and was a vet from WW1.

Link to Ray's own website by clicking here

This page was added by Ray Crawley on 24/11/2011.
Comments about this page

Love the story Ray. Yes, they were good hard times. I started butchery in 1960 and the first Xmas I had £16 in tips - more than five times my wages. People didn't have much but they gave something. Some would give you a tot and a piece of cake.

By Norman Finnimore
On 28/12/2011

Thank you for adding my comment about Gunner butchers, I thought i would elaborate on the group if you so wish,Robert Gunner started in 1903 as a provisions shop selling cheese & ham, He opened up a number of shops in the Islington area.During the first world war there were a number of German pork butchers who were getting their windows smashed because of anti German feelings so Bob Gunner bought them out and from then on he opened butchers and provisions in equal numbers. By the 1960's Gunners were 118 shops being run by Joseph Richards (Bob died in 1947). He was getting on in years and approached Fitch Lovell who were running a group of equal size called West Layton. They integrated the two groups and called it West Gunner. They traded the two groups on as West and as Gunner until 1984, Fitch Lovell owned Key Markets and that's the way they wanted to go so they sold West Gunner by then down to 104 shops to Dewhurst for £ 4,million in 1984,Dewhurst struggled on untill 1994 when they disbanded.

By norman finnimore
On 31/12/2011

Thanks for the history of Gunners Norman, very interesting. The old style independent butchers are few in number now. I wonder if anyone has heard of Hutchings of Wallington? I was an errand boy for them...I enjoyed my time there. They had two shops in that area.

By Ray Crawley
On 06/01/2012

Hi, I left school at 15 in Islington and a week later I got my first job at Gunners in Forest Hill. I started making sausages out in the backyard. I also had to clean the front of the shop at the end of the day. We also at Christmas, hung the turkeys outside on a long pole. I still make my own sausages the same way as I did back then. They were great days. I am now 70 but I have great memories of my first job. I worked in the meat trade all my working days.


By Andrew
On 14/05/2020

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