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28 October 2014

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You are in: Cumbria > Features > General > Our Dad – The Knacker Man

Butcher's meat

Our Dad – The Knacker Man

Although he says he doesn’t know much, he taught me an immense amount.  I was able to benefit from the sacrifices and hardships he faced daily ...

Tell us a bit about yourself

I have lived all my life in West Cumbria.  Our Dad worked throughout Cumbria from late 1950-70’s and again in 1980’s.

I chose to write this to illustrate that although our Dad, does not have qualifications in a conventional sense his intelligence is certainly of a different kind and equally valid. 

His way of teaching and supporting in so many ways has lead me to gain qualifications and enable me to work as a Freelance Consultant in field of Community Outreach, Education and Reminiscence within Museums and Cultural Heritage Sectors.

Our Dad – The Knacker Man

Written on our Birth Certificates, “Father’s Occupation”, indelibly marked in blue/black registrars ink.  It was official! Our Dad …  Knacker Man ... Licensed to KILL!

At week-ends and school holidays we couldn’t wait to jump in the Wagon and go with him.  A great day out to look forward to.  This was “our time” with Dad.  Our time for big adventures … and … what adventures we had!.

Dad had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural world.  He was always sharing.  He pointed out the many different breeds of cows and sheep, the species of birds, flowers and trees as we passed by. 

Dad needed no map or reference books. He knew everything by heart.  He knew all the roads and byways just as well as the hairs on the back of his calloused, cracked and leather-skinned hands. 

Later, as the wagon was full, or all the collection calls made, it was back to the Knackers Yard. 

Well, this was not exactly a yard, but what seemed to a small child like a cavernous brick built shed with white-washed walls.  The high walls supported by large beams way up high in the ceiling from which hooks and chains were hung and the fallen stock suspended.  These chains clinked and ratcheted as the animals were hauled into position. 

The real work now began.   The head, now cleared of the clean concrete floor.  The body opened like an envelope, skin peeled back, layers of membrane sliced through with a knife as sharp as any laser.   

“Git out’t way”.  Dad would say.  “Git yersel mucked up and there’ll be ‘ell to pay when yer git yhame and yer Muther sees yeh!”

Blood and water burst forth like a fountain and flowed, spreading in patterns across the floor, spurting out over Dad’s wellingtons, boiler suit, clothing and skin.  He was wet, cold no doubt, after the warm fluids cooled, but far too busy to notice, if he did, he never said.  He expertly and speedily worked the carcass. The stench close up was gut-wrenching.  Dad continued regardless, totally unperturbed, never once complaining.

“What’s that Dad?”  we’d asked.  What does it do?

Dad always answered our endless questions, pointing out and explaining the function of each and every organ. We learned from him that a cow does have four stomachs, the meaning of chewing the cud and that intestines are really so long – however did they fit inside?

Mary Ann Lancaster

Mary Ann Lancaster

Fat could go for processing, be used to make soap, lipsticks, candles and the like.  The skins could be used to make leather shoes, gloves, handbags, clothes.  Fleeces go to make rugs. 

The meat from the carcasses here, were not for human consumption -  but for pet and farm foods.  We learned the difference between an abattoir and a slaughterhouse/knackery.

We made patterns and pictures with water from the hosepipe as Dad washed the blood away.  He made use of every available opportunity to give us experiences and choices, albeit unconventional ones, for us to see and to learn.

Dad made us toys with his own hands.  Dad is a very practical man.  He can turn his hand to absolutely, anything.  He always says he has no “O” levels or “A”levels, but, nine spirit levels in the shed!

Although he says he doesn’t know much, he taught me an immense amount.  I was able to benefit from the sacrifices and hardships he faced daily, spanning almost two decades in far from the most pleasant of conditions.

I will always be proud of my Dad, what he has done, achieved,  and how he has helped me to achieve …..  I want to tell the world and everyone in it,   to say I am his daughter, and a former Knacker Man’s Daughter, at that!

last updated: 10/04/2008 at 15:40
created: 20/07/2005

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