Part 2: The UK letters

River Thames, 1895
River Thames, 1895

I arrived in London in June, 1892. (1)  A friend of Andreas, Kevin Picton, met me at at the harbour. Excitement about being in London flooded my mind.  Romantic images from my mental world as a child, growing up in Cape Town now takes on real-life shape right in front of my eyes.

The overwhelming Danish experience was being droned out of my mental world.  An overload of visual images; sights, sounds and smells rush through millions of neural pathway.  Climaxing in a feeling of excitement in my stomach caused by the sudden release of enormous quantity of endorphin’s.

In the deep recesses of my mind a faint plan still resided to make it to Calne as soon as possible, but Kevin had other plans.  I got to know him as someone who knows the art of living life and he freely shares this aptitude with every person who has the pleasure of acquainting him. It was lunch time and the first order of business was the local pub.

That day I fell in love with Britain’s pub culture.  Like the church back home, the English pub is central to life.  It is where you go to after work to unwind and play pool with other locals.  The rugby and cricket team meet there before a match and afterwards, this is where triumphs are celebrated and defeats forgotten.  It is the thread that keeps communities close and neighbors familiar with the comings and goings of all.

Over the next few months, my education in Bacon curing and in living life took on an entirely new dynamic!

What follows is a series of letters I wrote from Calne, Peterborough and Liverpool between 1892 and 1893.

The revelations through these letters are explosive and offer a unique and intimate view of the development of the pork industry and curing bacon in particular.

Back home in South Africa, Willem and James, Oscars brothers joined our bacon curing venture.  Will and James moved to Cape Town first to oversee the purchase of a small plot of land (2) in Woodstock where the first bacon curing plant in Cape Town would be erected.

Will met with David Graaff and arranged for the purchase of the land directly behind Combrinck & Co.’s New Market Street site, bought to erect refrigeration works in case they are forced to move from their site at the Shambles.

James is our financial manager.  He worked for the Bank of the Netherlands in Johannesburg when Oscar convinced him to join our small band of fools.

While I was learning the art of curing the best bacon on earth, together they would nit the commercial fabric of the company under Oscar’s leadership.

It is the single most exciting story on earth!


(c) eben van tonder

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1.  We arrived in London on Saturday, 22 October 2011.  We spend a day in London with Ivan Procter from Marel before we took a train to Peterborough where we met Kevin Picton.

2.  The first Woodys site was at 7 Assegaai Road, Kraaifontein.


Figure 1:  River Thames,

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