Veteran butcher hangs up knives
AGED 14 and keen for some pennies in his pocket, Noel Corcoran pretended to be 15 to get his start in butchering in Walcha on the NSW Northern Tablelands in 1959.
He wore his apron for the last time yesterday at the Grafton District Services Club Butchery some 51 years later.
At 65 (Noel assured us this was his real age), the hands of the veteran meat man have succumbed to arthritis as the tons of product he’s sliced, minced and turned to sausage have taken their toll.
Noel also spent 20 years and held several senior positions with the Grafton City SES road rescue unit (and it’s predecessor the South Grafton Water Brigade) where he attended a large number of horrific road accidents including the Cowper bus crash of 1989.
He completed his apprenticeship in Walcha and married Cynthia in 1964 before he was headhunted by his initial employer Doug Raymond who had moved to Grafton and set up shop in the Gerards Centre. Noel, Cynthia and their son Rikki moved to Grafton in 1966, where the couple had two daughters Vanessa and Bernadette.
“During the flood in 1967 Doug would pick me up in a row boat and we would make our way up Fitzroy Street to make sure the shop was okay,” he said.
“That was back when the floodwaters would be just under the balcony of Weiley’s Hotel, well before the levy wall was built.”
Noel began working at the Grafton Mall Butchery, which later became Holiday Coast Meats, after his long-time boss Doug died.
He went on to manage the Red Bull Butchery at Junction Hill for a year before returning to Holiday Coast.
GDSC Butcher offered Noel a job in 1995 and he was there until retirement.
Noel said he had seen countless regulatory and market changes in his industry over the years.
“The paperwork is getting ridiculous,” he said.
“An ordinary little shop has got no chance to compete against supermarkets these days.”
Asked if he would remain a GDSC butcher customer – “yeah, I’ll need a pensioner rate though,” Noel said.
Rating T-bone as his favourite cut of meat, Noel finished his Daily Examiner interview with a classic butcher truism – “closer the bone, sweeter the meat.”
During the flood in 1967 Doug would pick me up in a row boat and we would make our way up Fitzroy Street to make sure the shop was okay.