No lying down on this job...

Howden Show president and local butcher Philip Parkin.
Howden Show president and local butcher Philip Parkin.
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New mattress arrives, gas boiler is being serviced, the cleaners are in and The Yorkshire Post is here. That’s Philip Parkin’s commentary on a big day for him earlier this week, but you can count on his life being even busier this weekend firstly serving his customers in the butcher’s shop in Howden today and then running the cattle section at Howden Show tomorrow.

For the record the mattress that passed me is enormous. If there’s such a thing as a triple kingsize then this is it. The lads taking it upstairs are greeted with Philip’s innate sense of humour. ‘Third floor lads, that’ll do,” as they scratch their heads in wonderment at how they are to get it into the house let alone up various flights.

There’s little doubt Philip and his partner of the past 20 years, Marie, will sleep well after this weekend’s activities. “This butcher’s shop has been here in the centre of Howden for over 100 years,” says Philip. “It was initially F. Moor & Son and that name is still on the front of the shop under a preservation order. It started with Frank Moor and was then taken on by his son Jack and wife Rose. My father Roy started working for them when he was 13 and has just reached his 70th birthday. When they retired with no family they wanted him to take the reins.”

We move into what was the abattoir 20 plus years ago as the bed shifters gird themselves for the climb amidst the yapping of Philip’s dogs. There are only two flights they are assured by him before we resume.

“My brother David and I came into the business with our parents about 30 years back. Mother, Sylvia, used to look after the shop when we were slaughtering but that all changed in 1991. We had spent £30,000 on updating everything ten years before but with EU regulations we couldn’t make it viable. They wanted us to kill livestock on different days. It saw the end of so many of the butcher-abattoir businesses.”

The shop trade alone at Howden wasn’t going to be enough for both Philip and David so for six to seven years Philip moved to what had become their second shop in Goole. When that was sold there was a purchase made of a butcher’s shop in Crowle. Philip came back to run Howden while David took on Crowle and has recently opened another in Epworth.

“Some people might laugh at this but I was a very shy lad and struggled to come to terms with chatting to customers but you get to know how to and I had a good teacher in my mother who had worked in a general store. They were good times and our parents taught us well. Grandma always used to cook roast dinner for us too.”

Today’s butcher’s shop business has changed markedly since those days but Philip is by no means dispirited.

“There is a lot more competition from super-markets, takeaways and fast food. There were also no Sunday markets and no kids’ football on a Sunday. Everybody had a roast dinner and remainders were eaten for tea on a Monday night, that’s why it became known as Butchers’ Monday in the trade. There are a lot of things that have gone our way though. The popularity of barbecues has been a wonderful thing for us all and chicken! When we first started if we sold four whole chickens a week that would be good.

“We now sell upwards of 50 kilos a week of chicken thighs and wings! No-one would eat a chicken wing years ago.”

Beef, pork and lamb are still the mainstay of Parkin Family Butchers in Howden and Philip sticks very much to local produce including game with venison and partridge becoming popular.

“We were doing the air miles thing way before it all became fashionable to talk about. I buy from the same regular local sources and from Selby Livestock Auction Mart where I’ve just become a shareholder. For our beef I tend to go with Limousin and Charolais X but we do put a bit of native beef through as I have an Aberdeen Angus supplier close by and recently we’ve put Highland on too. I’ll stock anything so long as it’s right for our customers.

“Our pigs come from a farm in Swinefleet. Pork is still one of the favourites and a loin pork chop with a bit of fat takes some beating.”

Howden Show takes place at The Ashes tomorrow Sunday, July 6.