Among the finds from the Coupar Burn was this little jar probably dated somewhere between 1920 and 1950. It brought to mind memories of salmon spread sandwiches on white bread made for lunch by my maternal Grandma sometime in the 1960’s. The whiffy smell came racing back along with the vivid recollection of my 8 year old self standing in my Grandmothers kitchen eating my sandwich. During this particular memory I recalled ‘Topper’ Mrs Hepburn’s cat from next door eating a bowl of stuff which smelt distinctly similar at the back door of Grandmas house.
Objects have a way of conveying messages; messages about people and about different moments in time. They speak of events and interactions; tell stories of experience and unleash a flow of memories bringing the past to the present moment. I was not alone in my remembrance of the meat paste days. In Coupar Angus Square when the wee glass bottle appeared from the bottom of a bucket of items retrieved from the burn an interested group of on-lookers handled the jar and offered other alternatives to my suggestion of salmon spread. Bloater paste shouted one spectator with a half smile. Others indicated recognition at the suggestion of sardine and tomato. While chicken and ham paste sent us all off on a splurge of forgotten tinned meat products; corned beef, spam, fray bentos steak and kidney pie.
According to Hugh Fearnley – Whittingstall ‘Pâté just means paste in French.’ If this is so was my Grandma and her post war generation ahead of the game? Excuse the pun. The thing I do remember with affection was the little spring clips these jars had around them and how I enjoyed opening them for my Grandma. On researching the history of Shippams I was surprised to find that these metal lids were first launched in 1905.
The Shippam Company was founded in Chichester in 1786. The Shippam family were originally grocers and later became butchers in the town. The business expanded in 1892 and the butcher’s shop became a factory manufacturing canned products and the famous potted fish and meat.
On reading the words of other bloggers also interested in Shippams I came across an interesting story about the ‘older Mr Shippam’. The article didn’t give a Christian name or a suggestion of when exactly the ‘older Mr Shippam’ was around but he was described as strictly teetotal. The story goes that he objected to his workers drinking and if he suspected one of his workmen of guzzling a lunchtime alcoholic beverage he would drag the person in front of him and make him say, ‘Shippam’s Chichester Sausages’. Failure to exact the phrase would result in big trouble!
Although the Shippams factory is no longer in the centre of Chichester, the factory’s facade with clock and famous wishbone remain in the town as a significant reminder of the company’s success. Members of the public were invited to visit the factory and to take a wishbone as a souvenir of their visit. You can still purchase Shippams meat paste if you so wish 230 years after its inception, I myself will resist the urge and will enjoy instead the memory of Grandmas sandwiches in the back kitchen with the fluffy ginger moggy while polishing up my recitation of ‘Shippam’s Chichester Sausages.