Raymond Berry, Master Butcher,
President of North West Riding of Yorkshire Council of Butchers Association 1990-91, producer, actor, chorister, dancer, drummer, major fund raiser and all-round good citizen
Born 1929 at Grandma’s house in Moorside Road, previously known as Workhouse Lane – it wasn’t expected that baby Raymond would survive as his was a difficult birth, but against all odds, his will to live and make a difference brought him through this first of life’s many challenges.
Grandma and Grandad lived on a small farm of 10 acres with chickens, pigs and calves – sounds an ideal childhood but there was much hard word involved – everyone had to lend a hand. The horse and cart came in very handy for cutting the grass on the cricket field and transporting the bats etc to away matches. Raymond’s father worked as a miner at Shuttleye colliery, Grange Moor for many years but sadly died at the early age of 57 from the miner’s curse – silicosis.
From age 11 Raymond went to school in Kirkheaton leaving at age 14 years and going to work for his Uncle George at his Butcher’s Shop in Grange Moor, earning 12 shillings and 6 pence (around 62 p in today’s money). After gaining experience with his Uncle, joined Briers Butchers in Leeds Road, Lindley.
He recalls around Christmas towards the end of the War a Doodlebug (flying missile) dropped at the back of his Uncle’s shop and not only his uncles shop suffered damage – Raymond recalls that all the windows in Grange Moor were smashed. The hen house also suffered devastation and it was quite a while before the surviving shocked hens started to lay again.
Raymond was 18 years old when he was called up for National Service and he was selected to join the Catering Core as was the practise with people in butchery and bakery. He served 18 months in Egypt in the Canal Zone and 6 months at Aqaba. While in Aqaba he was cooking for 125 men which was no easy task without gas or electric. How did he do that you may ask – with a petrol burner!
He was very proud of his achievement during this time and often found himself in charge of the cookhouse. He recalls working throughout the night one Christmas Eve, getting the meal ready for the Officers Regimental Dinner. Many nights his only companion was a Sten gun – his new ‘best friend’.
In 1956 Raymond secured his butcher’s shop in Kirkheaton – one of three butcher’s shops at that time. We talk about the provenance of food these days, but Raymond was actually doing this in those early days – sourcing his food from local farms rather than from the wholesalers. Uncle George, in a reversal of roles, came along on a part time basis to work for Raymond – “and he got a lot more than 12 shillings and 6 pence!” was the comment from Raymond.
A slightly bizarre thing happened one day whilst Raymond was taking some pigs to the slaughter house. Usually kept in a cage in the back of the van; one pig escaped and appeared on the passenger seat next to Raymond. It’s sad, but it did enjoy its last ride, looking out of the window and enjoying the view. It was particularly difficult to carry out the inevitable after that!
Married in 1957, Raymond became a father in 1958 when his son Clive was born, and Janet in 1960. Both follow in their father’s footsteps and have a keen interest in brass bands. Clive was to also follow his father’s profession for a while and worked in partnership with Raymond in his butcher’s shop for around 7 years.
Many will know of Raymond’s keen interest in anything theatrical and many years ago when it was thought a local pantomime may be a good idea, Raymond was put forward to produce and act in the very first performance at the United Reform Church in the show Dick Whittington. As always his wicked sense of humour caused a little disagreement with one of the actresses who refused to be raced around the table.
On one occasion whilst playing Wishy-Washy from Aladdin in a local men’s only pantomime at Mold Green, he was giving his rendition of ‘Happiness’ (Ken Dodd’s hit) when laughter seemed to increase from small chuckles to hilarious guffaws. Raymond was quite unaware that during the song his trousers were gradually coming down.
As well as a producer and actor, Raymond has a good singing voice and has taken part in many light operatic productions and been part of local choirs. His version of an Al Jolson medley has also been recorded as part of a C.D. produced by ‘Vintage Brass’ – originally a group of musicians in their golden years but now open to anyone.
As his reputation as an all-round performer grew, parts followed in Rose Marie; The Student Prince; The Slipper and the Rose (Cinderella) and many, many more.
You will not be surprised to hear that Raymond can dance and also plays the drums. Encouraged by his son Clive to take up the drums more professionally, he recalls doing lessons in drumming for 12 months at a fee of £15 per hour. At the suggestion that further lessons would cost £18 Raymond retorted “Forget it, I think I know enough now!”
Other groups Raymond has been involved in include:
- Kirkheaton Church and Chapel
- Grange Moor Church
- Kirkwood Hospice
- Grange Moor Band
- Honley Band
- Carnivals and Pantomimes
- Lawrence Batley Theatre
- Lindley Light Operatic
- Huddersfield Light Operatic
Over the years, Raymond has raised thousands of pounds for many local organisations – just last year (2013) he raised in excess of £6,700 in poppy sales – a fantastic achievement and many years ago he helped to support the Scouts and Guides with raising funds for the building of their Head Quarters at Moorside Road.
When asked would he change anything in his colourful life, he replied that he would have loved to have been a comedian. We think he could give Sir Bruce Forsyth a run for his money any day!
Lorna Idle Nov 2013
This is a longer version of an article in the Spring edition of Yetton News