Monday, 11 October 2010

Percy the pig...

Here he is, my friendly pig. He always comes to see me when I pass, looking for his apple. He’s such an intelligent pig.

When I was a very young boy, pre-school, the highlight of my visits to my grandfather’s house in Lincolnshire was feeding the pig in the brick-built sty at the bottom of the garden. All the country people kept a ‘home’ pig back then, fattening it up throughout the year and taking it to the butchers in the autumn for slaughter ready to cure, smoke, salt, pickle and press ready for Christmas.

He was invariably called Percy. He always loved to have his ear scratched. I don’t know how many different Percy ears I scratched as a boy, but several. My granddad would stand me on the pigsty wall so that I could watch him eat his turnips, mangel wurzels, and kitchen scraps all mixed together in a swill. Pigs were cheap to keep, a recycling machine, and at the end of it provided such good meals throughout the winter.

Black pudding, brawn, pickled trotters, crispy scratchings; none of the Percy was wasted - my grandmother, a trained cook, made sure of that.

Then one day when I visited there was no Percy. His sty was vacant, his metal trough empty - my granddad couldn’t get a licence.

The authorities, not content with stopping home slaughter years before, now required ‘home’ pig owners to buy a licence and undertake regular inspections before they could keep a pig at home. They claimed that it was about hygiene standards, food regulations, the welfare of the pig – but it put a stop to home rearing, something that had gone on for hundreds of years.

Visiting granddad wasn’t the same after that. Percy’s sty remained empty, the kitchen scraps went in the bin. Thank God my grandmother kept chickens.


  1. What a very fine pig Mr. Height.

  2. Oh I love that Percy pig - great photo. My granny loved her pigs and mum said they are very affectionate and intelligent. Didn't know that bit about the introduction of licences - what nonsense.

  3. The scraps from school dinners went to the pigs in the garden next to the playground. We occasionally visited the pigs & the pigeon lofts that were in the same garden. All very educational.

  4. Pigs are considered the fourth most intelligent animals on earth. I don't know what the top three are, but I believe man is twelfth.

  5. You are no longer allowed to feed pigs scraps. I risk arrest each time I feed Percy my apple core... so arrest me.

  6. Pigs are smelly. We should know. We have a field full of them at the bottom of the stream.

  7. Steve Bishop commented on Facebook:

    Seeing the state of some people in this country now... I think the tradition lives on.

  8. Alan Spence e-mailed:

    'Country is going to the dog's'