THE WORLD of Cumberland sausage making has long been renowned as a secret society; each family is under an omerta not to disclose the secret of their herbs and spices recipe and special preparation method.
No, we’re not talking about the Mafia. Rodney Flett would chuckle at the idea, but he cuts an imposing figure behind his sausage-making machine in Great Clifton.
“I keep the recipe in here,” says Rodney, pointing at the back of his head.
Once, five villains with a pick axe handle jumped on him as he returned home and demanded the keys to his house.
He fought back so vigorously that his attackers fled, to eventually be caught by police.
Was he targeted for his secret recipe? “No,” he says, laughing off such a suggestion as preposterous. “They were just thugs.”
Today, Fletts sausages are a byword in West Cumbria.
From his sausage-making emporium at the village stores, which he runs with daughter Julia, he sends his sausages to top restaurants in London.
Although Rodney has already retired once, he forgot to remove his telephone number from the book.
Former customers dragged him back from his well-earned retirement.
At first it was just to make a few sausages but this soon turned into hundreds of pounds of the famous links, and now he is back at work in his spotless whites once more.
From the Orkney Isles, and arriving in Workington at the age of 14 in 1954, he remembers an idyllic childhood.
He and his pals would explore the shores of Scapa Flow where the Grand Fleet was scuttled when Germany surrendered in the First World War.
“My mother had rheumatism and we came to West Cumberland because it was said to have better weather,” he says. “We had relatives here. My older sister married a sailor during the war and he came from Workington.
“We lived on the golf course side of town at Schoose Farm.
“After only a short time, however, father went to work in the steelworks at Chapel Bank.”
He remembers living in a little house down on the quay in Workington.
Henry Street was the address, long gone now.
He had previously attended Kirkwall Grammar School and on arriving in Workington only had two months of schooling still to do.
These he finished off at Newlands School where he made lifelong friends,
One was Keith Graham, who went to work at Chapel Bank as a fitter.
He now has a narrow boat at Preston Brook, near Warrington.
Another was Billy Wilson who became a van driver.
Then there was Malcolm Durham who lives in Seaton. “We met in a fight,” he says. “We both had gangs. We had a wrestling match for half an hour or more.
“We couldn’t make anything of each other, shook hands, and both gangs joined together. The school couldn’t understand why I opted for butchering. I was gifted at art and technical drawing. They wanted to slot me into Chapel Bank.
“But I said no. Of course I didn’t know what industry was, coming from the Orkneys.
“I was lucky that I ended up at the Co-operative as an apprentice. Not all the butchers could make the sausage like old Ike Muir, who kept pigs, and Billy Clague.
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