Sunday 24 September 2017

Butcher, 83, not ready for the chop

Britain's oldest female butcher Marian Voyce cuts bacon in her shop FC Voyce in Coleford, Gloucestershire
Britain's oldest female butcher Marian Voyce cuts bacon in her shop FC Voyce in Coleford, Gloucestershire

Britain's oldest female butcher says she has no plans to retire from running her traditional shop - despite turning 83.

Marian Voyce left her job at a solicitor's office to work at her father-in-law's shop, FC Voyce, in Coleford, Gloucestershire, in 1959.

She was trained by husband Lionel Voyce, a master butcher, and the pair worked together until his death in 2000 at the age of 87.

Since then, Mrs Voyce has ran the butchers by herself - clocking in six days each week and not taking a day off for holiday or sickness for the past four years.

The passionate worker still roasts her own cooked ham and butchers whole lamb, as well as cutting joints to her customers' orders.

Mrs Voyce, of Cinderford, Gloucestershire, said: "It's only me now. I did used to have some help until three or four years ago from a gentleman but he sadly died.

"I was able to have a holiday then but I can't have one now. I don't get any days off. It is six days a week.

"But I find that I'm most tired when I'm not busy, which is sadly quite often these days as people tend to go to the supermarket.

"It is a long week but if I was at home I wouldn't have anybody, I haven't got any family and I shouldn't be around.

"I shouldn't live long without it."

Mrs Voyce has regulars she has known for decades, having watched them grow from children into parents and grandparents.

Her shop includes a couple of chairs by the counter where local people can sit and chat while she works.

"It is a typical old fashioned butchers," Mrs Voyce said. "We do have a refrigerated window and we have a marble block as the counter.

"A lot of people who visit say it is lovely to come into a place that is so old fashioned.

"Some of my customers I have had for 30 to 40 years. Many are elderly and they are dying and then I lose them."

FC Voyce was started by Mrs Voyce's father-in-law, Frederick Charles, at Coleford market in 1933.

"In those days there wasn't refrigeration or anything," Mrs Voyce, who turned 83 in February, added. "He killed his own cattle.

"He had a horse and cart and at the end of the day he used to go to the mines to sell the meat off."

Mrs Voyce married her husband and began working for the firm in 1959. The couple bought the shop in 1968 after the market closed.

"It was very different then altogether," she said. "We used to have people queuing out the door."

Workers would be given meat during the week then come back at the weekend after receiving their wages and pay off their bill.

"In all my years working here I have never known it so quiet," Mrs Voyce, who uses a pencil and paper to calculate bills, said.

"I find it really sad to be quite honest. Having worked here for 63 years, it is such a big difference.

"People come in here to buy their meats for big occasions but tend to go to the supermarket otherwise."

Mrs Voyce plans to continue her husband's legacy in the shop for as long as possible and keeps herself fit and healthy by going to the gym.

"I used to joke to him 'you're fonder of that shop than you are of me'," she said. "He was a master butcher and he was very fussy, he taught me well.

"I think he would be very pleased to see it was still going."

There is one skill Mrs Voyce is yet to master despite her decades of experience - how to cut through liver without shuddering.

"My husband used to tell me not to pull a face when I cut it because I'd put people off but I couldn't help it," she said.

"I still don't like handling it now but it is very good for you."

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