21. Meat and No Veg

This week I’d just like to have a quick look at the Albany, which came ashore between Sidmouth and Branscombe in 1887 with a cargo of hides and horns from:


Fray Bentos is not just a well-known British brand name (which may be better known to those of us d’un certain age –┬ánot that I have ever eaten one), but also a port in Uruguay, built on the meat processing industry which supplied just such steaks as comprised this early version of a convenience meal. The hides and horns laden onto the Albany must certainly have been a by-product of this industry. Tallow, rendered from animal fat, and used for candles, was often also included in such cargoes of meat by-products.

As you might expect, the numbers of wrecks laden with meat and associated products, reflect the heyday of the late 19th and early 20th century South American meat trade. These long-distance exports were only really made possible by the canning process – the can is as much part of the heritage as the branding of Fray Bentos pies and is very much a reminder that something we think of as quintessentially British often turns out not to be so!

Refrigeration facilitated the process, in which Nelson Line, already a specialist on South American routes, invested heavily. Among the Bedford Lemere ship photos in the Historic England collections are several of the Nelson Line Highland Mary, 1911, including this one of her refrigerated holds.

Another Nelson Line ship carrying meat, the Highland Corrie, was torpedoed in 1917 in the Channel.