Bellmen, Butchers and Price Gouging

Did you know that Wagga Wagga once had a town crier? We didn’t!

We recently stumbled across an advertisement published in the Wagga Wagga Express on 3 January 1872, saying:

The “Bell” of Wagga Wagga.

Jim Robbins

Wishes to inform the public generally that he has again BEGUN BUSINESS as

Bellman, Town Crier, and Bill-sticker.

All orders left at the Pastoral Hotel will be strictly attended to.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

After a bit more searching, we found that the position of town bellman was around in Wagga previous to Mr Robbins’ appearance. A Mr John McCarron identified himself as Bellman in the Wagga Wagga Express on 12 May 1866.

Presumably, it is John McCarron that the paper was referring to as the bellman in the 3 February 1866 edition. Here the author of the report was commenting on the sudden reduction of meat prices – even in 1866, accusations of price gouging spread quickly in Wagga.  The report described the role the town bellman was playing in the affair:

“The Butchers of Wagga Wagga have had every thing their own way lately, and have contrived by a little quiet understanding to [raise] up the price of meat to a most unconscionable figure. All this is now at an end, but whether the change has been brought about by the circulation of a rumour that another butcher was about to establish himself in the town, or by some disagreement amongst the butchers already in business, we know not.

“Certain it is that on Monday last, the bellman dinned into the ears of the townspeople the not unwelcome intelligence that one knight of the cleaver had reduced his prices by about fifty percent. Immediately afterwards he was dispatched through the streets on a similar errand, by a second member of the meat-vending fraternity and was then again hired by the first, and so on the whole morning through.

“The grass is growing beautifully after the rain, and the butchers ought now to have no difficulty in keeping the market supplied with something like decent eatable meat.”

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