James Farley

James Farley was a butcher in Majoribanks in the early 1900s, whose motto was “The Best is Cheapest”

James Farley came to Wellington with his wife, Emma, in 1902. His father was a “Dairyman of 17 acres” in Devon. James was 27 years old when he settled in Wellington and had been in the butchery trade since he was 16. When he arrived he worked for the Gear Meat Company at the No. 1 Shop (probably on Lambton Quay) for two years, before leaving to set up his own business.

His first business was established in rented premises at No. 4 Majoribanks Street. About 1908 or 1909, the family moved from Vogeltown to live upstairs at No. 4 Majoribanks Street. According to his son, Harold, on the outbreak of World War I the landlady of Nos. 12 and 14 Majoribanks Street, convinced that the Germans were coming, sold both properties. James took the opportunity to purchase both and it is believed that he had the shop fronts built for both buildings. In 1915 he moved his business into No. 12, whilst renting out No. 14. By 1913, the family had moved out of No. 4 and were living just around the corner at No. 15 Fallowfield Avenue.

Like most businesses of the time, deliveries were made by horse and cart and the Farley’s had at least two horses which used to take turns – one in town and the other out on grazing land on Liardet Street in Vogeltown. Because of this, the Farley’s horses appeared to be in better condition than the permanent city dwelling animals.

James Farley was a butcher on Marjoribanks Street in the early 20th century.

James Farley was a butcher on Marjoribanks Street in the early 20th century.

The latter days of James’ butchery business saw the deliveries become motorised, with the purchase of a Model 15.B Trumbull panel van. Heavy reliance was still placed on the ever-dependable delivery boy, Harold Farley, however. A page from his notebook on Monday 28th August 1916 records the following:

butcher's notebook

James and his family moved to Greytown in 1918, where he became a stock dealer and then a dairy farmer. From 1927 to 1929 he was also a councillor for Greytown Borough Council. The family retained the two Majoribanks Street buildings until the 1960’s, when Harold sold them.

The sign for Jas Farley, Cash Butcher, can still be seen above the shop on the small building behind the Embassy Theatre on Majoribanks Street.

The great sausage machine from Farley’s the Butchers was the only remaining relic of the shop, which was subsequently occupied by various cafes. It is proudly displayed in the New Crossways just across the road in Roxburgh Street.

Sadly the butcher shop at 12 Marjoribanks St was demolished in 2005. At that time, the Mt Victoria Historical Society was contacted by James Farley’s grandson, Jim Farley, in the Wairarapa. Among other things he shared with us is detail about the photo on this page. He tells us that the young man driving the cart developed a drink problem after he left his grandfather’s employ, had an accident from a cart and was killed. Jim’s father, Harold, told him that in Kent Terrace there was a Chinese laundry. From his bedroom at No. 4 he could see into the backyards below and on Sunday mornings he would see the men washing their hair and plaiting their pigtails. He also said that a man used to come into Wellington from the Hutt with a load of oat sheaves and they would purchase some for the horses. The horses would lie down to sleep so it wasn’t so hard on their legs.