The Pig Club!
Nope! Not a hunting weapon of choice in the frozen north during mediaeval times nor yet a porcine charabanc outing! The Pig Club was a government initiative in Britain during the Second World War aimed at helping a jolly hungry nation to feed itself.
Although brave American and Empire convoys (God bless each and every one of them) were constantly zig-zagging about on the high seas battling to bring food, equipment and raw materials to besieged Britain and rationing was helping to preserve and eek out what provisions there were, people were still jolly hungry.
In wartime Britain, if you owned a porker yourself, then you had to register it and give half of the porcine proceeds to the Man from the Ministry when the time came for old 'Burlington Bertie' to trot off to the great sty in the sky. You could risk it for a biscuit and try and keep shtum about the pig in the petunias but you'd face a hefty fine or a bit of porridge if it all went six tits up.
Probably best not to risk it. Let's be honest you can smell a bacon sarnie on the go six houses down on a modern council estate today, seventy-odd years ago that classic aroma would have carried across eight fields, three villages, Coastal Command and clean into occupied France. The Man from the Ministry would have been vaulting over your gate before you'd had a chance to put your spatula down.
And so, yes, in order to minimise the risk of the whiff of clandestine British bacon resulting in a run on convictions in the magistrates' courts, the government came up with the notion of a Pig Club. You could still have your bacon - and eat it - as long as you shared it (and the responsibility for it) with your neighbours. A pig was procured (bad choice of words, I know) for the club and housed at a suitable location and everyone agreed to pitch in and feed it up. Kitchen scraps and any food waste was collected in bins around the village and served up to said pig until its own personal D-Day came around and the butcher was called in to do the deed.
In Little Hope the pig came to live in Miss Brewster's jolly secure back yard where it was able to exchange knowing looks with Edna the Evacuee of a morning:
Edna dressed hurriedly and then set off in the direction Miss Brewster had taken. She found her in the old kitchen, setting a large iron kettle on the range. “Would you like a piece of toast?” her host asked and without waiting for an answer “I see you spotted Goering outside your window?”
“Yes, the pig. Big old Wessex Saddleback to be precise.”
Ah! Edna's eyes grew round, like rare egg-yolks.
“The village has a couple of pig clubs, and we’re feeding that one up for Christmas. Everyone saves their scraps for him, you’ll see bins around the village. Rommel, the other pig, lives in the yard behind the…erm…the butchers.”
Edna noticed that Miss Brewster’s lip curled a bit when she mentioned the butcher. Perhaps she didn’t really want him to kill Goering and Rommel.
“Why do they have German names? The pigs, I mean?” Edna followed the direction of Miss Brewster’s pointy finger and sat down at an old oak table.
“Mrs Fox - she lives up at Forest Gate, you’ll come to recognise her - wanted to call our pig Winston, but then someone pointed out that killing Churchill for Christmas wasn’t a particularly patriotic thing to do and it was worrying some of the children. Silly of course, but,” Miss Brewster spiked a piece of bread onto a toasting fork and held it towards the range, “That’s children for you. Do you want to come and do this? Can you make toast?”
(©J Warrington 2017)