For the first time in 54 years, Ian Doyle won’t be up to his elbows in hams on Christmas Eve.
The well-known Gunnedah resident has passed the reins of his butcher shop over to Brett Streater and is settling into retirement.
Instead of easing back from 75 hours a week, Ian went cold turkey, finishing up on the Saturday of the October long weekend.
“I had to set a date,” Ian said.
“I would never have got it done in dribs and drabs or I would never have done it.”
On the first working day of the next week, Ian said his body clock hadn’t got the message that he was retired.
“I woke up and I got up and I thought, ‘Something’s wrong’,” he said.
It was a smooth transition as Ian passed the reins to Brett who started working at the butcher shop at the age of 14. He became Ian's apprentice when he was 18 and in 2016, he started managing the shop.
“It’s hard to give up your baby [but] I feel good about it going to Brett,” Ian said.
“The funniest part is that I can go out somewhere and you can see someone looking at you and in the end they will come up and say, “You’re Ian Doyle”.
“They’ve never seen me out of the shop without my hat or white coat.”
“I was the only one who shook the boss’ hand when I walked in to apply and that’s how I got the job,” Ian said.
“I needed a job if I was going to take the young ladies to the pictures.”
The retired butcher said back then there was no such thing as overtime and he received only seven pounds for a 45-hour week.
Ian and his wife Pam went on to purchase the butcher shop from Jacob Enks in 1976 and continued the tradition of giving a cocktail frankfurt to every child who came in.
Over the decades, he has watched these children grow up and start their own families, “which was beautiful”.
“People would come back and bring their child and I’d give them a cocktail frankfurt,” Ian said.
Ian has raised his own family in Gunnedah with his lifelong partner Pam who has worked alongside him in the business for all these years. Ian said their son Richard could tie sausages before he was five and even did his apprenticeship at the shop.
Pam said Ian had made many friends through the business and he was “known by everyone”. When he goes grocery shopping, she says “I’m thinking I’ve got to send out a search party”.
After more than 50 years of starting work at 4.30am, Ian said he was still adjusting to a life of retirement.
“Never once did I think it was a job; it was a lifestyle,” he said.
While the 71-year-old may not be serving behind the counter of the butcher shop this Christmas, he says he is still “the chief carver” at home.