BOOK LAUNCH: "At Work - Macclesfield Cheese Factory, 1937-1975" at the Macclesfield Institute Hall, Sat 27th May, 2017, 2-5 pm
We begin this history in the 1890’s when Mr Samuel Davis opened a creamery on the family property at Bugle Ranges.
In 1908 Samuel bought the ‘Macclesfield Dairy Produce Company Limited’ from Mr Alfred Jarvis for four hundred and fifty pounds, including all the fixed and moveable machinery plant and appliances. The factory was located on the site of the old brewery, being (sections 83, 84 and 90) containing two acres, one rood and fourteen perches or thereabouts. (Articles of Agreement dated 13th July 1908). This was the start of the Davis’ family involvement which continued through to 1944.
Sam Davis’s butter and cheese factory c.1908 (Sam Davis on platform)
In 1937 they built a new factory on Searle Street in response to the developing dairy industry and the growing demand from the Adelaide market.
Davis’s Cheese Factory in 1937
In 1944, ‘H.S. Davis and Son’ sold the business to Jacobs Dairy Produce Company Ltd.
For the next 31 years Herb Gallasch was the Manager of the Jacobs factory. During this time the factory underwent several extensions and more than doubled in size to increase their capacity to process greater quantities of milk into top quality cheese.
Jacobs Dairy Produce Company in the 1960’s
‘The Old Macc’ was a full flavoured mature cheddar that was very popular with the local market.
Sue Wright explains the cheese making process at the time:
The Macclesfield factory achieved great success with their award winning cheddar cheese and was rated highly by the Japanese market.
The Meiji Company is the biggest Japanese buyer of Australian cheese, and purchases through the importing firm of Mitsubishi Company form practically the entire production of cheese from the Macclesfield factory. (from the Mount Barker Courier, March 22, 1967)
Macclesfield was one of the first factories to make rindless cheddar cheese and they cut and packaged all of their cheese for the local market. Cheese was matured in the underground cellar and cut and packed in the cold room.
Rindless cheese ready for export (photo courtesy of the Gallasch family)
The dairy industry underwent significant changes during these years, including increased government intervention and regulations around food manufacture and health standards.
In the 1970’s, there was a growing demand for fresh milk and fresh milk products, including yoghurts, creams and custards, from the increasing population of Adelaide. The Dairy Produce Companies saw that it was more profitable to supply fresh milk to the city market and cheese manufacture as simply a way to use up surplus milk. Jacobs continued with the collection of milk in cans for a while but there was a push to use bulk refrigerated tankers which enabled milk to be transported a greater distance.
In 1975 they sold the company, which comprised cheese factories at Macclesfield and Mount Barker as well as a 35% share of Metro Milk, to Southern Farmers. They closed the factory as part of a rationalisation scheme and an amalgamation of activities with other factories in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges.
Jenny Slack (nee Gallasch) describes some of the effects of the closing down of the Cheese Factory:
This was to be known as the ‘Macclesfield Butter and Cheese Factory Oral History Project 1937-1975’ and was carried out under the auspices of the State Library of South Australia. They provided the ‘state of the art’ recording equipment and on-going support and encouragement.
Fifteen interviews were recorded and these are now stored in the JD Somerville collection (OH1022); copies are also held by the Macclesfield Community Association.
We recorded the memories of former employees, contractors and others with links to the factory as a way of bringing to life this unique period in the town’s history. These fifteen interviewees represented more than one hundred and sixty workers who were employed at the factory during these years. Different generations of local families worked there over time. This helped to create a very stable work force and many of our interviewees were long time employees at the factory.
Through their recollections we gained an appreciation of the central role this factory had in the community both economically and socially. Economically the community prospered as the local men kept a few cows and grew a few potatoes and worked at the factory. That was their day time job.
Socially, a number of our interviewees met their future partners while working at the factory, and family connections within the town were strong. It was the major employer of people; it provided a store for farm supplies, a veterinary service and was surrounded by dairy farmers who supplied milk to the factory.
Bill Vaninetti talks about the truck routes to collect the milk: