The building on the banks of the river in North Macksville that is now a pile of rubble was a butter factory long before it housed Midco Melosi. Initially a wooden building – as most were in those days – it was built at a cost of £1,375 ($2,750) on land that had been purchased for £60 ($120) from W. Lake.
It was the third butter factory built in the Nambucca Valley. The first opened in 1904 and was erected by the Nambucca Dairy Company on the corner of Winifred and Princess Streets in Macksville. The second opened in 1907 and was built by the Bowraville Dairy Company near Lane’s Bridge in Bowraville. The North Macksville factory was opened in 1912, and over the years it was extended significantly. In 1918 the Nambucca Company increased its operations by building a butter factory at Taylors Arm, and expanded further in 1919 by opening another at Eungai.
In those early days Ted Flarrety was the North Macksville factory’s butter maker and in 1924 he won the prize for the world’s best butter at the Islington Great Fair.
Cliff Field lived almost opposite the North Macksville factory and in his oral history (held by the Nambucca River Co-operative Society) he said: “They sent two boxes of butter over to London, sent over by boat of course, and got first prize. Best butter in the world from here. There was no writing on the boxes and they were polished. Ted Flarrety he put them down, wrapped them up in hessian, sewed them up in a bag. Put them on the train up here. They went down to Sydney and went by boat over to England. Had a six week trip”.
In 1950 the co-operative that made the world’s best butter amalgamated with the Bowraville Dairy Company and became the Nambucca River Co-operative Society Limited. In 1960, it sold its North Macksville property to Midco, a company the two co-operatives had helped form when dairy farmers began the changeover from dairying to beef and so needed a local abattoir to process their livestock.
The Nambucca Headland Museum has photos of those early butter making days and is pleased to welcome visitors. It is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2–4pm.
Further information about the rise and decline of local dairying can be found in ‘Undaunted’ the History of the Nambucca Co-operative Society Ltd and copies are available at Nambucca Shire Libraries.