Barley stored in breweries attracted pests.
One cat was kept specifically to rid the property of vermin.
Widget’s Brewery cat was ‘Caesar’. Over time various cats came and went. No matter what the cat’s sex, the name stayed the same. Upon a vacancy, only consistent mousers were invited to apply.
An essential piece of brewery equipment, Caesar was fed and maintained . The bookkeeper entered Caesar’s veterinary fees as ‘repairs to the vermin eradication machine’.
Health and safety legislation and storing barley off-site eventually made Caesar redundant.
To this day Widget’s beer drinkers raise their glasses with the salutation “Caesar!”
Based on the story of the cats named ‘Oscar’ who performed the same role at the James Boag (J Boag & Sons) Brewery, Launceston, Tasmania.
Having a family connection to the late 1800’s brewing industry in Sydney (a great-great-grandfather was head brewer at Tooths brewery until starting his own brewery), I was quite taken with the story of Oscar and the necessary role domestic animals played in an industrial setting.
The transposition to an imaginary community called ‘Widget’ is a function of that mixture of history, local tradition and the eventual transition of such stories to mythology.
Photo taken by Alexandra J Cornwell, April 2013.