“YOUR interesting story about savoury ducks reminded me of when I first moved to Darlington in 1970 and came across chitterlings, or chitlins as they were known,” says Joan Thompson. “I hadn’t moved far, only from Teesside, but I don’t recall ever seeing them in the butchers there.”

Savoury ducks – also known as faggots – featured in Memories 514 and have nothing to do with waterfowl. They are tasty minced offal and pork offcuts, traditionally wrapped in the caul (or membrane), and best eaten warm, with pease pudding. If you are very lucky, you can still find them in traditional family butchers.

The Northern Echo: J Lochners butchers in Darlington covered market in the 1960s - the sort of place you could get chitterlings from

But not even Todds, of Haughton-le-Skerne, could shed light on chitterlings.

“I saw these grey, wrinkly tubes on display in butchers windows and they did look quite off-putting but a friend persuaded me to try some on a Saturday afternoon in town,” says Joan. “I was informed that there were two types: bags and tubes.

“She bought some bags, which were doused in vinegar and retired to a local hostelry to eat them with a half of beer.

The Northern Echo: David Zissler, great-grandson of the original Zisslers, closes down the Skinnergate butchers shop in 1997

“After some encouragement, I bravely dipped my hand in the bag and put one in my mouth. It had the texture and flavour of a boiled shammy leather!

“I have never been so disgusted. It was all I could do not to retch, but I’m sure some people will have fond memories of them!”

Chitterlings were made out of pig intestines. Now, the intestine is basically a tube which runs from the stomach to the anus and, consequently, if bought uncleaned from your family butchers, it contained faeces.

And it stank.

The Northern Echo: The Skinnergate Zisslers up for sale in 1997

The first job was to boil it clean and scrub out the indigestibles, like straw, which had been part of the pig’s last meal. Then you boil it for several more hours with onions, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic – anything to conceal the smell – until you were left with the wrinkly grey tubes.

These were a working class delicacy the world over. In Darlington in the 1940s, Mr Crawford had his butchers shop in Lower Priestgate, beneath the inner ring road, and he would wheel a barrow of pigs' trotters, cows' feet, tripe and ready-to-eat chitterlings through the streets.

However, the Wikipedia entry for them notes: “Chitterlings, though much declined in popularity, are still enjoyed in the UK today.”

The Northern Echo: Today's front page picture shows Bondgate in December 1961, with a splendid array of buses, and Zisslers butchers on the right. The picture is taken from the balcony of Lavericks cafe, which is now the Nationwide building society. Our old car

Can you still get chitterlings anywhere today?

ZISSLERS’ butchers used to sell chitterlings. Zisslers were an extremely well known Darlington butchers, founded by George and Magdalena Zissler who, forbidden from marrying in their native Germany, eloped as teenagers. British sailors helped them land at West Hartlepool in 1869, and in 1871 they took on a small shop in Bondgate, Darlington, in 1871.

Behind it was Coltman’s Yard where people lived cheek-by-jowl with pigs in sties and a slaughterhouse.

The Northern Echo: Zisslers in Bondgate in February 1971 when the A1 roadsign was belatedly being replaced. You don't get prams like that any more - go on, missus, push baby headfirst out into the road at exhaust-height and see if the traffic stops

George did the butchering and Magdalena made the pies (and possibly the chitterlings).

The couple gradually bought up the properties in the yard and their shop and, eventually, rebuilt them. Humans continued to reside in the yard into the 1930s; pigs lived there into the 1950s.

But the Zisslers prospered. In fact, one of their sons, Henry, opened a rival charcuterie in Skinnergate.

However, those were the days when there were butchers’ shops on every street corner. As supermarkets arrived, those days began to fade. The Skinnergate shop closed in 1997 followed by the Bondgate shop in 1999, so ending 128 years of butchery and chitterling-making.

IN the wake of the savoury ducks story, Paul Carter asks one of life’s very big questions. “I have wondered for a long time why the term family butchers is so often seen,” he says. “I have asked a couple and they replied that their families are in the business, so why don’t we see the term family newsagents, family greengrocers, family ironmongers, family bakers, family barbers, family drapers? Why is it only family butchers? Does anyone know?”

The Northern Echo: Bondgate in December 1961, with a splendid array of buses, and Zisslers butchers on the right. The picture is taken from the balcony of Lavericks cafe, which is now the Nationwide building society

MARGARET WEEKS says: “Many years ago, as a child living in the Hopetown Lane area of Darlington, a special treat was to take a basin and go once a week to meet my Dad when he finished his shift at Stooperdale railway works. Opposite was Madge Wrightson’s butchers on Brinkburn Road where we bought ducks and pease pudding.

“Obviously Madge Wrightson has long since gone, but, my, she was fearsome to us youngsters and indeed many of the workers were went in the shop!.

“Another little treat for me was walking home with Dad and calling in to Latheron’s little bakery in one of the little terraced houses on Hopetown Lane to buy some teacakes.

“By the time the teacakes reached home there weren’t many currants left in them! I still like teacakes.”