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Rag and bone men

8 November 2011


Rag and bone men in Brixton, Johannesburg

Someone said in some online forum that you don’t see rag and bone men any more, but you just have to be in the right plasce at the right time. One of those places is outside St Nicholas Church in Brixcton, Johannesburg, and about 5:30 am. On major saints’ days (today is St Michael & All Angels, or Michaelmas, as they call it in the west). So we have a service at 6:00 am so people can get to work.

In winter it’s dark when the rag and bone men pass, pulling their flattened supermarket trolleys, and you can hear them from a long way away. There are about 7-8 of them passing the Brixton Cemetery, but they split up, and so by the time they get to the church there are only four.And since summer’s on its way, this time they passed just after the sun had risen, so I was able to take a picture of them.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 November 2011 7:37 pm

    So what IS a rag and bone man … ?

  2. 8 November 2011 8:12 pm

    I also want to know . . .

  3. 9 November 2011 4:49 am

    From the Wikipedia article

    “Rag and bone man is a British phrase for a junk dealer. Historically the phrase referred to an individual who would travel the streets of a city with a horsedrawn cart, and would collect old rags for making fabric and paper, bones for making glue, scrap iron for recycling, and assorted miscellany. They would often trade the items collected for other items of limited value.”

    In Johannesburg fifty years ago they also had horse-drawn carts, but now they use flattened supermarket trolleys (which, being interpreted for the benefit of any Americans who may be reading this, are “shopping carts”).

  4. Popi Makgobi permalink
    20 November 2016 10:55 am

    Good day

    If I would like to collect bones for recycling, how do I do it? Would you be interested to do business with me?

    • 21 November 2016 5:00 pm

      We don’t have any bones, especially during the fastive season when we don’t eat meat. Perhaps you could ask at butcheries.

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