Macsween Haggis crowned chieftain

James Macsween with John Swinney and Kaye Adams
James Macsween with John Swinney and Kaye Adams
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Brother and sister team James and Jo Macsween, the third generation to run the family haggis business based at Loanhead in Edinburgh, are celebrating after taking home a national accolade for their company.

The joint managing directors of Macsween Haggis were presented with the award for “Outstanding Contribution to Food & Drink” at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards.

Mr Macsween was handed the prize by Deputy First Minister John Swinney and broadcaster Kaye Adams at a black-tie awards dinner at the National Museum of Scotland on May 27.

More than 800 guests were in attendance for the biggest night in Scotland’s food and drink industry’s calendar.

The award was given in recognition of the duo’s track record in reaching out to new customers through innovative product development and inspired marketing.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Macsween said: “I was shocked when I heard the judges describing a company that sounded so very like our own. And even more so when they called out my name.

“The award hopefully shows that our efforts to change perceptions of haggis with innovation and new products are really being recognised.”

Recognition is a proud moment for the pair, echoing their father John’s achievement of winning the 1996 BBC Scottish Food Lifetime Achievement Award. James and Jo took over the running of the firm, which is synonymous with Scotland’s national dish, in 2006, after John passed away.

Obituaries said about John and the company he founded: “Macsween’s name was much respected in Edinburgh business for half a century.”

The company has its roots in 1950 when James and Jo’s grandparents, Charlie and Jean Macsween, met while working at Orrs, the butcher and game dealer on George Street. After Mr Orr’s death, his daughter gave the pair a £5,000 loan to start their own business.

The Macsween butcher’s shop opened in Bruntsfield in 1953.

Charlie’s eldest son John started working at the shop in 1957, with his first job being to pluck three geese.

“It was the most hellish job on the earth, feathers everywhere,” he recalled years later. After Charlie’s death in 1975, the business passed to John and his wife Kate.

Soon after James and Jo came on board in 1993, the firm commissioned what was considered to be the world’s first ever purpose-built haggis factory at Loanhead, closing the Bruntsfield shop in 1996 after 53 years.

Midlothian MSP Colin Beattie said: “I’ve always been impressed by the products from Macsween and feel they truly deserve this award.

“I give my sincere congratulations to James and Jo Macsween on being recognised.”