The Story of Highland Toffee

Andrew McCowan ( 1874- 1951 ) is the person responsible for putting money in the pockets of generations of school dentists . The Muthill born entrepreneur moved from the Strath when in his teens to Falkirk and ended up founding the company famed for its Highland Toffee . That gooey bar in the wrapper with the big Highland cow beaming out at you ! Penny Dainties and other school day treats earned his fame and fortune . The oft repeated biographical tale of the boy born and brought up on the farm some four miles from Crieff does not properly reveal what was , to put it mildly , a chaotic early life . In the Victorian era , the morals of society were often focused on family life . Underneath the veneer of respectability lurked a two faced hypocrisy .Birth certificates were designed to ensure you were accurately labelled from infancy . The word “ illegitimate” was clearly included in the name column if the mother had been guilty of an indiscretion . Andrew was born in the village of Muthill on 7th of July 1874 to Catherine Robb , a forty year old farm worker or day labourer as it was then termed . He was described as being “ illegitimate “ despite the fact that his mum was described as being married . The certificate carried a hand written statement from Daniel McIntosh the Registrar of Muthill . It stated “ Catherine Robb ms ( maiden surname ) Mcowan ( sic ) wife of James Robb , soldier who informant states has been separated from for several years and that he is not father of the child “ .Catherine signed the certificate with a cross witnessed by McIntosh . Seven years later in the census of 1881 , Catherine and Andrew and his big sister Ellen are living on Castleton Auchterarder . Catherine is described as being married and working as an out door worker . She was aged 47 and sadly died in the October of that year from on going heart disease . Interestingly , the informant to the death was her oldest child John who was living in Glasgow and signed his name not Robb , nor McCowan but Carmichael ! Catherine is described as the widow of James Robb , shoemaker . Further research discovered that Catherine had married James Robb on the 13th of June 1862 in Pittenzie , Crieff . A son Joseph was born to the couple on the 2nd of March the following year but as to the parentage of John there is some doubt . He was born in Muthill some five years prior to the marriage but there appears there is no record of his birth . Andrew was left an orphan aged seven . Perhaps it is understandable that he considered that the Strath did not owe him very much and some ten years later at the ripe old age of seventeen he moved to the Falkirk to find his fortune. He met and married Jessie Ross in 1897 . His first job was as a lemonade delivery man , he quickly realised that he could earn a little extra cash by selling sweets into the shops as he went around with the lemonade. It was only a small step from this to owning his own shop in Stenhousemuir just beside Falkirk. By the start of the First World War he had started manufacturing his own Tablet over an old coke burner. By 1920 he also made Rock, Snowballs, lollypops and macaroon, and in 1922 he moved into the current premises. During the depression Andrew realised that he had to find another market so he struck upon the idea of small, cheap, toffee chews, McCowan’s World Famous Highland Toffee was launched. Andrew died in Falkirk of a heart attack in 1951 .He was seventy seven .


  1. Fascinating yes the penny toffee was so big you used to smash it in 2 on the kerb and share with your pals

  2. Ah that is so interesting. So thats why there is a street called McOwan Avenue in Perthshire. Thank you for that interesting bit of history.

  3. Ah that is so interesting. So thats why there is a street called McOwan Avenue in Perthshire. Thank you for that interesting bit of history.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Comrie of Old

Methven : Some Historical Tales including a defeat for Robert the Bruce . Methven the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty