Behind the famous McCowan’s toffee factory in Stenhousemuir is the history of Andrew McCowan...learn about the man behind the confectionery!
Andrew McCowan founded the confectioners called McCowans, famous for its Highland toffee and penny dainties. While a lot is known about the business, what about the man himself? Andrew was born in Muthill, a small village in Perthshire. He was born at 5.30pm on Tuesday, July 7, 1874, to Catherine Robb. Andrew was illegitimate so was registered under his mother's maiden name of McCowan.
We next find him listed in the 1881 census for the parish of Auchterarder, Perthshire. He is listed under his mother’s married name of Robb. In the household, along with Andrew, are his mother Catherine Robb, and Ellen Robb, her daughter, who was 14 years old. The house name was Castleton. Andrew was made an orphan in the same year as the census, 1881. His mother died at the age of 47 on October 18 of that year.
Andrew next appears in the 1891 census for the parish of Logie, Perthshire at 29 East Ballochy. He is 17 years old and listed as a farm servant. He was next found in 1897 staying at Thornhill Road, Falkirk. This is the year he married Jessie Ross from Lauriston, Falkirk. His occupation is listed as Vanman. He was 23 years old. His marriage to Jessie took place on December 10, 1897, at Comely Park. On April 2, 1898, they had a son named Andrew, born at Mary Street, Grahamston. Their second son Robert was born on March 30, 1900, at Shepherds Buildings Bainsford, where, according to the census of 1901, Andrew and Jessie lived. Andrew’s occupation is listed as Aerated Water Salesman. Andrew and Jessie had a third son Douglas on February 24, 1903, at Shepherds Buildings.
The 1905 valuation rolls list an Andrew McCowan living in Church Street, Stenhousemuir. The premises are a house and shop, Andrew is listed as a dairy keeper. In the 1911 census, the family are staying at North Main Street, (Frasers Buildings), Stenhousemuir with his occupation listed as Wholesale Confectioner. In the 1915 valuation rolls, Andrew is listed as staying in a house and shop located in Church Street. His occupation is now listed as a Confectioner. He is also listed in the same year as staying in Rae Street, Stenhousemuir occupying a house with a stable and shop. His occupation is again listed as Confectioner. This time he is the proprietor, not a tenant. He is still there, on the valuation roll, in 1920.
It’s all change in the 1925 valuation roll, he is listed as the proprietor of A. McCowan and sons limited manufacturing confectioners Tryst Road, Stenhousemuir. There is also a house listed with him as proprietor and occupier. When we reach 1930 A. McCowan and sons have the confection works at Tryst Road, a workshop, three houses as well as a house and shop. The 1935 valuation gives a little more information. There is still the works at 44 Tryst Road and a workshop, the house and shop were at 46/48 Tryst Road, and the tenant was Lillian Lucy Sillars, wife of James Sillars fitter. The tenant at 2 Gladstone Road was Alexander Forsyth, chauffeur, number 4 was tenanted by James Watson, hardware merchant, and number 6 was occupied by Andrew McCowan, proprietor.
We now move forward 5 years to 1940. Andrew still owns the house at 50 Rae Street, tenanted by electrical engineer Archibald Hunter, and of course the confectionery works as well as the properties listed in the 1935 valuation. He has also added Inchyra, Old Polmont, with a house, woodland, orchard and offices, to the list of properties. There is also another house occupied by Charles Waugh Gardner. Andrew McCowan lived to the ripe old age of 77. He passed away on October 22 1951.
We can only surmise that Andrews early life would have been difficult. Still, he later forged an excellent business, successful and well known all over the world for its Highland Toffee.
During his years as a confectioner, he would have used vast quantities of that one commodity we have all come to crave, sugar.
You can read Ron's story about "The History of Sugar" on our website.
By Ron Watson, Great Place volunteer.