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McCowan’s Confectionery Memories

Remember McCowan’s Highland toffee? Or Penny Dainties? Our Great Place volunteer Louise Bell asked people to share their confectionery memories…

McCowan’s Memories on Twitter


Almost everyone has a memory of eating toffee, or something equally delightful, from McCowan’s, when you ask them. I took to Twitter asking what memories my followers might like to share. There was an image of Irn-Bru bars attached to the tweet, so many of the replies are about them:

“My aunty Mary worked there. The home she was born in and lived in all her life was minutes from the factory. The air was always sweet. She kept a tin of broken sweets. I used to dig in the tin for rosebuds. My fav. Because they were broken or seconds often they were the wrong shape. Or lots stuck together. That was a bonus.”

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 “I used to love going to my grandad’s on a weekend as the corner shop had these! So good!”


“A post school treat and dentist's nightmare. Not only were they guaranteed to pull out any fillings, you could feel the acid rot your teeth as you ate them. I was more of a Wham bar fan.”


“I had a primary teacher who would give us Lanky Larry sweets as a reward every so often (she had a friend who worked in McCowan’s). I remember them being amazing, but no-one knows what I’m talking about when I tell the story – I’d love to know if they were a real thing!”


“I miss these! Used to get one every day on my walk home from school J so gutted when they stopped making them.”


“My mum worked there, she used to bring back bags of broken up sweets home.”


“I miss them so much! In first year of high school the boy that fancied me came in every day and gave me an Irn-Bru bar, then asked me out.”

Other Memories


I also asked the other volunteers working on the McCowan’s project for some of their memories of childhood sweets and McCowan’s, and here are some wonderful anecdotes that I received:


“I grew up on the same street that the McCowan’s factory was on. It was always something that was there for a big part of my life, and I used to walk past it every day without fully appreciating it. I do remember the sweet smells that it would emit, when you went near it.”


“My Mum worked there, and I really remember the white uniform, for some reason – especially the white hat. Obviously, the biggest treat was getting the broken sweets that she sometimes brought home with her.”


“I remember toffee as a real treat growing up. We used to have Curly Wurlys, which were popular where I grew up in London. The toffee formed a kind of lattice, rather than being a solid bar, and came in bright purple and white wrapping. With each bite you’d have to pull really hard to break a bit off, because it would just stretch and stretch.  It’s making me crave them just thinking about it!”


“Small flashes of walking home with my friends, after having been at the local newsagents, eating Irn-Bru bars, keep coming to mind when I think of McCowan’s.”


“My walk to school from North Broomage would take us past a couple of shops in the railway building on the corner of Foundry Loan and Main Street.”


“There was a corner shop there, cross between off-licence, sweet shop and newsagent. Bought sweets there , flying saucers full of sherbet, sherbet fountains, MB bars – a sort of Cadbury's Cream, but cheaper!”

“The McCowan's "penny caramel" was a favourite - when I first started eating them it was possible to break them in half – usually by snapping them on the edge of the pavement – no bother with food hygiene then.”

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“We regularly walked to Stenhousemuir and went round the Lido. The smell from McCowan's factory was always great – especially when they made different flavoured toffee, like banana or raspberry. This lasted right into my time at the High School.”


“If you're from Tryst Road - the Tryst was quite a big event and we used to look forward to – the smells were great, especially when mixed with the toffee works. Candy floss, fried onions and toffee apples. All mixed with the smells of the machines and fairground rides, oil and grease.”


Lastly, my Dad used to be a postman –  and the highlight of the working year was the goody-box that McCowan’s used to give all of the people who served the offices and factory – “they always seemed to be quite generous with their product.”


By Louise Bell, Great Place volunteer.


To share memories please contact [email protected]

Read next:

Nearby: Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood

Remembering the Wham Bar

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Nearby: Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood

McCowan’s Machinery: A Glimpse Inside the Toffee Factory

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  • References & Bibliography
  • All memories have been shared anonymously.
  • Image. Public Domain.
  • With additional fact-checking by Rowan Berry.
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