You need a brave heart to stomach haggis

A Slice of Britain: A Scottish butcher is making waves in the Wirral as his offal offerings – for Burns Night tomorrow or not – prove as popular as beef

A stench like halitosis from the worst demon in hell threatens to bludgeon everyone out of the room. A cauldron of steaming livers, hearts and lungs disappears into the maw of an industrial mincer and slops out of the other end into a bucket of oatmeal. A crate of beef fat and onion is added to create a glistening mound of carnivore porridge. It is 10am in Braveheart Butchers and flame-haired John Potter has already been up for five hours boiling the ingredients for his Burns Night batch of prize-winning haggis. His rolled-up sleeves reveal a tattoo, "Scotland the Brave", as he plunges his hands into the vat and stirs.

Despite the name of his shop and the words stencilled on his arm, Potter and his haggis are a long way from Scotland. The shop sits on a drizzly high street in the Wirral. Oh, and the tattoo was picked up during a Butlin's holiday in Bognor Regis.

Since he moved to the town of Wallasey, near Liverpool, four years ago, Potter has built up an expanding English following for the puddings, which he makes to a secret recipe. "When I first came down here I thought I'd never have to make haggis again, but now I'm making more than ever," he says, firing up a large square boiler. "I think more haggis is sold south of the border now than in Scotland: I make an 80lb batch every week."

He moved south "for the love of a good woman". His English wife, Michelle, does not, however, extend her affection to sharing his fondness for sheep's pluck. Observing preparations from the relative safety of the shop front she winces at the smells escaping through the fly curtain. "I can't stand it," she says, wrinkling her nose. "It's the skins that are the worst."

A brief inspection of the slimy white sheep stomachs heaped in the sink confirms they are indeed the source of the pervasive rank odour. Potter is undeterred. "It's off-al, that's what it is," he quips, chuckling at his own, rather fetid, joke.

He has been getting used to the smell for the past 24 years. It was then, at the age of 16, that he learned to make haggis as an apprentice at McKirdy's, a family-run butcher in Port Seton. By 1998 his skill had been rewarded with a gold gong at Scotland's national haggis championships. "We put in three of our shops and got first, second and third place," he says, puffing out his aproned chest. "We wiped the board and we held on to that award until 2002."

Scotland's loss is Wallasey's gain. Dora Bennett, 85, one of his regulars, wheels her shopping trolley through the door and picks up her meat for the day. "I'll have a haggis," she says, without pausing for breath. Noticing the posters Potter has put up around the shop, she adds: "Oh, I didn't know it was Burns Night, my daughter just said she fancied it."

Michelle is rushed off her feet wrapping round parcels; customers ask as often for haggis as for cuts of beef or sausages.

Potter says this has become the norm. "I didn't sell a lot of haggis in the first year: I'd put a batch on once in a blue moon. But then word got round that I was a traditional Scottish butcher making this award-winning haggis and the orders started to pour in."

Consulting a list of Burns Night orders for more than 100 people, he pours the haggis mixture into a sausage machine. Sliding a white sheep's stomach on to its spout, he fills it until the intestine's white veins bulge under the weight.

I mutter that the sight is enough to turn anyone vegetarian: using the "v" word around here is a dangerous game. "Vegetarians? They're the scourge of the earth," he growls, before plonking an overflowing fleshy bag on to the worktop.

Preparation is interrupted by another arrival. This time it is not a customer but a delivery from his meat suppliers. A young man in red overalls with a thick Aberdeen accent hands over the hind half of a pig and a crate of beef. "Would you like anything else?" he asks, "We've got some great haggis." John is incandescent. "Haggis?" he roars, "How dare you try and sell me haggis?"

Muttering darkly, he returns to the task in hand. Filling up some 30 stomachs, he pinches each one several times along its length before separating it into fist-sized portions with knots of string. For the chieftain, the larger haggis used for the Burns Night address, he allows a much longer stretch.

A tray of fleshy parcels now complete, he tips them into a boiler. As he begins the mountain of washing-up, his clattering is interrupted by the sound of another customer.

"When's haggis day, then?" a young woman asks Michelle as she collects her shopping. Unfortunately, John has overheard. "Haggis day?" he roars with incredulity, "Haggis day? It's nay haggis day, it's Burrrns Night!"

The Rs are rolled with extra emphasis in mock protest.

So, I inquire, will the proprietor of Braveheart Butchers be celebrating the "honest, sonsie face" of his puddings on Monday night.

His response, dry and deadpan: "Oh, I'll be at home. I haven't dry-cleaned my kilt."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...