Rural awards success for Galloway firms

Two Galloway businesses were among companies from across Scotland celebrating their success last night at the Scottish Rural Awards and Gala Dinner.

Wigtown-based Galloway Chillies will take away the Highly Commended award in the Artisan Food category, whilst The Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery Co. at Stranraer, is Highly Commended in the Aquaculture category.

The event, held at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, was the culmination of a second year of partnership between Scottish Field and the Scottish Countryside Alliance to host the awards, which celebrated the innovation, dedication and enterprise of those living and working in rural Scotland. Comedian Fred MacAulay took to the stage to compere the evening, with his audience of 400 including representatives from the award sponsors, including Aldi and the Bank of Scotland.

Over 200 nominations were received since the awards opened to the public last September, spanning the Outer Hebrides to the Borders, and Shetland to Fife.

Judging took place at the end of January to select a winner, runner-up and highly commended in each of the ten open award categories, encompassing every aspect of rural life, from aquaculture to agriculture, tourism and food and drink.

Richard Bath, Scottish Field’s editor and a Scottish Rural Awards judge, said: “Showing our readers the joys of the Scottish countryside is one of the main aims of Scottish Field, so our partnership in the awards is a perfect fit.

“I was amazed by the quality and attention to detail showed by the nominees across each category.”

Tristan Hugh Jones, from the The Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery Co. said: “We are thrilled and delighted about this, especially for oyster bed owner Ben Wallace, who collected the award.

“The oyster bed was given to the Wallace family by King William III in 1701 and we have been harvesting the oyster beds for the Wallace family since 1996.

“We breed, harvest and sell the oysters.

“We harvest around 300,000 oysters a year and employ two people on the boat in Stranraer, It’s great recognition for the power of work put in by Rob and John on the ‘Vital Spark’. The contribution to the rural economy is tremendous.

“This is the last remaining native oyster bed in Scotland. Most other people will be farming rock oysters.

“We are trying to increase the oysters on the bed and have a university student helping us with this.

“The quality of the oysters is exceptional and we have supplied Gleneagles, Andrew Fairlie, Martin Wishart as well as Henry’s Bay House in Stranraer.”

Galloway Chillies have had notable success since being created by Sheena Horner in 2012.

In 2015 her ‘Chilli Burns’ was placed second in the Speciality section of the Jam/Jelly Division of the World Hot Sauce Awards and shortlisted for the Great British Food Farm Produce Awards and the Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards.