Parker: MacTowey Artisan Butchery brings a taste of Ireland with haggis and black pudding

Haggis and black pudding are treats at MacTowey Artisan Butchery

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Work is a word that conjures a host of definitions. Merriam-Webster says work is to fulfil duties regularly for wages or salary, or to exert physically or mentally, especially in sustained effort for a purpose under compulsion.

Niall Towey is a little blunter: “My name is Niall. I’m Irish and I enjoy what I do.”

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What he does is work to make the very best haggis and black pudding.

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Towey is the owner and sole employee of MacTowey Artisan Butcher, creating a variety of products that are attracting a growing number of customers who appreciate the quality and passion he puts into his food.

An artisan can be defined as a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand. That certainly describes Towey, who continues to perfect what he enjoys creating.

Born in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, Towey’s first foray into the culinary arts was making pizza with his brother on an old stove, and graduating to cooking things from scratch over an open fire. But he says he didn’t have the eye for presentation that it takes to become a top chef, so he joined the British army hoping to learn some special skills.

He says they never really materialized and he moved to Cork with his partner when she was attending university there. On a wander around the city, they came upon the English Market and he says he was wowed by the variety of meat, fish, breads, cheese and vegetables, but especially by the caring nature of the butchers in the way they conversed with customers.

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Towey’s mind was made up — he was going to be a butcher.

After pestering Colin O’Sullivan for weeks to take him on as a trainee, he got his start living on the dole 80 euro (about C$120) for a 40-hour work week. And he loved it.

He says he was taught the basic knife and presentation skills, but what he really took from O’Sullivan was the way he treated customers. He said, “You can buy meat from anywhere, but when you buy it from someone who actually cares, I think it tastes better.”

Towey says he has never forgotten those words. Or the “My Boy Blue” knife that his boss gave him that he still cherishes 10 years later.

He and his partner had good jobs but felt the time had come that if they didn’t go on an adventure, it might just pass them by. They arrived in Canada in June 2018 and began their journey here in St. Catharines, Ont.

Towey says they explored Eastern Canada and then, thinking the mountains looked exciting, drove to Calgary on the next part of their adventure.

He says Ireland is too small to contain the amount of “craic” (translation: good times) it can bring to the world, and needing to help spread it after a visit to a friendly Irish pub, Calgary became their new home.

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After working at MacEwans Meats where he honed his skills, after it closed shop Towey decided to make it on his own and opened MacTowey Artisan Butcher in the kitchen of a Masonic lodge on 46th Avenue S.E., just south of Peigan Trail.

Not your ordinary retail butcher shop, you can order fresh meat but Towey’s main business is his traditional Haggis sliced in the bung, and his very popular black — and white — puddings. Much of his sales volume is made up of his own recipe handcrafted pies — including scotch and steak and kidney — Cornish pasty, Scotch eggs, sausages and what he proudly boasts as the best back bacon in the province.

Towey is a man who puts heart and soul — and experience — into his products, now available in retail outlets such as British Pantry and Little Taste of Home.

Notes:

Kayla Browne, principal of BOLD Workshop Architecture, and Kate MacGregor, president of XYC Design, will explore architectural ideas and creative solutions to Calgary’s affordable-housing crisis at a talk at the Central Public Library on Feb. 7.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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