Two Scottish family businesses that made their mark in baking and whisky have been recognised in the Queens Jubilee Birthday Honours List 2022.
Scottish businessmen James Walker, joint managing director of Walkers Shortbread, one of the largest family run companies in the UK, received knighthood for his services to the food industry.
Scotch whisky has won big in the list, with Ian and Michael Urquhart, of family-owned Scotch whisky and premium spirits specialist Gordon & MacPhail, being honoured with a CBE and Karen Betts, former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, winning an OBE.
Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland Frozen Foods, has also won an OBE.
Two other trade body representatives, Emma McClarkin, chief executive of British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and Aodhán Connolly, who was the director of Northern Ireland Retail Consortium until recently and now leads the Northern Ireland Executive’s Brussels office, have been honoured with OBE and MBE respectively.
Other winners from the food and retail industries include: Jane Shaw, co-founder of the food redistribution charity Felix Project (OBE), Scott Weavers-Wright, best-known for co-founding one of Britain’s largest e-commerce businesses Kiddicare.com and creating the monetisation platform Elevaate.com (OBE), Strachans chairman Stanley Morrice (MBE) and Sally Erhardt, founder of Ripley Farmers Market (BEM).
Public service in focus
As this year’s Birthday List celebrates the Queen’s unprecedented 70 years of service, recipients have been awarded for their outstanding contributions across all sectors, but in particular for sustained public service, the environment and sustainability, and youth engagement.
Joining The Queen with 70 years of public service are recipients Angela Redgrave, founder and Principal of the Bristol School of Dancing, who receives a BEM for services to Dance – and at 104 years old is the oldest person on the List – and 80 year old Patricia Anne Husselbee from Newport for her 64 years of service to the Royal British Legion.
The Jubilee Honours List also recognises the contribution made to youth engagement, as typified by 11 year old twins Elena and Ruben Evans-Guillen, who receive BEMs for raising nearly £50,000 directly for the NHS and NHS-related charities over the past three years, and who are the youngest recipients on the List.
Also among the youngest recipients is 22 year old Alex Griffiths, who receives a BEM for supporting carers, having been a young carer himself since the age of 5.
“This historic Platinum Jubilee is not only a celebration of the monarch but of the qualities she possesses. The honours she confers this week reflect many of those qualities that have been invaluable from all different walks of life and to communities across the UK,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“I pay tribute to all of this year’s winners. Their stories of courage and compassion are an inspiration to us all.”
James Walker, who has earlier won a CBE, has received the Knights Bachelor honour for bringing international success to a once-small Scottish family concern, founded in 1898. Joining the family firm 60 years ago when it was a bakery with two shops and 10 delivery vans, he has taken it to a turnover of nearly £150m, selling to 100 countries, employing circa 1,500 people, with six factories, four in Aberlour and one in Elgin.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Moray-based company took the decision to top-up the pay of employees beyond the national furlough scheme, invested heavily in health and safety features and adapted processes that allowed production quickly to continue with minimum disruption.
Urquhart brothers, Ian and Michael, of another Moray-based business Gordon & MacPhail, which started out as a grocery business in 1895, have been credited with playing a pivotal role in developing the Scotch whisky industry, especially in promoting single malts, at home and abroad throughout their career.
The company, one of the most renowned independent bottlers, worked alongside Scottish distillers to bottle their wares for sale, at a time when the majority of single malt was destined for blended Scotch.
Ian spent 41 years with Gordon & MacPhail, before retiring in 2007, helping to steer it on the path to international growth to become the multi-million-pound operation that it is today. Michael retired as managing director of the fourth-generation business in 2014 and stepped down from the board in 2017 after serving over 36 years in the company.
They played an integral part in getting Benromach Distillery back into production, leading to the creation of some of the finest malt whisky that Speyside has to offer. Michael was the 2021 president of the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC).
While the Urquhart brothers have been awarded with a CBE, Scotch whisky has another winner in Karen Betts who was made an OBE for her services to international trade as the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). Under her leadership, the industry has successfully navigated significant changes to global trade, including the UK’s departure from the EU and transatlantic trade wars, as well as challenges in the UK, not least those arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Betts stepped down from the industry body at the end of last year, but has a much larger remit now to promote trade, as the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation.
Two other trade body representatives in the list, Emma McClarkin and Aodhán Connolly, have also been recognised for their leadership through challenging times.
As chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, a position she took up in 2019, McClarkin is the voice for the beer and pub sector leading them through the pandemic, interfacing with the government and stakeholders to secure vital grant support and economic stimulus to aid the recovery of the sector.
Brexit expert Aodhán Connolly has been a key figure in expressing the views of Northern Ireland business to the UK government and the EU, working as the director of the NI Retail Consortium and chair of the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group. The 45-year-old is the new director of the Brussels office of the Stormont Executive.
Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland Foods, joined the company, established by his parents Malcolm and Rhianydd in 1970, in 2012, and promoted to his current role, with responsibility for both Iceland and The Food Warehouse stores, and for the Group’s property and people, in August 2018.
Under his leadership, Iceland has taken a range of world-leading sustainability initiatives that include becoming the first major retailer globally to commit to eliminating single-use plastic packaging from its own label range, to be completed by the end of 2023; taking action against continuing destruction of tropical rainforests as the first UK major UK supermarket to announcing the removal of palm ingredients from its own label food by the end of 2018; becoming the first UK retailer to adopt the Plastic Free Trust Mark; and being the first retailer to install trial Reverse Vending Machines for plastic bottles in stores in England, Scotland and Wales.