LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A recipe for haggis was published in an English book almost 200 years before any evidence of the dish in Scotland, a historian has claimed.
Historian Catherine Brown told the BBC she found references to the traditional Scottish dish of sheep’s offal boiled in a sheep’s stomach inside a 1615 book called The English Hus-Wife.
The title would pre-date Scottish bard Robert Burns’ poem To A Haggis, which brought fame to the delicacy, by at least 171 years.
But former world champion haggis maker Robert Patrick insisted: “Nobody’s going to believe it.”
Brown said the book by Gervase Markham indicated haggis was first eaten in England and subsequently popularized by the Scots. The first mention she could find of Scottish haggis was in 1747. The author of the 1615 book made it quite clear that haggis was enjoyed by everyone, not just Scots.
“It was popular in England until the middle of the 18th Century,” she said. “Obviously the English turned up their noses at it and ate their roast beef, and the Scots for 350 years have been making it their own.”
Her findings are due to be broadcast in a documentary in Scotland.
Patrick said the idea that haggis originated in England was akin to claims by the Dutch and Chinese to have invented golf.
“Anything that’s to do with Scotland, everybody wants to get a part of.”
James Macsween, whose Edinburgh-based company makes haggis, said it would remain a Scottish icon whatever its origin and even if the haggis was eaten in England long before Burns made it famous, Scotland had done a better job of looking after it.
“I didn’t hear of Shakespeare writing a poem about it,” he said.
Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Patricia Reaney