Lorne or square is a debate that has raged for decades over what a flat piece of Scottish sliced sausage should be called. Brian Stormont looks at the history and appeal of the breakfast staple.
A piece of sausage meat on a roll with some brown sauce, for me, is something of absolute delight, particularly on a weekend morning when you don’t have to rush off to work.
But, wait a minute, I can hear you all saying, what does he mean by a “piece of sausage meat”?
What to call square sausage meat has been the subject of debate in Scotland for decades, with the answer generally depending on where you live.
Now being from Tayside, I refer to it as lorne sausage, but my friends from other parts of Scotland scoff when I ask them for a lorne sausage roll, quickly telling me that I am talking absolute nonsense – that it’s square sausage or sliced sausage on a roll.
You can have your say by taking part in our vote at the end of the article.
But regardless of which side you fall on in the naming argument, one thing we all agree is that this staple is brilliant on its own or as an accompaniment to a full Scottish breakfast.
It’s also the perfect size to fit between two pieces of bread from a plain loaf.
Full of fat, pink in the middle and remarkably crispy on the outside, fried lorne on a roll is a taste sensation, but not one that is likely to do your cholesterol much good.
In fact, in the book “Taste Ye Back: The Great Scots and the Food That Made Them”, by Sue Lawrence, the actor Bill Paterson recommends only eating lorne sausages after “squaring” it with your cardiologist first.
Being a lorne man rather than a square man, I wanted to find out where the name came from.
A popular theory is that it was named after Scottish comedian Tommy Lorne. However, with references found to square sausage in newspaper adverts in the late 1890s, and Tommy only born in 1890, this story can pretty much be discounted.
However, in finding out a few facts about Tommy you can see why that connection was made.
Born as Hugh Gallacher Corcoran in Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow, Tommy performed in theatres up and down the land and was popular in pantomime.
On stage, he would be seen wearing white make-up, wear a short kilt, boots that were too big for him and a jacket that was too short.
Tommy had an extremely high-pitched voice which brought people to tears of laughter with his catchphrases such as, “In the name of the wee man!”
Food writer Liz Ashworth said: “Although Tommy Lorne was linked with the sausage it is obvious that it was being made prior to this connection.
“However it is interesting to note that one of Tommy’s catch phrases is, ‘Sausages is the boy!’, perhaps that is how the connection occurred.
“The story was that he had asked for his sausages to be flat so that they did not fall out of the roll he was eating.
“Sadly he died at the early age of 45 years old but was reckoned to be an outstanding performer in his profession.”
A more likely theory is that the breakfast staple was named after the region of Lorne in Argyll where it was most likely created by a west coast butcher, although there is evidence of the sausage being available throughout the country in the late 1800s.
And, in fact, an advertisement in the Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs from A. Blair & Co (butcher) in 1896 stated: “Lorne sausages 6d per lb”.
With no definitive evidence it is most likely we will never really know who the genius was who invented lorne sausage, but we can only be thankful that they actually did.
The popularity of the square variety is such that ex-pats yearn for it in the same way they do for shortbread, Irn-Bru and other traditional Scottish favourites.
Canadians, in particular, are partial to a “flat sausage patty” for breakfast.
Breakfast just became a whole lot easier… Will you be trying our Sausedge? https://t.co/pPueOU3TAz
— Aldi Stores UK (@AldiUK) May 14, 2019
There was controversy last year when Aldi brought out their version of a square-shaped sausage and called it a “sausedge”, claiming a great innovation.
“The patty-shaped pork product has been designed to fit perfectly into sandwiches,” they claimed. “This allows customers to quickly throw together a butty without cutting up bangers.”
Furious Scots quickly jumped to the defence of their sausage with hundreds commenting that it had been around for years pointing to its roots here, forcing the supermarket chain to reply: “Woah woah woah. Not claiming to have invented it. We just want to share the Lorne Love with everyone.”
But who makes the finest lorne sausage you may ask?
The reigning Best Scottish Slicing Sausage champions are John Stewart Butchers in Banff.
Owner Andy Grant says the key to making the finest lorne is simple – the best ingredients and a little bit of love.
“I think going back to what lorne sausage probably was years ago, it’s using good proper ingredients and we use two different cuts in it. Then, as I always say, made with love. Using the right-quality ingredients, the right seasonings is absolutely key,” he said.
“Before we entered the competition, when I took over the business three years ago, we hardly sold any lorne, because it wasn’t really a big thing in this area. But we put a lot of work into our lorne sausage, tweaked the ingredients a few times until we feel we got it right, then we entered the competition.
“To go on to win the champion of Scotland was far more than we could have hoped for especially when a lot of the entries were from the south and south-west which are known for the square sausage and lorne sausage, so it was a great achievement.”
The competition success provided a great boost to sales of the product as customers were keen to try the champion sliced sausage.
Andy continued: “Once we won the competition it gained in popularity. What we sell now to what we sold before is incredible. We now supply a few businesses who sell it too which is great.”
But does Andy eat it himself? Of course he does! “A roll with a the slice of lorne, wee bit of egg and a wee bit of tomato sauce, absolutely tremendous. I’m not a brown sauce man, I know a lot of people will disagree with that but that’s my preference.”
Not surprisingly, Andy laughed when I suggested he revealed what his lorne sausage ingredients were, so it seems that the recipe for the best in Scotland will remain a secret.
However, what isn’t a secret is that regardless of how you refer to your sliced sausage, the love affair with the Scottish breakfast staple shows no signs of dissipating.