n our modern world marketing and brand recognition are everything.
Everywhere we go we are bombarded by logos and advertising and of course the all pervasive social-media influencers endeavouring to convince us to buy everything from designer footwear to the latest fashion accessory.
There is nothing new about this however!
In today’s blog we delve into a little corner of Waterford history and discover the story behind one of Ireland’s premier brands – Denny’s Gold Medal Sausages! If you ever wondered about the origin of the humble Gold Medal Sausage you might be surprised to know that there is actually a gold medal – and you can see it at Waterford Treasures Museums – at the Bishop’s Palace.
By the 1890s bacon curing became the main industry in Waterford with about 850 people directly employed in four companies – Matterson’s, Richardson’s, Barne’s and Denny’s.
The city’s most successful bacon-curing establishment was undoubtedly Henry Denny & Sons and can rightly be described as one of the world’s first multi-national companies.
Henry Denny’s on Morgan Street in the late ’60s
Henry Denny was born in 1789 and in 1820 went into partnership with a long-established local provisions merchant named Simon Max. By the early 1830s Henry established his own business, located on a large site bordered by Penrose Lane and present-day O’Connell Street.
From the outset Henry Denny specialised in the lucrative pig meat export industry which was directed at a growing English market. By 1860 Waterford dominated this trade and accounted for approximately 66% of Irish bacon exported to London.
The firm marketed their bacon under the ‘Star’ brand in Britain and concentrated in getting their products into the emerging chain stores such as Lipton’s and Home and Colonial.
In 1885 Denny’s expanded into mainland Europe with operations in Germany and later Denmark and Russia. Indeed the modern Danish bacon industry owes its success to the technical expertise introduced by Denny’s. This international aspect to the Denny business would continue to grow from the late 19th century and into the 20th century with operations in Sweden, America, Australia and New Zealand. During the Great War Henry Denny and Sons supplied the British and Commonwealth armed forces with 820 million pounds of bacon to the value of £50 million, making the company one of the leading food producers in the world.
One of their most popular products were sausages and by the early twentieth century Denny’s Sausages were a household brand name, even meriting a mention in James Joyce’s literary masterpiece, Ulysses.
In 1930 George Goodfellow was appointed manager of the sausage department at Denny’s in Waterford. Born in England he had served in the British Army in the First World War.
Three years later in 1933 George Goodfellow won the gold medal at the International Food Fair in Manchester for his sausage recipe. The medal was sponsored by John Crampton & Son, the manufacturers of the well known Paxo.
The Denny’s Gold Medal, awarded in 1933
And thus, the Denny’s Gold Medal Sausage was born!
George Goodfellow continued to direct operations at Denny’s until 1947 when he left the company to establish his own business – The Sports Shop on the Quay. A noted personality on the theatrical scene in Waterford for many decades, he spearheaded the establishment of the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera and was its first Director. He tragically lost his life in a traffic accident on the Mall in 1962.
In 2003 the Gold Medal was presented to Waterford Treasures by his son George and this iconic symbol of Waterford’s industrial and social history is now on display in the Bishop’s Palace.
So there’s some food for thought for the next time you’re having your Sunday fry!