“I dunno what planet I’m on, but I don’t want to come off it.”
That’s the reaction of the popular Kilcullen butcher James Nolan who was named as the Best Butcher Shop in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales at the Countryside Alliance Annual Awards in London last Wednesday, March 7.
It is officially the biggest award a butcher shop on these islands can win, and the moment has overwhelmed Mr. Nolan who was in London, at the House of Lords with his wife Emma, to receive his award.
Initially they had been invited because they had won the award for best in Ireland. But when they got over there, they were shocked and delighted to land the overall award.
“It was a surreal and wonderful feeling to be there, representing Kilcullen.
“I had to pinch myself. There I was surrounded by Lords and Ladies, and me a butcher from Kilcullen in the midst of it all,” he told the Leinster Leader last Friday.
“We’ve won lots of awards before, but this was the cherry on top.”
Both on the day and then later speaking to media, Mr. Nolan has been keen to pay tribute to both his “incredibly loyal customers” and his staff. “It’s just impossible for me to do justice to what I want to say for what they’ve done.”
And in particular he paid tribute to his father Andy, as the “person who built this business from nothing.
“I was just lucky enough to have an interest in it,” he added.
“I’m just incredibly proud. It’s a moment myself and Emma will never forget,” he said.
James is also well known for his work in raising funding and awareness of organ donation. A recipient of a kidney himself more than 20 years ago, he has successfully taken part in several European and World transplant games, as well as raising over a million euro for the cause.
Nolan’s of Kilcullen beat over 3,000 entries to win the Best Butcher Shop award.
Retail and industry figures have been lining up to congratulate the Nolans including David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland who said it “came as no great surprise that Nolans won this prestigious award as they already won one of our National Retail Shop of the Year Awards in 2008”.
And Dave Lang from the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland noted that “James Nolan has been a member of Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland since the foundation of the organisation. And in 2010, Nolan’s of Kilcullen won the ACBI Star Shop of the Year award and have won numerous product awards over the years”.
In the UK the Countryside Alliance Awards are known as the ‘Rural Oscars’.
They celebrate the characters, skills, traditions and enterprise of the countryside through the people who work so hard to make it tick.
Lyall Plant, Chief Executive of Countryside Alliance Ireland said that “Nolan’s of Kilcullen is a real beacon of excellence”.
“James Nolan is the fourth generation to own the shop and his energy and ideas are inspiring, and inspire his staff.
“His father is in his eighties and still works in the shop, so you can tell that the Nolans’ are made of tough stuff.
“The produce is top notch and James and his wife Emma are rightly proud of the quality and traceability of everything sold on the shop floor, whether from their own farm or from other local farmers. There is an abattoir on site and when we visited there was a team butchering and boning out the carcasses with impressive skill.”