Fisher & Donaldson celebrates 100th birthday

editorial image

In 1919, Willie Fisher and Davie Donaldson, brothers-in-law from Cupar, returned to the town after World War I.

After purchasing a small premises on Lady Wynd, the pair started their own venture, which, over the next 100 years, became a Fife institution.

Five generations of the family have now worked at Fisher & Donaldson.

Alexander Milne, Fisher’s nephew, assisted at the bakery before leaving to gain more experience at other bakeries. He returned in 1942 and later bought the business from his uncle.

Alexander’s son, Grant, took full ownership in 1977, expanding the business to St Andrews and Dundee.

In 1975, two of Grant’s five sons, Sandy and Eric, started working at the business – 44 years later they can still be found at the bakery.

Eric believes that keeping the business in the family is part of the reason for its success over the last century.

“I’m pleased that we’re managing to pass it on and that it’s continuing,” said Eric. “That’s the way we got it.

“We got it passed it on to us, continued it and developed it, and have taken it to where it is today.

“There are not many family businesses that go past the second generation, because they get dispersed. I’m pleased we’ve kept it going for so long.”

Three of Eric’s children, Ben, Chloe and Jade, are the fifth generation of the family to work for the business.

Ben began working at the bakery aged just 10, and he has since gone on to manage the company with his father and uncle, overseeing further expansion and the awarding of a Royal Warrant in 2011.

And it is not just the Milne family that has been part of the company for so long.

Eric said there have been staff who have worked at the bakery for decades, with some parents and, later, their children working at Fisher & Donaldson.

To celebrate the 100th birthday, the company set a Guiness World Record for the biggest doughnut wall, at the St Andrew’s Day celebrations last month.

The wall of 1234 doughnuts were given to visitors in exchange for donations to the Tayside Children with Cancer and Leukaemia (TCCL), raising more than £400 for the St Andrews Lodge, a holiday home for children with cancer and their families.

The famous fudge doughnut has become Fisher & Donaldson’s most popular product, with visitors from all over the world coming to eat it.

“They are probably one of the least interesting things, look wise, that we make,” said Eric.

“It’s bizarre it’s become so iconic. It’s a random shape. They don’t look stunning. My gran used to say you buy first with your eyes, but you come back if it tastes good. It doesn’t have eye appeal as such, but it has fantastic taste.”

“I think part of the charm is that they are filled, to the bursting point, with custard,” added Ben. “When we’re filling them, they often pop. A lot of places will never experience that problem, because they never put that much filling in.”

A doughnut expert from the US once visited the bakery and gave the family a piece of advice – to cut the amount of custard pumped into the doughnuts.

Luckily, it was ignored.

“I think with the fudge doughnut, there is a hype about it,” said Chloe. “You can get killed by hype, but we’re quite lucky that it lives up to it.”

It is the fudge doughnuts, and other popular products, such as the coffee tower, which has helped give Fisher & Donaldson its reputation throughout north east Fife.

Jade said people will share their own stories of the bakery when they find out she is part of the family.

“They have a story they want to tell you,” she said.

“It’s lovely because it feels like everybody in the community has a story that is special that links back to the bakery.”

While the company has just celebrated the centenary, the Fisher & Donaldson owners are already looking forward to the next 100 years.

Sandy and Eric said: “It is an honour to be at the helm as our family celebrates 100 years in business.

“We have always prided ourselves on the quality of our products and believe that the reason we are still a success a century down the line is down to our authentic traditional baking.

“All of our products are made in Fife, by hand, and we feel strongly that we provide what our customers want - authentic and traditional products, baked daily.

“We would like to thank our staff and customers, past and present, as without them we wouldn’t be here on your high streets 100 years later. Here’s to 100 more.”

Next generation manager Ben added: “As the business moves down to the fifth generation, myself and my sisters are very grateful to our uncle Sandy, dad Eric and grandad, and indeed all the staff that have put in the hours to get us where we are today.

“We have a great sense of pride and also a weight of responsibility to carry on their life’s work and ensure that the business continues for another 100 years. My hope is that when it’s our turn to retire, we can pass on an exciting prospect down to the sixth generation.”