According to his stats on the ESPN rugby website, prop forward Struan Cessford stands 6ft 5ins and weighs in at just over 19st.
In other words, you wouldn’t want to be packing down against him in the scrum.
Back in 2012 his prowess on the rugby field earned him a call up to the Scotland Under-20 side, where he played alongside the likes of future British Lions Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell, and he still plays semi-professional rugby for the Edinburgh-based Heriot’s side.
But off the pitch the 29-year-old Dundonian is a mild-mannered giant with a ready laugh. And in recent years he has been recognised as one of the rising stars of the flour milling industry, with a prestigious Bronze Medal to his name after excelling in the UK Flour Millers’ milling exams last year.
Struan has been a buyer at Kirkcaldy-based Carr’s Flour Mills since 2016, working under wheat director Julius Deane. But dig deeper and it clear the job title does little justice to his day-to-day responsibilities.
“In practice we cover the procurement and logistics of mainly wheat along with packaging and ingredients,” he says. “We also manage all sales of co-products and produce most of the raw material costings for our sales teams.”
Struan is from farming stock and was born just a few miles north of Dundee, one of eight children. His eldest brother now runs the farm, but Struan says there was no pressure to join the family business.
“Far from it. One of my brothers runs a haulage company and the other five are engineers!”
Struan himself was all set to take a university engineering course himself, until his love of rugby intervened.
“It’s always been a massive part of my life, and I knew that I couldn’t juggle playing the game with the demands of a five-year engineering course, so I switched to a business degree instead.”
Aged nineteen, and having completed his second year at Edinburgh University, Struan decided to spend a season honing his game in New Zealand. There he combined playing in the front row for Auckland University with a variety of odd jobs to pay the rent.
“I worked as a removals man, and also as a bailiff,” he recalls. “That was particularly interesting, especially when you knock on doors in the rough part of town and get threatened by somebody with a knife!”
Back home in Scotland, Struan was faced with the choice of going all in for a full professional rugby contract or combining work with a career as a semi-professional. He opted for the latter, landing a position with a local grain merchant while playing and training for Heriot’s.
Three years later, he answered an advertisement in Farmer’s Weekly and was taken on by Carr’s Flour Mills.
“They said I was the youngest and least-experienced candidate, but they took a chance on me and I’ve never looked back,” he says. “It’s a fantastic company to work for, and an industry which never fails to be challenging. I’ve been here five years, but I still feel like I’m learning something new every day.”
Struan still trains three to four times a week, and after the disruption of the last 15 months is now looking forward to rugby starting up again this season.
“I’m lucky that my partner Jen used to play football for Aberdeen Women, so understands the demands of playing sport at a high level. I’m getting on a bit now, in rugby terms, but you’re a long time retired so I’m going to keep playing as long as I can.”
By contrast, Struan’s milling career is just beginning – and who knows what the future holds? But after the unprecedented challenges of the Covid pandemic, he is certain of one thing: “The industry can be proud of how it operated with minimal fuss. The supply chains proved robust and apart from a packaging issue right at the start supplies of flour have been plentiful.
“The only thing that annoys me is when people say they’re cutting out bread to make themselves healthier. Cutting out 12 pints of beer is a better way of losing weight than cutting out a sandwich!”