Bruichladdich Distillery’s Community Day 2023

  • 4 mins

Our annual Community Day sees the team from Bruichladdich Distillery donning overalls, work boots and rubber gloves to contribute a day of work outside the distillery gates. This year, over a hundred Laddies from Islay and our Glasgow office got stuck into four local projects in the Rhinns of Islay - at Port Charlotte Primary School, the Museum of Islay Life, on the foot and cycle path between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte - the Loch Indaal Way - and carrying out beach cleans on the many stretches of sand between Bruichladdich and Portnahaven. 

Here Hannah Thaxter finds out more about what they accomplished, plus how connections with Islay were reinforced, from a team member on each of the projects.

Julie Chalmers, Junior HR Business Partner, led our beach clean team. She lives down in Bowmore with her husband and two children, aged three and six. “We are on the beach a lot,” she said. “The kids learn a lot about keeping the environment clean and litter-free in school. We always make a point of picking up our rubbish - and other peoples’.” She said the beaches were generally quite clean, but the team still found plenty to pick up - especially discarded disposable barbecue sets.

On Community Day , the beach cleaners made their way along the coastal path at Port Wemyss, then to Currie Sands, Port Charlotte, Port Mòr, Port Bahn and on to Bruichladdich. As well as the chance to do something for the island, Julie looks forward to building a sense of community between colleagues, “You know you are going to work with other team members who you might not see very often,” she said.

At Port Charlotte Primary School, a second team was hard at work painting picnic benches, fences and the outdoor play area - giving it all a much-needed bit of winter protection and smartening up.

Allan Sebastian, IT manager at Bruichladdich Distillery, is a Frenchman who now lives in Portnahaven, having moved to the island a year ago with his family. His two-year-old twins will be going to the school’s nursery next year. “I really wanted to do this project because I have never actually been in the school before,” he said. What about Community Day? “We are working to create quite a nice place for the kids - it’s a great idea. It really brings a sense of purpose to what we do.”

Meanwhile in Port Charlotte, Stillman Duncan MacFadyen, aka Budgie, climbed the scaffolding on the gable end of the Museum of Islay Life (a former church building) and rang its bell to signal the start of Community Day work. “I can’t remember the last time it rang,” he said.

When he was a child, there were just five children in the whole of Port Charlotte Primary School. Budgie was born in Bowmore, where he now lives, but grew up in Bruichladdich.

His team were painting the museum building and tidying the graveyard which surrounds it. He says the museum - which tells the stories of island life over the centuries - is a good thing to have in the village. As he rolled on more white paint to the gable wall he mused: “This is a good thing to do too, if it helps somebody.”

The Loch Indaal Way, a foot and cycle path which follows the coastline between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte, opened just a few years ago.
Mark Thaxter, from our Bottling Hall, was happy to invest some time looking after the path. “It’s made such a difference,” he says, “It’s so much safer for people walking and cycling along now. I’ve seen incredible sunrises and sunsets, watched the geese fly over, seen otters fishing and dolphins out in the loch - there can’t be a better commute than this!”

He was part of the community day team tasked with treating the wooden bridges to get them weatherproofed for the winter. They also painted the railings around the war memorial at Port Bahn - it’s here that a spur runs off the path down to the beach, paid for by The Botanist Foundation, another part of Bruichladdich Distillery’s work.

Emma Crawford masterminded Community Day . She is Head of HR at Bruichladdich Distillery and on the executive committee. “It’s about giving back to the community,” she said. “As a business, that’s part of our culture.

When we first reopened there were just a handful of people; now we’re a team of 118 and so we have to work hard to ensure we keep those connections.”

But how meaningful is it to the local groups and community organisations who benefit from Bruichladdich’s help?

Emma’s children go to Port Charlotte Primary School. “A team of 30 people from Bruichladdich Distillery can get done in a day what the school would really struggle to find the time, resources and skills to do.” In another example, the committee responsible for maintaining the Loch Indaal Way were quoted £60,000 to paint the bridges - something the team has managed to do for free through the community day initiative.

“These are all places and things in our own community and it gives us a feeling of pride to be part of that.”