Figures from History


At our all-digital 2021 Feìs Ìle day, “Time Travellers”, the Laddie Shop’s Mary McGregor took everyone back through key moments in the distillery’s history. The supporting cast were a bit two dimensional – in fact they were life-size cardboard cut-outs. Don’t worry if you missed it in all its live glory; here’s a recap. Thanks Mary!

Mary McGregor [MG]: I’m going to take you back in time now, and introduce you to some of the special people who have helped shape our history.

2004: Raymond Stewart. Head stockman and tractor man for Foreland Estate, owned by the McAire family, was the first brave farmer on Islay to grow Barley for Bruichladdich. I knew Raymond before he was even born and I know he is very proud to hold this title and to continue to grow barley, along with the other fantastic farmers on Islay who have followed in Raymond’s proud footsteps along the way.

2004: The Young Adam Hannett. Both Adam and I started working at the distillery in the Visitor Centre around the same time, me as the Shop Manager, Adam as the Tour Guide. I remember saying to Adam one day as we were beginning to learn to lead tours, “Do you know much about whisky?”  “No,”replies Adam. “Thank goodness for that,” I replied, ” as neither do I!” Well look at us now!

2001: The beginning of the story of Mark Reynier along with Simon, Jim, Ella Edgar MBE and a young Allan Logan…

Mark took one small step for man, one giant leap for the whisky industry and threw the rule book out the window! Mark and his wife Maureen and newborn son Ruari came and lived on Islay and got Bruichladdich Distillery up and running again, never having worked in the whisky industry before. He was a wine connoisseur from London and a lot of his innovative ideas have been put in place at the distillery and are still being used today. A great man doing great things for the island and the whisky world, I miss his quirkiness around the yard.

2004 A young Adam Hannett with Duncan McGillivray and Jim McEwan

Jim McEwan. Jim having worked in the whisky industry all his life, was the natural choice to join the ever‐growing enthusiastic new team here at Bruichladdich. He’d leave his office to go up to one of the warehouses and by the time he got there, he’d have thought of another new experiment to try and invented a new expression along the way!

Ella Edgar. Ella was our mother hen. She made sure we were all looked after and she’d keep us all on our toes, just like one of her Highland dancers. Although Ella retired in 2010, she remains one of our proudest ambassadors, I’m always quoting and using her infamous motto – “Never fear, Ella’s here!”

Young Allan Logan, Allan or big Al as we know him.  Our Production Director, can turn his hand to anything, no job too big or too small for our Allan. What an amazing guy to have at the helm!

1989: Budgie! Duncan MacFadyen starts work as Stillman and continues today, what an achievement. He and John Rennie were the two workers who cared for the distillery when it was closed before Mark bought it over. Budgie remains proud of his farming roots and also likes to talk of his time working at the Creamery.

Centenary  in 1981

1981: My Father Donald McGregor and one of his friends Sandy Raitt, who himself was Manager here at the distillery in the 1950s, enjoying a dram or two together at the 1981 centenary celebrations.

Dad worked at the distillery from 1936, crossing over with the last of the founding family, the Harveys who we’ll meet shortly. He helped to collect the barley from the puffers at the pier and hoisted it up to the malt barns with his trusty Clydesdale horses until the maltings closed here in the early 1960s.

I’ve to behave myself today with this great man in the room!

1974: Duncan McGillivray. Duncan started working here in 1974 as a Stillman, then he became our Engineer then Brewer in 1978. He left to start up his own garage coming back in 1990. At that time, he was working alongside names famous in Bruichladdich ‐ Ian Allan, Manager, Neil Mactaggart, Mashman Stillman, and John Rennie Head Warehouseman. Duncan remains the best storyteller I have ever met and all-round wonderful gentleman.

Ruaraidh McLeod. Ruaraidh worked at the distillery as a Mashman. After his retirement, Ruaraidh became renowned for his stories about his time living and working on the island, particularly his tales of the distillery. His granddaughter and great grandson still work here in our bottling halls.

William Harvey

1881: So we end with the beginning. Brothers William, John and Robert Harvey, they also had a sister Mary, built the distillery.

William (born in 1849) was a Financier. John (just over a year younger) was a Distiller, and Robert the youngest (born in 1857) was an Engineer. They combined their expertise to found Bruichladdich Distillery – John designing it, Robert building it and William looking after the business side of things.

William, the eldest, got married on Islay in 1882. He takes up distilling a year later, becoming a Master Distiller and becoming Manager in 1889 until his death in 1936. William had three sons; the youngest, Kenneth takes over the role of Manager from his father, but only lasts a year.

In 1938 Judith Harvey and her sister Faith, both born at the distillery Manager’s house, went to live in Canada. We were delighted to invite Faith (now Muir) and her family over to officially open our Bottling Hall in 2003.

John, the middle brother, had studied distilling so was the natural choice to produce the new spirit at this exciting new distillery. However, the family had two other long‐established distilleries on the mainland at Yoker and Dundashill and John went off to manage one of them.

Robert, the Engineer helped design and build the distillery. Innovations in the construction of the distillery made it progressive right from the start – we label ourselves the Progressive Hebridean Distillers to this day!

Robert was the first Manager and had a son Douglas born in 1884. He headed to Australia in 1891 where he sadly passed away at a very young age.

A piece of history returned home to the distillery recently – Robert Harvey’s bag. You can actually see bottle marks in the base of the bag. It’s amazing to know clever young Robert used this bag and carried it around with him.

So this brings me to the end of the beginning and now we look to the future. We have to look back to look forward. Please, let us all stand and raise a glass to all who have shaped our future, for many more years to come!

To the future, Mary!

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