Shortly before what would’ve been Feis week last month, we were given the sad news that Islay had lost local farmer, milkman, husband, grandpa, father and friend, Ian McKerrell.
Ian was a familiar and well-loved figure on Islay, having spent decades on the milk run and even longer on the fields at Island Farm outside Bowmore. He was until lately the chairman of the annual Agricultural Show at Bridgend, a highlight in the Islay calendar for everyone. He had been working with Bruichladdich as one of our barley farmers since 2007, with his efforts first showcased in our Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2008 release. In difficult growing conditions, between weather, geese, and even the descent of 157 swans on his fields in 2018, he came to harvest a substantial enough tonnage for us be able to keep it as a single farm through the malting and production processes.
Allan Logan, production director, went with Ian and five other Islay farmers to our maltings partners in Inverness in 2014 to explore the different processes and variables in the performance of the barley prior to distillation. Allan makes this tribute to him, “Ian was a great farmer and had a wealth of experience. This showed in his barley he produced each year; he took huge pride in producing a good crop. He was also a great ambassador for growing barley on Islay and never missed and opportunity to promote his direct relationship with the distillery, making many mainland farmers envious at the Royal Highland Show. His experience and friendly nature will be missed across the farming community on Islay and further afield. We will miss him in and around the distillery. His legacy will live on through the barley he produced for us and will be part of the Islay Barley whisky for many years to come.”
“He was always stoical and had a twinkle in his eye when we were talking about barley,” says Jane from our communications team, “I won’t forget him recalling mistily the record year he brought in ‘Two [tonnes] eleven an acre, at 18 percent [moisture]’ or patiently explaining the ins and outs of his different fields to me.”
Ian will be missed by all at Bruichladdich, from those that worked with him on the barley project for the last 13 years to the production boys who would enjoy the craic with him on milk run day. As Ian’s wife Margaret told us – “Ian enjoyed his blethers with his customers who were a huge part of his daily routine. The milk run wasn’t just a job to him it was the best part of his day.”
Frazer Matthews from our VIP hosting team, now in his early twenties, recalls, “Ian was my first ever boss. I started helping him out with the milk run when I was 11 and did it for, I think, three years every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before school. He was an absolute gentleman and one of Islay’s legends.”
The thoughts and respect of everyone at Bruichladdich Distillery are of course with Margaret, Ian’s three daughters and their families.