He recalls working 4 men abreast to roll the big butts from the filling station at the shore side of the distillery courtyard uphill to warehouse 6 behind the millhouse. “The road wouldn’t be tarred at the time, because there wasn’t any council houses, it was just the cinders out of the kilns that was put on the road. If one or two people weren’t pushing, you felt it.”
They had a flat-bed lorry that they could bring into the gates and triangular timber structures called skids, which we still use in the dunnage stows, so as to roll the casks up onto it. The lorry could then take its load of casks to the pier to be shipped away on the puffers, or it would take them up for maturation in warehouse 12 at the top of the brae after it was built late in the 1960s.
Some of the draff was shipped away at that time as well, as “dry grain” “just like crumbs” that had been through a dryer. The machine for drying it sat directly under the mash tun, big enough to obscure half of the holes for casting the draff, which is why the young men had to be there at all hours to shovel it down the other hole. Most of the dry grain went away on the boats, but some locals still came in for draff which was stored in the joiners shop (now our engineers’ workshop) and its then lean-to. “Neilly MacLachlen’s father who had the croft over there had a horse with a cart, he’d have so many shovel-fulls. It was just like slicing a cake, they put a mark in with a stick and say – Right, that’s for Neilly’s father, that’s for old Neil Campbell Port Charlotte, and Ally Campbell – and they’d all come in to collect it with their wee tractors and horses and carts.”
So some things have changed, but in important respects – the connectedness of the distillery and the island, and the relationships with men like Islay that give us access to the distillery’s heritage – we’re proud to say, things have very much stayed the same.