Lindsay Dunlop and the Boby Mill


Lindsay Dunlop knows our mill inside out. During this summer’s maintenance period, he’s taken the 100 year old cast-iron work-horse completely to bits for its five yearly service. He returned with it last week and is pictured here about to put it back though the window into the millhouse, ready to crush the next batch of barley for mashing on Monday.

Lindsay works out of Crinan Boatyard on the Argyll coast and took the 2 tonne mill over there to work on it. There, he can fabricate small new parts, such as one of the bronze bushes for the rollers, turning them on the lathe as was required this time. He also measured the rollers for wear – if necessary they can be reground – and adjusted the spring tensions for the vernier scales by which the roller positions are set. The rollers must be true and very finely tunable so as to obtain the consistency of grist required to make whisky.

He also checked the gears, chain and sprokets, re-lubricated and cleaned every part, and put it back together.  All the internal parts are stamped and numbered and he has his own system of recording where everything goes; while he confesses to having had one bolt leftover this time, he quickly found where it had to go.

Inspecting the inside of the Boby mill rollers

Apparently, inside, the mill has, “All sorts of secret things in there, that unless you strip it down, you won’t know about.”  For example, underneath each set of rollers is a specially-shaped explosion board made of beech, designed to drop and bang up in order to snuff out any ignition of the flour.  Lindsay explains, “Flour is very volatile – a very fine powder, with a lot of energy in it. So it can explode and there are flour mills that have blown up before now, with fairly catastrophic effect.”  He pointed out the ducts through the wall of the millhouse that also guard against this.

Lindsay’s connection to the distillery goes back to the re-opening in 2001. At that time Allan Logan, now Production Director, was a school-leaver armed with a paintbrush, part of what Lindsay remembers as “the squad” charged with getting the place operational again. Lindsay worked closely with Duncan McGillivray, then Engineer, on site for the first 6 months, doing everything from fashioning pipework, to making new trusses for the bottling hall roof, as well as fully refurbishing the Boby Mill for the first time.

Witnessing then the beginnings of the new Bruichladdich, and what it has become, Lindsay reflects, “Mark and Simon, and Jim, were so enthusiastic about what they were doing, I don’t think it could have failed really.  However hard they worked, all the effort they all put in, with all the support from different people like Duncan – and the island you know. A lot of support from the island. It’s just grown and grown.”

And every batch of barley has come through, and will continue to come through, the piece of robust, compact, simple, yet micro-adjustable engineering that is the Boby mill. Lindsay will be back again in next summer’s production shut-down period to check it over and keep it running smoothly.

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