Harvest at Octomore Farm

This picture shows fields at Octomore Farm during the harvest, high above the village of Port Charlotte on Islay.  The lady, dressed in the clothes of the early 1920's and probably the farmer's wife, is proudly standing in front of 'stooks' of corn.  Each stook was made of six 'sheaves' stood on end to dry with their ears still intact.  Once dry, the stooks would be gathered and built into 'corn stacks' - some completed ones can be seen in the distance.  The corn stacks would then be thatched to protect them from the weather.

When needed, the stack would be broken down and transported up to a barn at Octomore where there was a 'thrashing' machine to extract the grains.  The straw would be fed to the cattle and much of the grain would be 'bruised' in a mill (also on the farm) and used as animal feed - particularly for the teams of horses that were the engines of their day.

Historically, much of the grain grown on Islay was used for making whisky, but by the time this photo was taken most of the barley used in distilling would be imported via coal fired steam boats called 'puffers'.  Sharp eyes will pick out a puffer and its associated smudge of smoke on Loch Indaal.

Loch Indaal Distillery was evidently in full production when this photo was taken.  The huge peat banks needed to fire the stills and dry the malted barley can be seen.  The distillery was to close in 1929, an early victim of prohibition and the stock market crash of that year.  Many of the bonded warehouses are still being used today by Bruichladdich to store our Port Charlotte and Octomore whisky.

Related Articles

Join us for exclusive news & whiskies