Stillman Wanted October 1895


Appearing in the Inverness Courier on Tuesday, 22nd October 1895 is this advertisement for a Stillman. This is of particular interest, as it comes under a year since the distillery went into production and the management were already looking for a skilled employee in the most senior of the workforce positions.

In theory, this could highlight a couple of things. Firstly, someone left and was unhappy with the role, which seems unlikely given its prominence. The Stillman was the role to have at a distillery and came with status and perks including the proposed workers accommodation. So, while it remains a possibility, it seems very unlikely, and we have no reports of any accidents or deaths around this time. 

Also, there's the added twist that I believe that the function of distilling would have been performed by John Birnie during the initial period at the distillery. He was, after all, a skilled distiller with his time at Glen Albyn and Benrinnes highlighting his craft.

It could just be that after a year, he felt that the distillate was settled, and he was satisfied with the internal operation and was ready to trust this to a suitable candidate. The demands on his time as the co-founder and co-owner may have resulted in this shuffle and opened up a new position. I believe that this is the most likely option when considering the possibilities and knowing what we do of John's professionalism.

However, there is another contender when it comes to the existence of this vacancy. We've revealed that Glen Mhor was being consistently upgraded and expanded during its early years, thanks to demand for Highland Malt and the quality of its produce. This may have resulted in the need for a second shift to copy with the rising demand.

While this is a possibility, I feel it is the less likely of those on the table. For instance, there are no advertisements for positions that would have been necessary to create a second shift of workers. No adverts other than this particular one for a Stillman, meaning this option seems more unlikely. Then, there's the deadline of 5th November, suggesting some haste to proceedings and not an element of a grander plan.

Referring to the Inverness Burgh Directory, the nearest match we can find is from 1899. There are only a couple of Stillmen officially listed in the directory for that year. We have a John Fraser, noted to be living in Ness Square, near Anderson Street in Inverness. This is the correct side of the city and just under a mile from the site of Glen Mhor. So, a strong potential candidate, whereas Alex Chalmers is noted be living at Diriebught Road, which is on the Eastern side of Inverness and a short walk from... Millburn distillerySo, we can discount Alex, which leaves the other potential challenger to John in the form of John Smith, who is noted to be living at 24 Telford Road.

In effect, we have determined the stillmen for both Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor, just a couple of years after this vacancy was published. Both remain strong candidates and we might never be able to place either within their specific distillery - rivalry between both sites was noted to be constant - however it takes us a step nearer to naming the successful candidate.

Unfortunately, around this time, there is a noticeable gap in the Burgh directory, which doesn't reappear until 1905. Looking for continuation patterns, there are frankly none, as 2 new Stillmen are noted in different locations and not immediately attached to any of the distilleries, although I'd be confident in saying that Robert Smith (Diriebught Road) is connected to Millburn.

I'll file this report in ‘to be revisited’ at a future date.