Glen Mhor Log Book 26th June 1942
This entry brought back childhood memories for me, as living on naval bases I was fully aware of what the N.A.F.F.I. was and represented. Nowadays, the organisation has scaled back massively as part of the armed forces cuts implemented a decade ago.
There are several areas of interest highlighted by this entry, firstly that it really focuses on Glen Albyn as opposed to Glen Mhor. Given their proximity, it could be a all hands on deck scenario given the circumstances outlined. Another possibility is that G.W. Peterkin (Glen Mhor Customs & Excise officer) was covering both sites at the time (war restrictions?) or the Glen Albyn officer was otherwise predisposed. The logbooks for Glen Albyn do exist, and they will be part of that distillery's research when I commence the work. So, this is something we can cross reference at a later date.
G.W. Peterkin makes no reference to another C&E representative during his activities below. Both distilleries were still distilling in some form, albeit it reduced. Albyn is noted below to be silent at this time, which may have been part of the routine silent season, although it seems slightly late compared to what we've seen at Glen Mhor across previous years. Meaning, the only other option is that the distillery was closed due to war restrictions, which might explain why G.W. Peterkin could have been responsible for both.
The N.A.F.F.I. operated retail stores and also handled the food provisions during the war. It was their job to keep the forces supplied and would have assisted the rationing effort. The mention of a food store is - I'm 99.9% sure of this - relating to a storage facility rather than an actual shop, as they did operate both. The location of warehouse number 5 is unknown on the larger Glen Albyn site, but this again is something I can look to unearth later.
The entry also confirms the existence of a previously unknown fire at Glen Albyn, perhaps kept quiet as not to highlight its purpose during the war. Many of Scotland's distilleries were used to dry and store grain, so it is very likely Glen Albyn was utilised for this purpose as it was the larger of the 2 distilleries, had sizeable warehousing and was connected to a railway. The only previously documented fire at Glen Albyn was in 1849 which practically destroyed the distillery, prompting a sizeable rebuild. We're not only unearthing Glen Mhor history, but now, Glen Albyn.
As we'll see in subsequent pages, this won't be the first time Glen Albyn is mentioned. Here's the full entry...
'Custom & Excise
Glen Mhor Distillery
26th June 1942
I have to report that at 4.10 on the 24th inst? I received a telephone message from Glen Albyn Distillery, Inverness that their n.a.a.f.i. food store there was on fire.
A brick wall divides no.5 from the food store.
Without delay I proceeded to the distillery and learned on arrival that through the combined efforts of the soldiers enlisted? there, the fire service and the distillery staff, the fire was then practically extinguished.
I found no.5 distillers whse door open and a police constable standing on guard. The shackle of revenue lock had been cut, on the distillery manager's instructions and the warehouse entered.
Distillery workers and a fireman, under the supervision of the manager and the Commandant of the Fire Service removing casks of spirits stored near the brick wall, to other parts of the same warehouse. The wall was warm to touch.
Observation was also, for fire in the wood work of the roof, being kept, and fire extinguishers were at hand.
On being informed by telephone of the position, the Surveyor arrived shortly afterwards.
At of 11 when the casks next to the dividing wall were all shifted and the Commandant satisfied that all danger of fire was over, the warehouse door was locked with a fresh revenue lock.
As a precautionary measure the manager, a member of the fire service, again visited the warehouse at ??? and found everything normal.
Originally there was no dividing wall in the building, but, at the beginning of the present hostilities the food control requisitioned part of the building, and a wall was then built?
As a result of the fire, part of the roof of the food store, and part of the office was burned and a quantity of food should be water but the distillers whse, and its contents escaped destruction.
Yesterday, I examined the warehouse and all the casks (externally), and I am satisfied that the security of the warehouse is
(Margin entry: other part of the building approved as no.5 whse B.O. 10585/1939)
unimpaired, and that the casks of spirit, apart from the shifting, have not been interfered with.
The distillery is "silent" at present.
I am Honourable Sirs,
Your obedient servant
G.W. Peterkin, officer
Glen Mhor Station
The Commissioner of Customs & Excise
The loss appears to have arisen and the security of the whse is stated to be unimpaired (enclosures 2&3). Presumably the office in the whse remains satisfactory.
Further action appears to be necessary and the broken lock should be returned for repair.
(Sq5) L Cooper, AER. 7/7/42
Approved as ???? 11/7/42'
(margin entry: ??? office see encl 3)'
I reached out to Dave at the Inverness Local History Forum who are keen followers of this project and have been of great assistance to me during this journey. The mention of a fire or N.A.F.F.I. storage did not ring any immediate bells, which suggests as I speculated, Albyn's new purpose and events, were kept out of the public domain.
He did comment that soldiers may have been stationed nearby because of the strategical importance of the Muirtown bridge and former use of the site in World War 1 possibly as a munitions store.
Alan Winchester, agreed that this was a near thing and serious matter that was caught just in time...
'Very interesting that part of the buildings has been requisitioned, the current Longman industrial area was an airfield at this time, which is nearby.
The cutting of the Customs and Excise lock was a serious matter, hence the call to the surveyor. I agree a close run thing.'
A close thing indeed, if this had not been caught as early, warehouse 5 going up in flames would have prompted a chain reaction across the site. Fortunately, given the time period, the public and representatives were all on heightened awareness, allowing the distillery to emerge relatively unscathed as to what could have been a fateful evening.
This Log Book comes from the Highland Archives Centre (HCA/D31/4/1/25) and is watermarked for its protection. As with any images on this website, please ask first before using and always give credit.