Glen Mhor Log Book 22nd April 1943

The harsh realities of the Second World War and the government restrictions have taken root at Glen Mhor distillery. We know from previous logbook entries that Glen Mhor closed after Glen Albyn as both sites fell silent. Glen Mhor halted production on 26th March 1943, with Albyn coming to a close on or just prior to the 19th February.

With both sites eerily silent, it was down to the Customs & Excise representative to hold the fort at Glen Mhor. In this entry from 22nd April 1943, the present officer (Gilbert W. Peterkin), summarises the conditions in the warehouses.

At first reading this entry, I thought he was outlining the potential environments for a new distillery purpose. We know that Glen Albyn was playing host to a NAFFI food store and many distilleries across Scotland, were used to store grain (mostly oats) during the war effort. Could Glen Mhor follow suit and be utilised in a new fashion? It may be a possibility, although it is a much smaller site than Glen Albyn, and lacked the accessibility of the railway beside it. And it seems unlikely that the military would want two potential targets sitting nearby one another.

In fact, the true purpose of the entry became clear on page 2, but I'll let you discover this for yourself, before summarising below



In the six warehouses here the office consists of two single wall decks and four box offices.


There are no electric heaters except in one box office where to stop dry rot the floor is off the ground so that the air may circulate freely underneath and through the creosoted open floor boards.

There are no doors on the offices and each office is situated close to the outside warehouse door.


The 1st floor natural light enters through ??? and is good on clear days.

On the ground floor apart from ???, gangways to the 1st floor cross the office windows and impede the natural light.


'I consider it impossible to do clerical work satisfactorily in these warehouses in attendance hours under these conditions.

Your obedient servant

G.W. Peterkin, officer

The Surveyor


Literally, this is Gilbert complaining to his superiors that his new working environment is not suitable, in great detail. In doing so, it gives us an insight into the impact of the war on this particular exciseman, which may have been replicated elsewhere across Scotland's distilleries. Conversely, there is the argument that men and women engaged in the war effort across the UK (including factories) and further afield, would have gladly traded their position for a warehouse in Inverness.

By chance, we have a description of the warehouses at Glen Mhor. Now, we know from the Distilleries of Great Britain article from the 1920s that the distillery had 9 warehouses. The stretch that formed a barrier to the football ground behind, would have been 7 in total, so given the alternatives, it is in this cluster that Gilbert finds himself redeployed. Possibly, two warehouses had been combined internally in-between our prior account and this new entry. However, I don't have any planning confirmation of this in my records. 

What seems a more likely scenario - excluding the fact Gilbert cannot count and we know from his logbook entries, how accurate he was - is that a warehouse amongst the 7 has been repurposed to house four box offices. Meaning, the more prominent and front facing office buildings (that sit on Telford Street) were closed - even for internal use. I believe this is the most likely option and seems the case from his description of the situation.

We also know from an earlier entry that a warehouse at Glen Albyn was also playing host to temporary facilities.

The working conditions do not seem ideal, with no heating and poor visibility. There's also the flammable aspect and the risk of fire. Normally, warehouses only have one specific purpose and are devoid of additional features or anything that could be a hazard. While these warehouses were constructed in the 1890s and were built solidly, they would not have been designed for administrative purpose or modern features. They would have been cold, dark and eerie. 

There is the other question as to what administrative work Gilbert would have been expected to perform? The daily routine of production had ceased and the rooms and equipment that formed part of the distilled process, would have been shut down.

It seems that Gilbert's day would have consisted of checking the perimeter and maturing casks, looking for signs of leaks, tampering or break-ins. While alcohol was not rationed specifically during World War 2, the lack of production and increasing prices of raw ingredients meant that Scotch was at a premium and prices rising. So, the warehouses and any stock would have been a potential target for criminal activity.

This is an issue touched upon in Scotch by Ross Wilson¹ (published 1973), a book recommended by Alan Winchester in a previous article for its chapter on the Scotch and the Second World War. Demand for Scotch was high, but supply was scarce, prompting prices such as this one outlined in 1944:

'A Glasgow sale that February highlights the state of the market and the activity of black-marketeers: a Highland malt whisky made in 1922 was sold for 214s ($23.70) a gallon; a blend over twenty years old fetched 322s ($38.60) a gallon; brand sold for 470s ($56.40) and rum 355s ($42.60) a gallon. One man fainted in the sale room. I quote the first two verses of a six-verse skit on it published by the Manchester Guardian:

Firm and erect the Caledonian stood,
By Hitler's threats and Goebbels' wiles unhaunted;
Four years and more of total warfare could
Not shake his nerve of see his courage daunted.

But, having faced, four-square, the deepening gale,
With dearth and dire destruction long acquainted,
Alas! he looked in on a whisky sale;
And thereupon incontinently fainted.'

Part of me wonders what the fella would have made of today's whisky prices! The Scotch Whisky Association had previously introduced maximum prices for whisky with stern warnings about the consequences for any retailer who tried to profit beyond these confines. However, this did not stop the practice or the huge demand in the UK for Scotch even with the threat of being placed on the Stop List which would have limited their access to whisky. The chapter is quite fascinating and relevant to this period we're seeing in the logbook and the Stop Lists would continue to be used until the end of the 1940s.

As for Gilbert, we'll see if his concerns are addressed in future entries, especially as the prospect of an Highland winter approaches.

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. My thanks to the Centre for their assistance.

¹ The book is out of print, but this Amazon link does often feature second hand copies. It is a commission link, although a paltry amount that will go towards more books and Glen Mhor research.