Glen Mhor Log Book 6th August 1945
We're into 1945 and a potential winner in the best handwriting category. It's a beautiful style which I appreciate when transcribing these entries. Of course, our immediate concern is what happened to Gilbert W. Peterkin? The faithful exciseman who replaced Neil M. Gunn in in 1937? And is this new individual a permanent or temporary replacement?
What's been delightful in recent entries is Gilbert's documenting, and essentially complaining, about working conditions at Glen Mhor during its war mothballing. It would be a likely scenario that he was moved elsewhere or redeployed after such entries. Only time will tell, as we dive into this entry from 6th August 1945, which comes shortly after the end of World War 2.
'Customs & Excise
Glen Mhor Distillery
I beg to report that the percentage of the best change over the attenuation change at Glen Mhor Distillery for the period ending 3/8/45 was only 06.6% instead of the normal 11 to 14%.
On the 2nd inst at ??7, the manager delivered a notice to the Office to unlock the main Door of the Wash Still for immediate examination. I was in the office at the time and immediately complied with request. It was found that the Wash Still was leaking slightly through the Discharge Cock, which had not been fully closed when the Still was charged at?? 1. The contents of the Still were found to be much below the usual level.
I examined the remainder of the plant and subsequently the rest of the premises and found them regular in every respect.
From the examination of the premises and investigations detailed above I am satisfied that the Wash was genuinely and wholly lost in the manner stated and that none was removed from the premises.
I am also satisfied that there was no abstraction of wash feints or spirits during the period 30/7/45 to 3/8/45 and that the loss of the wash from the leakage of the Wash Still accounts for the low percentage.
I am, Honourable Sirs,
Your obedient servant.
W. Wheach, officer
The Commissioners of Customs & Excise
We know from a news article published on 8th November 1944, Glen Mhor was 1 of 32 distilleries given permission to restart distilling in the New Year. While we don't have an entry to confirm the exact date, we can see by the summer of 1945, distilling is certainly in progress.
What's of interest is that Glen Albyn was named on the initial list to return to production, only Glen Mhor was revived out of the trio of Inverness distilleries. The majority on the list as you can see from below belong to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD), who are given the green light across many of its distilleries.
There would be a practicality aspect to reviving a distillery and why only Glen Mhor was chosen. With Millburn coming under the SMD banner, their priorities may have been elsewhere. We'll never know, but arguably permission was sought for all its distilleries and some didn't make it for fairness?
Rationing was still in place, so an element of the raw materials needed for distilling was still limited. Suddenly giving the green light to the whole industry was not possible and would have placed extra burden on rationing and farmers, as supply chains tried to return to normal. I'm also aware of the workforce, who may have become scattered, or experienced a worse fate. When Glen Mhor came back on line, it may have done with an assortment of men from across both sites to ensure its revival.
We know from an unpublished interview with William Birnie in July 1953, the workforce across both sites numbered 26.In 1945, this would have been much higher because Glen Mhor was still using a traditional malting floor, as opposed to the Saladin Boxes that arrived in 1949. So, while there might not have been a shortage of labour, the required skills might have been in short supply.
Returning to the entry itself, we see the common methodology of an Exciseman in assessing the loss, scene of the accident and potential for extraction elsewhere. So far, we've yet to see any pilfering at Glen Mhor, which doesn't say it didn't happen, but thanks to the Exciseman and likely presence of John Birine during his reign, the men certainly knew better.
On the subject of labour, Alan Winchester offered some valuable insight on this entry:
'Yes, they are back at work, good to see, I wonder if the former officer had got a shift? The new officer's hand writing is very neat.
The valve may have had some wear on it when in the closed position it sounds to me.
At this time, the industry was working with permitted volumes, and I wonder if Glen Albyn would be operating or its production volume allocation would have been added to Glen Mhor, some of the distilleries did not open as it was more efficient to give the other distiller the "permit", and receive the whisky made at the other site, this was due to labour issues as well. I remember a former Cragganmore employee as a territorial soldier was called up early in the war as he was demobbed. He travelled by train to Dailuaine, which had opened in 1945, when labour etc. was up to strength, Cragganmore was reopened.
So, the article is interesting.'
Distilling life may have been slowly returning to normal, former employees returning from their forces roles. However, it is worth noting the date of this entry, as it was on the 6th August 1945 that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima with the instant loss of 80,000 residents. It is easy to forget that the war was still ongoing in the Far East and it was to suddenly end with the arrival of a new devastating weapon.
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.