Two new warehouses at Glen Mhor
A great overhead image of the football ground, which by chance, gives us a snapshot of Glen Mhor in the 1980s. One thing that's always intrigued me are the two buildings (which look like warehousing) that appear in the 1960s onwards in various images.
You can see them just in front of the original number 1 and 2 warehouse that forms the original width of the distillery site. We're facing south in this image. To the left of them, you can there is residential housing, and to the right, a small park. Meaning access may have been through the original warehousing if they were indeed part of the distillery, which would have meant purchasing land, additional planning, etc.
An entry in the New Statistical Account of Scotland: Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, highlighted kindly by Alan Winchester, may at last solve this building mystery:
At Glen Mhor storage space for a further 285,000 gallons of whisky was provided in 1959 at the back of the distillery premises. This warehouse has no pillars and consists of a racking system of five tiers of butts in the middle and five tiers of hogsheads at the sides, with a modern stacker for hoisting the casks into racks. In 1963 the firm also put in an installation, costing about £18,000, whereby the stills are heated by steam, and in following year build another bonded warehouse which cost them about £17,500.
So, these have to be the buildings in the photograph. There is no ability to build on any side of the distillery except the southern end. As the other sides featured a canal, Telford Street and a football ground. These would represent the last major works at Glen Mhor and a substantial investment.
Originally, I believed that the above image - albeit a fantastic one - was from the 1960s, but due to this discovery it clearly now predates this period. Likely late 1950s and prior to 1959. It does show us the vacant land and the length of the original warehouse, which formed a natural barrier.
This area was the only possibility for building any extension to the distillery and given how 'modern' they are in terms of time, perhaps explains why any records are yet to appear in the archive. Looking at my own materials, I can see that the latest Glen Mhor archive material is from May 1950. So, perhaps time will reveal more details, or I can at least ask elsewhere.
The book goes onto confirm a new warehouse at Glen Albyn, confirming that Mackinlay & Birnie were preparing additional space for the boom in Scotch across both sites. The entry goes onto give us more detail around potential values, which I presume can only come from William Birnie:
Nearly 2 million gallons of whisky are stored for clients in new warehouses at the twin distilleries, the value in duty alone being around £24 million. The annual output of whisky from these two distilleries if sold on the home market would give the Chancellor of the Exchequer £5 million sterling.
Big business indeed, and this Canmore overhead image from the 1980s reveals more detail about the new buildings and their warehouse-like appearance which will be absolute to anyone that has walked around such buildings on existing distillery sites.
Zooming in as best we can and it becomes clear that the only routine way to access these buildings would have been through the original warehouse extension, which is known as warehouse #2:
This creates a rather convoluted point of access, entering the original warehouse (#1) on the left, then walking into its extension (#2), and thereby, I'd presume two access points into the new warehouses. Not ideal and a reflection - if there was ever one - of just how confined and surrounded the Glen Mhor site was by the late 1950s. And we can also speculate the same applied to Glen Albyn, as this decision to acquire land and build fairly inaccessible warehousing would not have been taken lightly or without consideration of any space at Glen Albyn, which seems to have run out with their own new four storey warehouse arriving in 1957.
But wait, I asked Dave from the Inverness Local History Forum what he can remember of these buildings and it does cast doubt on the dates mentioned in the book, although we are certainly in the right period:
At last, you have asked me something that I can actually answer myself - albeit only a smidgeon of info. You know, they say you are getting old if you see being demolished a building you witnessed being built. Well, that building was my very first in that respect. I am fairly sure the two parts were built at the same time, and they went up sometime between 1961 (when I moved to Inverness) and 1966 (when we moved to the other end of Bumbers Lane. My dad was Nursery Manager for Howdens Nurseries, and I knew every inch of the land he worked, as I was taken on as a "gopher" evert summer holidays! Most of the time I was deployed in the rose-field (bounded by the Distillery and Football ground
The warehouses obviously encroached significantly into the land of Howdens Nursery, so I suspect they either bought the land from Howdens or Howdens was renting the land from distillery in the first place. I suspect though that MacKinlay & Birnie did buy the land from Howdens (Dan MacKinnon, owner) as that area - the former rose field - was developed for housing long before the Distillery and Football ground were put to the sword!
I remember as a kid wondering what they were for. There were no windows or doors looking out onto Howdens' land at all, just plain white-harled (or whitewashed?) walls.
Okay a bit more digging shows that the 2 warehouses were not there in 1959 (when OS produced a map of area) but they were both there by 1962 when this survey was done:
My thanks to Dave once again, you can see the two new warehouses are firmly latched onto the existing parade of warehousing at the distillery, with the additions highlighted in red. While the dates need to be firmed up, there's no doubting Dave's recollection of events and perhaps the plan was originally to build one, but the ability to double up proved too good to miss, causing a slight delay? Between 1960 and 1961 seems like the area of focus. More research is needed.
Potentially a relevant aspect is that in 1960, The Distillers Company Limited acquired a stake in the Company of Mackinlay's and Birnie Ltd. This was rumoured to be around 46%. Perhaps the arrival sparked a series of upgrades at the site, including new warehousing?
Overall, this is a great find and we can now re-evaluate our prior knowledge of Glen Mhor having 8 warehouse buildings and 9 warehouses, which was correct for most of its existence. Except towards the end of its lifespan, 8 became 10 and therefore 11 warehouses in total.