William Birnie Family Memories

This Glen Mhor research project leads us in new directions and uncovers fresh information, things that I have never even remotely considered or anticipated. This week's article exemplifies this, and I extend my gratitude to Linda, a relative of John and William Birnie, who cherishes her memories of spending summers with Uncle Bill...

'William Birnie was my great Uncle. I have many childhood memories of my life on the family farm of Balnafettack as well as the Distillery.( I loved the Penny farthing Uncle Bill had leaning outside his office) ! I have a very interesting original transcript of an interview Uncle Bill did on radio all about Glen Mhor.'

Presented with this unique opportunity to quiz Linda on a few pertinent questions around Glen Mhor, it was too good to pass up. Fortunately, she was very accommodating with my whisky-geek-type queries.

You mentioned your disappointment regarding the closure of the farm and distilleries. Do you remember the reasons for selling the property at that time and whether the family agreed on it?

'I was a bit young to know what was happening with the business and my side of the family, who would know, are no longer with us.'

'Balnafettack used to be our farm and the pic of the road where I am learning to ride, it was a private road leading from the house directly to the distillery.'

William Birnie appeared to possess an affection for dogs, particularly labradors. There's a beautiful image of William on the malting floor with a loyal dog by his side.

'Uncle Bill always had a dog and it seems to be a family thing as we have always had labs! I have recently veered off this trend by owning Golden Retrievers however! My mother gave Uncle Bill the lab puppy in the pics I previously emailed (Ed - see the lead image on this article). The puppy was called Charlie.'

You mentioned the road from the farm down to the distillery - how far away was Glen Mhor from home? What are your memories of visiting Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn? I remember another family member talking about the distillery office that had hunting trophies and a smell of tobacco.

'It took just a few minutes by 'go-cart' from the house to the distillery. The office was tiny and quite untidy I seem to remember.! I loved the Penny farthing he had outside.

I would always be welcomed by Uncle Bill and remember him as a really kind old man. He used to like placing a bet on the horses and would ask me which horse I would like and place a bet for me too.'

You mentioned your disappointment regarding the closure of the farm and distilleries. Do you remember the reasons for selling the property at that time and whether the family agreed on it?

'I loved his big old house. Braerrannoch (spelling). It had a well in the garden and huge willow trees which I used to swing from. When he died, I think the house was donated to the municipality and became a care home..... His housekeeper was called Joy and she was as round as she was tall. Loved her cooking. Our housekeeper was called Chrissie at Balnafettack and both of them seemed to be on a mission to fatten up the skinny little girl I was.' 

'My days in Inverness were magical and filled with enormous kindness. The land from the farm is all built up now and it has become a suburb named Balnafettack after the farm house. The house was left to a friend of the family and has been sold since then. If I could, I would like to buy it back.'

'This image is my grandfather and youngest brother to Uncle Bill. Alastair Birne. The little girl is my mother Ruth and the other gentleman is John Birnie! Note, the lab!'

My thanks to Linda for this illuminating glimpse into the Birnie household and the plethora of joyous recollections it evoked. It's evident from the family photographs how cherished these moments are, including the affection for dogs and spending time with relatives of all ages. It's such personal memories and stories that bring the distillery and those around it, back to life. 


  1. Was Balnafettack a farm shop back in the 80's? I'm pretty sure I remember going there with my mum to buy food - and have a look at the animals of course.

    1. Hi Gordon

      You could be correct, I've not done much research on the farm life post-distillery, but a new life could make sense. Thanks, Jason.


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