New Houses at Glen Mhor Distillery 28th October 1946


Approved by the Dean Guild a fortnight after an application to extend the worker's cottage at Glen Mhor, Mackinlay & Birnie made a new request to further expand their employee accommodation.

This request, approved by A. G. Stewart, represents a significant investment in their workforce and departs from the ongoing expansion of the current workers' cottages. Instead, it pioneers a new approach and breaks new ground on the site. Titled, One Block of Two Four Apartment Houses At Glenmhor Distillery, the new building drastically expands the available residential resource 

This action, in reality, establishes and completes the fa├žade of the Glen Mhor location, as depicted in the images from the 1980s. The completion of the frontage on Telford Street and the opposite side of the Distillery Office, which was established in 1924. 

It is gratifying to confirm from these plans that a tangible structure associated with Glen Mhor continues to exist today. Formerly, it was thought that solely the quayside wall was a vestige of that epoch, however, we can now assert with certainty that certain workers' lodgings have persevered to this day.

I have long harboured suspicions about the house that partially houses a Chinese takeaway (see images below) and the activity taking place at the Telford Street border of the distillery site. Walking around the site multiple times, it can be difficult to remain focused due to the heavy traffic that passes along Telford Street. Pushing your senses away from the structures that line the promenade.

What this investment and the expansion of existing accommodation in 1946 shows, is the commitment from Mackinlay & Birnie to enhance the workers facilities on site. This project would have clear benefits for the workforce. Moreover, it would have provided much-needed accommodation to the area, especially considering the post-war context. Government grants and encouragement may have also been a factor.

Of course, I need to dig deeper than just this find. My immediate thoughts are why the sudden expansion and does the house have any lingering touches that relate to former residents?

We can approach the need for housing from two angles. Firstly, there is a well-researched issue concerning the malt production capacity of the Glen Mhor distillery. Due to a bottleneck on the malting floor, Glen Albyn was often required to produce malt for this facility. Mackinlay & Birnie were well aware of this, and ultimately decided upon Saladin Boxes that went into production on 17th October 1949. 

Prior to this, we know that the owners were engaged in exploring all options. As shown in our discovered documentation, they had also contemplated implementing a night shift on the malting floor, which would have significantly increased their workforce, requiring nine additional maltmen. This may have influenced their decision to create a greater onsite resource in 1946, with the future prospect of upping production and tackling existing problems.

However, I do not think that the need to increase production and return to normal distilling was the sole reason for the expansion of accommodation. 

As confirmed by an article in the Inverness Courier from 1946, housing was a widespread issue in the Inverness area, with Muirtown, the residence of Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn, being specifically mentioned. The problem had become so acute that families were having to squat in ex-army buildings:

'The occupation of unused military and Air Ministry huts in Inverness by ex-Servicemen and their families, which began on Monday, has proceeded without interruption, and there are approximately 41 families squatting in Government property in various parts of the town. The huts - all of the Nissen type - are situated at the Longman Aerodrome, Raigmore Wood, Annfield Road, Porterfield Road and Muirtown. The squatters, all ex-servicemen have come from the Kessock district, Haugh district, Telford Gardens, Friars Lane, Culcabock, Grieg Street, Cameron Road and Inshes. All are determined to stay in the huts until the town provides them with permanent accommodation.'

In actual fact, the dual planning proposals for lodgings in 1946, which were submitted in close proximity to each other, aimed to tackle the problem of hiring and retaining workers at the distillery, and potentially at Glen Albyn as well. Perhaps my future work in the Glasgow University archives, around the Mackinlay & Birnie records, will shed more light on the principle motivations. 

I have to highlight that John Birnie passed away in 1946, shortly prior to these planning submissions, and his charitable work and focus on supporting servicemen and those who were unwell are widely recognised. Such investments to improve workers facilities and in doing so, overcome recruitment issues, shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given his previous motivations. 

I'll leave you to contemplate the legacy and significance of the fact that the Panda Garden Chinese Takeaway in Inverness is the only remaining structure of the Glen Mhor distillery, alongside the semi-residential neighbour. I have not yet requested a takeout, but I believe that this should be an option available for my future visits. What would be the concept for a dish inspired by Glen Mhor?

We've watermarked the images from the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness to protect the originals, which are referenced as Telford Street - Dean of Guild Plans. As with any images on this website, please ask first before using and always give credit. My thanks to the Centre for their continued assistance.