It’s not far from George Square to Port Dundas so I choose to walk on a bright summer morning. A short climb north of the city centre brings you to the basin at the western end of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
|Port Dundas Distillery and canal basin|
Port Dundas is now a more sedate environment although commercial activity still takes place at the distillery, the cement factory and other local businesses arranged in two business parks. To the west, alongside Spier’s Wharf, the granaries and warehouses of Dundashill distillery are now converted into flats and offices.
|The M8 beyond the silent canal|
Port Dundas distillery was once one of the largest in the world and produced no less than 2,562,000 gallons of spirit (11.6m litres) per annum when Barnard visited. The Tun room contained 35 washbacks, some holding as much as 53,000 gallons (241,000 litres). The still room contained 3 Coffey’s Patent Stills, 70 feet high, and 5 pot stills “one of them having a capacity of 24,000 gallons [109,000 litres] and said to be the largest in the kingdom.” This was a huge venture and by far the largest production volume of any distillery in Scotland at that time.
The site is currently home to the Glasgow headquarters of Diageo. However, in 2009 Diageo announced that the distillery was to close this year, its 200th anniversary. Production of grain whisky for the drinks group is to be met at Cameronbridge distillery in Fife which is to be expanded, and the office staff are being moved to other locations.
Not unsurprisingly the announcement by Diageo was met with widespread media attention and political and union condemnation. It was announced as part of a restructuring package resulting in 900 job losses across Scotland, including 700 at its packaging plant in Kilmarnock, although to be offset by the creation of 400 new posts in Fife. Glasgow was home to six distilleries when Barnard visited – after this year it will host only one.
Barnard describes the view from the top on a clear day, with distant mountains visible to the west and north. From the highest point I could scramble to I could indeed just make out the tops of Goat Fell on Arran and Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro (mountains over 3000 feet high) which rises majestically from the shores of Loch Lomond.
|Converted Dundashill warehouses|
|Diageo cooperage at Dundashill|
At some time on this journey I hope that Diageo will grant me access to their archives which I understand are moving from Port Dundas. If I can trace any evidence of Barnard’s visit to these historical sites, perhaps a message recorded in a visitor’s book, then I will report back to you in due course.