"Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland...", Alfred Barnard, 1885

"O Thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink", from Scotch Drink, by Robert Burns

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Glasgow Part 4 – Loch Katrine Distillery, Camlachie

Moving to the East End of Glasgow I arrive at Camlachie where Barnard visited his fourth distillery, Loch Katrine. Not to be confused with Loch Katrine Adelphi (Glasgow Part 3), the Loch Katrine Distillery at Camlachie also drew its water from that loch by the time of Barnard’s visit.

It was originally opened as Camlachie Distillery in 1834 and drew water from the Camlachie Burn that ran past the distillery. The distillery was renamed Whitevale a year later and is recorded on an 1858 map with just the name ‘Distillery’.

The Loch Katrine pipeline to Glasgow was opened in 1859 and the distillery name was changed to Loch Katrine in 1870. It appears under this name on the same 1893 map that records the Adelphi distillery also as Loch Katrine. The availability of abundant fresh, clean water to a heavily industrialised and overpopulated city was certainly something to celebrate and be identified with.

By the time of Barnard’s visit to Camlachie the “pretty village, and its then sylvan stream much frequented by anglers” had already been absorbed into Glasgow city which was expanding rapidly. The distillery was surrounded by overpopulated tenements and industrial works and the sylvan stream of the Camlachie Burn was no doubt now heavily polluted from the waste of poor sanitation and the Camlachie Chemical Works on the opposite bank to the distillery.

In the 1800s the Highland and Lowland ‘Clearances’ and potato famine in the highlands forced tens of thousands of people off the land and into the towns and cities of the central belt. Many Scots emigrated to America and Canada if they had the means to pay their fare; many others were attracted to Glasgow in particular, as industrialisation created a need for labour.

Celtic Park (Paradise)
In Ireland the potato famine and political uprising had a similar effect on the population. Many Irishmen were also attracted to the ready employment in Glasgow and large Irish communities began to grow in the East End as their families followed. Celtic Football Club celebrates its Irish heritage and was founded in 1888, with Celtic Park football ground opening in 1892, just a few hundred yards east of where the distillery was. Celtic was founded as a charity with the purpose stated as being to alleviate poverty in Glasgow's East End parishes.

The Loch Katrine Distillery was closed in 1920 after being sold to The Distillers Company although the bonded warehouses remained until 1980. Camlachie was one of a number of areas that later became central to another of Glasgow’s failed housing experiments with the building of tower blocks in the 1960s, some up to 30 stories high, to re-house people being moved from the old tenements.

A discussion with friends on some of the areas of Glasgow I planned to visit threw up some cautionary words on what I might encounter. The stereotyping of certain place names led to a comment it was suggested I might end up using in this blog if I wasn’t too careful – “Over here used to be a distillery, and over here used to be my laptop!”, which may then have been destined for Paddy’s Market, except that was closed down by Glasgow Council in 2009 after concerns about associated crime - a ‘crime ridden midden’ was the Council’s poetic description.

'Over here used to be a distillery'
Not a bit of it! The location of the old distillery is now a pleasant housing estate with children playing in the street and no-one took any notice of me as I took photographs of the area and wandered around trying to get my bearings on where the distillery buildings once stood. The Forge shopping centre to the north-east of the location, built on the ground once occupied by the massive Parkhead forge in Barnard’s time, is one of the largest retail complexes in Europe and was packed with shoppers at 2pm on a Tuesday when I visited.

The East End of Glasgow is starting to emerge from its imbalance of social deprivation and vast areas between Camlachie and Dalmarnock are now being redeveloped for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and hopefully a legacy beyond then. Opposite Celtic Park the new Indoor Sports Arena and Velodrome are rising from a wasteland that will also become home to the Athlete’s Village. These are long term ventures and the Village will be transformed into housing after the games.

My first day in Glasgow, and of this tour, draws to a close and I return to Edinburgh inspired and full of ideas. Time to start writing.