At the beginning of his report on Burnside distillery Barnard records a coach journey his party took to Glen Lussa which lies about 5 miles north of Campbeltown and through which, apparently, “runs the Ardlussa River”!!! Ah-ha methinks, but not for long.
Looking at maps from 1865 to 1900 the river is always named as ‘Glen Lussa Water’. Did Barnard confuse the name Ardlussa with this having already heard the name of the distillery, or perhaps it was just a hurried note that was later misreported, similar to his various spellings of the hill Beinn Ghuilean which he also records as Bengullien just a few lines later in this report?
Maybe Ardlussa was the name that Gaelic speaking locals used for the River or Glen? Ard means ‘tall’ or ‘great’ in Gaelic, and I concede that it is also possible that the distillery was named for ‘Great Lussa’. These are more local solutions to the name, but I still prefer my more romantic ‘idyllic Jura’ reasoning. I will be visiting Jura soon and if I have time I will take pictures of this mystical place.
On his return from Glen Lussa Barnard was dropped at the Burnside Distillery which was south-west of the town, below the slopes leading to Crosshill Loch. He describes it as the only distillery in Campbeltown actually in the country, although I will query this when I mention Meadowburn Distillery below. It was situated off the Witchburn Road, opposite the Gallow Hill which gives you some idea of what used to go on round these here parts!
Burnside was one of the earliest distilleries in Campbeltown having been built in 1825. It was named from the Witch Burn that ran alongside it, down under Burnside Street in the town and emptied into the old mussel ebb. Barnard’s report is fairly short and there is not much to note from it. He does mention that one of the malt barns was so spacious it was “used as a banqueting-hall and ball-room when the present Duke of Argyll came of age.”
In a departure from the peat only drying common in other distilleries, the kilns here were heated by both peat and ‘blind coal’, also known as anthracite. It burns with a smokeless flame and has few impurities so ideal for drying barley for distilling. Townsend (1993) suggests that Burnside whisky was milder than others in town as a result of this mix; Barnard refers to it as just Campbeltown Malt.
|Creamery on site of Burnside Distillery|
Across the road from the distillery was a Poorhouse. The maps from 1865 to 1899 show this increasing in size quite considerably, this at a time when the distilling and fishing industries were booming in town. The building is now used by the Regional Council and rather ironically includes their Financial Services offices for payment of Council Tax, rates and payroll.
|Meadowburn site beside creamery|