More Illicit Islay Whisky Distilling by Dougie MacDougall

It's time for another one of those magnificent Dougie MacDougalls stories. The last one I posted was back to November 2009 and that was a story about illicit whisky distilling on Islay. The next story is a follow up of the one I wrote about earlier and is again wonderful to read and has something to do with illicit distilling as well. Those were the days....

Dougie MacDougall: My next story is of a man who was making whisky for years till in the end he knew it was time to get rid of his whisky and still. He lived a quiet life as a farmhand and carried out his distilling in the hills which abound the Glen Road on the south east side of the island. His hideout was also a cave right in the heart of the hills from whence he carried his whisky and sold it to local buyers on the quiet.

This day he took the last lot of whisky which was in a hidden keg under his arm, crossed through the hills and was stepping on to the road when he was apprehended. This pony trap had come on him unaware, he had no chance to run and hide, so he had to brazen it out. He knew in his own heart this must be an excise officer for very few could afford to hire this kind of vehicle. He therefore went boldly forward to meet him. the officer asked him where he was going and why he was carrying a keg of whisky under his arm? The man replied that a few years ago he made his own whisky but since the laws came to force, the time had come for him to destroy his still and do away with the whisky he had in hand. "I am now," he says, "on my way to the village of Bowmore to hand over this keg to the Excise Officer and to inform him that I shall never make any more whisky again." Continue reading....

The officer congratulated hime on his honest staunchness in upholding the law and informed him that he was the Excise Officer from Bowmore. By his way of it, the man put on an act of surprise and was going to hand over the keg with great reluctance when the following words stopped him. "Well, my honest man, you have said that you are going to Bowmore. Would you kindly go to my house and deliver that keg to my wife and put it under the bed beside the other one."

He received a tip and kindly gesture from the officer, so off he went to Bowmore and sold the keg of whisky to a buyer he knew well. The next call was to the Excise house where he knocked at the door and humbly told the good lady that he met her husband on the road and that he told him to collect the keg of whisky for him that was upstairs under the bed.

"My good man, come in and go upstairs, for the keg will be toe heavy for me to handle." He went upstairs, collected the keg and was warmly thanked by the good lady who graciously handed him a tip for all his trouble. He promptly sold the keg of whisky and disappeared into the hills where he came from. Of course, they tried to trace him but with no success. The bold fellow no doubt would shave off his heavy beard and keep in the background for a space of time.

May I also add that in those days communications were not as they are today. There were no phones, no wireless, no motor cars, so this made it very difficult for the Excise to know people, especially those working outside the law.

Tag: tales dougie macdougall history