Thursday, February 25, 2010

The whisky railway at Cas Chaolas


Cas Chaolas is the original Gaelic name for the area that later became a ferryport for an Anglo queen. Apart from Gaelic toponomy which can be seen in other local placenames such as Echline, Dalmeny and Duntarvie, South Queensferry used have its own monument to the pinnacle of Scots' culture, the uisge-beatha.

This was where VAT 69 once had its blending plant. Immortalised in Iain Banks' 'The Bridge', this once local landmark and employer fell victim to the whisky cuts of the 80s. Below is a photo of the last corner standing. Today this area of The Loan is where you find a Scotmid and the local GP. The wall in the bottom left of the pic is the auld railway bridge. This was the railway which once left the plant and took the sùgh an eorna out to the wider world. Nowadays, its a cycle track which begins/ends in the glorious Scotmid carpark.



Apparently, the Glenesk distillery of Montrose supplied the major component of VAT 69, of which more information can be found on this Wiki page. More info on the background to the closures can be found at the excellent Pseudipigrapha blog here, which funnily enough seems to be banned from the Scotsman/ Northern Daily Mail comment forums! Speaking of Johnson Press - the people responsible for recycling Labour Party press releases - one of their other organs, Eastbourne Today, (??!!) informs us that in 1983, "Queensferry woman Teresa Brogan won the Miss VAT 69 title at the firm's annual dance."

The nearby St Magdalene distillery in Linlithgow also went during the same period. More info on that and other closed distilleries can be found here at Malt Maniacs.

Is it overly sentimental to mourn these icons of our culture? I don't know, but are football clubs any different? Even the likes of Airdrie who are often thought of as 'unfashionable' when folk are being polite to them, have survived. More to the point, is it wrong to be 'sentimental', if the other side of the coin is to be so obsessed with short-term profits that people, their families and livelihoods just become stepping stones?

9 comments:

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Thanks for the link Tocasaid; that time has bittersweet memories for me.The topmost right hand window is where I used to literally "hang out" to check on my motorbike which was usually parked where the yellow box is. Sigh.
Incidently, the article from the Eastbourne Press would have been mined from the "Linlithgowshire Journal and Gazette" database; Teresa was from Bo'ness, NOT the Ferry...a precursor of JP reporting perhaps?
Where did you get the photo by the way?

Mac an t-Srònaich said...

Aye, its an interesting part of our local history. A local joiner filled me in a lot of the history of VAT69 and the St Magdalene distillery in Linlithgow. Ho-ho, Johnson Press has got a bit of a track history. At least its not poorly disguised press releases from Labour HQ.

Photo is 'borrowed' from a Flickr account - click on photo to be taken to source.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Ah, the old click on the photo to find out-doh;¬)
Do you live doon the Ferry, or is local Edinburgh/West Lothian?
Have you heard the tales of the even older bottling plant fire, where the hoggies of whisky boiled and burst in the heat and ran in rivers down the Loan? People were scooping it up in whatever containers could be found...Clark Place had no indoor plumbing...

Anonymous said...

Aye, the photo, an interesting wee collection the guy has on Flickr. Just moved out here from Leith - great place, friendly folk and, as i now see, an interesting recent history. Love the fire story - if Compton Mackenzie had lived here...

Conan the Librarian™ said...

There's Ken MacLeod, who can sometimes be found in the Ferry Tap with Iain Banks and Charlie Stross.
If you want to know more go to the library and ask for the local history books "Doon the Ferry" and "Back doon the Ferry".
My Great-grandmother is in both of them, Kate MacKay.

naldo said...

My dad was a customs officer at the Vat 69 plant for decades. Think they bottled Antiquary there as well which was a right tasty deluxe.

I used to love the big red neon sign as viewed heading south on the bridge.

As well as gettin massive amounts of free booze every New Year, my dad was the unofficial tour guide at the plant. One day in the late 70's he phoned the hoose to tell me he was gonna show Abba round and wondered if i wanted to meet them. I was way to cool to go for that pish and told him to beat it. Wish i'd gone now. Pics of me wi Abba woulda been barry.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Naldo, he may have been the unofficial tour guide there because my sister was one of the official ones!
I met Nazereth once...
Aye, the Antiquary was bottled there, along with a single malt called Glenesk. They kept rebranding it with other names I've forgotten.
Grand Old Parr was a good dram too.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. What a place... Abba at VAT 69. Iain Banks in the Tap. Someone should organise VAT69 reunion.

Who needs the Battle of Hastings when there's history like this on your doorstep.

Slàinte.

Anonymous said...

Review of the Nazareth Glenrothes gig in the Hootsmon Gaelic column today. I can confirm that the writer enjoyed it.

That's it sorted then, Nazareth and Abba at the VAT69 festival. My frau here is good at organising things...