Stories from the good ‘ol days of whisky – Volume 3b: Real Puggies… The way we were

And now for something completely different…  Real Puggies…. The way we were

So Catch me if you can cause I’m going back.

I have always had a great love for Dailuaine, the first malt whisky distillery to commission a pagoda from Charls Chree Doig, (not  only for its dark hue and fruit cake flavour but because it was where I was born back in the summer of ’49  (Oh Yeah, It was the summer of ’49).

Despite the aftermath of World War 2,with it’s hangover of food shortages, Summers back then were Halcyon days of iridescent kingfishers, sky schything swallows and “craggy” herons and you could still walk across the river Spey on the backs of salmon…. or so I am told by the old local poachers of my little town of Charlestown of Aberlour.

Cherry cheeked children scampered barefoot through golden fields of ripening barley, which would shortly fall to the reaper and binder pulled by “Ten to Two’s” 3 large Clydesdale horses (the farmer was called “Ten to Two” due to his Charlie Chaplin like gait which called to mind a firewalking penguin).

Bold bolshy boys skinny-dipped into languid crystal clear pools which teemed with speckled brown trout.

My eldest sister,Anna,has fond memories of her and our big brother, John,travelling to Carron Primary on th footplate of Dailuaine 1, affectionately known locally as “the puggy”.  Dailuaine 1 replaced it’s predecessor in 1939 and plied the track for over 40 years.  Carron station is next door to Imperial distillery, where my father worked at the time as a maltman, walking to and from his work and Dailuaine terrace every day by way of the railway line spur.

The terrace was known as Aristocracy row, as it was built on an elevated site overlooking the distillery and also Imperial cottages, which earned the somewhat demeaning name of Poverty row as the terrace folk were forever looking down on them, and probably still are.  The puggy made it’s last journey on the spur to the main track in 1970 and grown men were seen to cry openly as Puggy Wullie steamed into Dailuaine distillery.  Even he, a pugnacious hard man, who could start a fight in an empty room, had a lump in his throat as he stepped down from the engine.

The spur is now overgrown but Dailuaine 1 lives on, the old warhorse having been put out to pasture at Dewars world of whisky at Aberfeldy.  Many distilleries employed puggies until Beeching’s axe fell on the rail network in the late 60’s and the rise in road transport  sounded their death knell.

As with the self entertainment of war babies and farm horsepower the era of the puggies is a sweet memory of a byegone age… gone forever.

We will never see the like of them again.

Every wee boy dreams of being an engine driver on the Flying Scotsman or emulating Casey Jones on the throttle of the Cannonball Express but my train of my dreams is proudly displayed at Aberfeldy Distillery.

I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate these stories to my late brother John.

Merry Christmas and A Guid New Year…and I hope your latkes went down well with a wee dram.


A big thanks goes out to Bill Morgan for submitting this story.  All of his entries/stories can be found here.

You might not know who Bill Morgan is but you should.  Having worked professionally in whisky between 1965 & 1996, chances are if you’re a whisky drinker he’s helped to make the whisky you’ve enjoyed for the past, let’s say, 50 years or so.

I asked Bill if he could give me a quick overview of his history in whisky and he said:

Briefly speaking, I worked for my father in the floor maltings at Cardhu hand turning malt till they closed in the mid sixties and was transferred to Cragganmore where I soon became head warehouseman. 

Bill Morgan during his days at Tamdu as a malting barley buyer

I moved to Highland Distillery’s Tamdhu site where I did almost everything possible during my 26 years employment.  These included Saladin box worker, maltings shift work, barley intake and analysis, Group Laboratory worker/senior lab assistant, microbiologist, conducting laboratory hygiene surveys at all sites and micromalting.  My career in management with Highland distilleries included Assistant manager /Malting manager at Tamdhu, relief manager for all sites, malting barley buyer and finally 2 years as acting manager at Highland Park.

A lot has changed since my time with Highland distilleries (now Edrington) but the sites back then (pre-1996) which I worked in on surveys and as relief manager were Tamdhu, Glenrothes, Glenglassaugh, Bunnahabhain, Glenturret Highland Park and Glengoyne.

On top of this, Bill has a degree in Biology; Membership in the Institute of Biology and Food Scientists/Technologists and had a paper on distillery bacteria published in Institute of Brewing journal (and developed a new agar medium to grow and count these bugs).  So let’s just say, Bill is quite an accomplished guy! (oh, and he was born at Dailuaine!)

As you might imagine, having been literally born into whisky and being in the business professionally for 50 years… Bill’s got some great stories.