Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Industries at Ousdale. Article VII, 06/11/1879 - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part A

Article VII written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 6 November 1879. Part A

Martial Enthusiasm

One is at a loss to account for the martial spirit which existed in the breasts of these simple peace-loving people, of which we have been treating, removed as they were from the seat of any military centre, and to whom the site of a red coat was a seven year wonder, unless a recruiting escort for Wick or Thurso were on their way south: yet there seemed to have been a spark of military enthusiasm smouldering in their breasts, which burst out into flame from time to time, and resulted in their leaving friends and home, to shoulder the musket, and submit to military life. As we have seen some of them became a credit to themselves and an honour to their country.

Industries at Ousdale

Ousdale 1934. The shepherd's old house is left rear.
Ousdale had two public institutions, a mill and a distillery. The mill was situated on the burn that divides Ousdale into two parts, and on the left hand side of the road which leads from the shepherd’s old house, crossing over close to the big house on the west side of the first burn, to the east of the shepherd’s old house, and a little below the old road. It was the property of, or was rented by, a Mr Sutherland, who lived in the big house at Ousdale. The distillery was defunct long before our day, but the site we have often seen.

Ousdale Burn

Broaching the Admiral

Although this scene is not Auchencraig the 
setting would have been similar
The whisky used to be sent to the towns situated along the Moray Firth. It was shipped at Auchencraig on the formidable boats used in those days for the herring fishing. Sutherland was in the habit of accompanying them as supercargo. He was very close-fisted in his way, and would never offer the crew a glass of his Highland whisky, should they perish with cold. On one occasion, while on a voyage to some of the ports of the Moray Firth, the crew were complaining much of the cold, the morning being hard and frosty. Sutherland also complained of the cold, when it was proposed to him that he should go forward to the bows of the boats, where he would be sheltered by the sail. This he at once agreed to, and as soon as he seated himself down there, some member of the crew commenced operations in “broaching the admiral,” or in other words, helping themselves to a wee drop of the good man’s whisky, extracting from a cask by a gimlet and quill, the results being that their blood was kept in circulation, and their spirits kept up.

Between the distillery and the curing at Auchencraig there was a considerable stir in these days, and the two industries were the means of circulating a considerable sum of money in the district. How changed things are now! These places, which at the time referred to, were all stir and life from one year’s end to another, are now surrounded with the stillness of death. The only sounds to be heard now are the bark of the shepherd’s dog, the bleating of sheep, or the “birl” of the sportsman’s whistle. 

Scottish Whisky

Allan Royhouse 1977 makes the following comment:

It already has been said that there was a thriving - and legal at the time - whisky distillery at Ausdale in the time of William Campbell [tacksman]. When this ceased to produce  malt whisky is not known, but a fair guess might be that the closure of the facility coincided with the introduction of legislation and licensing c. 1780. This may have halted the legitimate distillation of whisky, but the knowledge and 'know how' of production was well known to the people who continued to produce the 'mercy' from small private stills - some for their own use, some for various outlets whereby scarce money might be had in exchange. This source of wealth, and those who produced the whisky, soon came under the scrutiny of the landed proprietors, and it was not long before legislature came into being whereby all manner of difficulties were put in the way of producing a ‘browst.’

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