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Wartime hero and whisky leader
A NAVY man who feared battleships and volunteered for ‘special service of a hazardous nature’, surviving the Second World War, was laid to rest in Kintyre last weekend.
Adam Bergius, 91, came from a different generation and found his wartime service, straight from school, a big adventure.
He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for, what he considered the minor act of cutting two underwater communications cables after swimming, as a diver from an XE mini submarine, in the Mekong delta.
In his own book A Lucky Life he compared his simple role to that of his brother Cecil who worked on convoy escort duty and did not survive the war.
Bergius was born in March 1925 the son of William and Agnes and the youngest of five siblings.
He was brought up in Glasgow but wrote that life really began each Easter when the family decamped to Bonnie Blink in Hunter Street, Kirn, a seven bedroom house built to his grandfather’s design in 1878.
From there he enjoyed getting out in his own rowing boat, Puddock, and voyages in the family’s yacht, Dodo IV, designed by the combined minds of his father William and the premier builder of his day, William Fife III.
Sailing was to become one of the loves of his life. The navy made him into a consummate navigator and while still serving after the end of the war he was lucky enough to be chosen to crew Latifa, possibly the most famous William Fife III design, across the Atlantic, to race in the New York to Bermuda race.
His grandfather had married into the whisky distilling Teacher family and this had become the family business.
Bergius had wanted to follow agriculture as a career but with the death of his brother Cecil and his father’s failing health there was a gap at Teachers.
Already his brother Walter and Ronald Teacher, just out of the navy, were trying to improve the desperate state of the family business.
Bergius, as a person who loved people, was a natural in sales and marketing and was soon travelling the world promoting the brand.
Agents in countries such as Venezuela were amazed when they found out that the Teachers’ representative was a member of the owning family.
When Teachers was absorbed by Allied Brewers in the 1980s his hands-on style was not so appreciated.
Bergius found it difficult to put up with what he called the ‘fun-less grim world of over educated sales advisers.’
Bergius may have been lucky enough to be able to afford a 1926 British Racing Green Bentley in 1949 nickmaned the Hippo.
At that time it was just an old car and not the classic of today. It was much cherished and Bergius thought nothing of plunging into its innards to cure problems himself and visiting Glasgow’s scrap merchants for spares.
He kept the vehicle until 1980 and, perhaps in a testament to his efforts, it is still on the road today, most recently appearing at Brooklands for the Hogmanay meeting.
Driving the vehicle through Glasgow also led him to meet Gordon Sillars and eventually his sister Fiona who married Bergius in 1951.
Soon the pair had started a family and moved to a former nursing home named Croy at Shandon. Not long after, Bergius bought a Bristol pilot cutter, Hirta, which took his growing family on many more sailing adventures.
During one of these, passing through the Crinan canal, he met a couple who owned Glencreggan at Glenbarr, a house built by his great uncle.
A year later in 1963 it came on the market unexpectedly and an association with Kintyre began which was to last for the next 54 years of his life.
In the late 1970s, in the fulfilment of a dream, he bought the Isle of Oronsay to add its 1,300 acres of grazing to that at Glencreggan, but his period of ownership turned out to be quite short.
While Bergius worked in Glasgow the farm at Glencreggan was managed by Ian and Ann Purvis but on his retirement from the whisky world he moved full time to Kintyre.
Life became a mix of cruising and farming with new people to meet and a fresh world in which to live.
Kintyre became his passion and he felt that it was a real hidden gem and that Campbeltown was not well enough known.
His wife Fiona pre-deceased him in 2011 and he is survived by five children, nine grand children and two great grand children.
Following the death of his wife he sold Glencreggan in 2014 and aged 89, engaged an architect to design his ideal retirement home.