From Our Files, December 4 2020

In 1920: A photograph of Jura with an accompanying caption.
In 1920: A photograph of Jura with an accompanying caption

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TEN YEARS AGO
Friday 3 December 2010

Campbeltown is jobs blackspot, says union

Campbeltown has been named the worst place in Scotland for getting a job, with more than 12 workers chasing each vacancy.

This prompted Conservative Jamie McGrigor MSP to hit out at the Scottish Government for not moving fast enough over problems at Skykon and construction firm Rok, which was building an extension to the wind turbine manufacturer’s factory at Machrihanish.

When he raised the issue with ministers in the Scottish Parliament, he said: ‘Nothing seems to happen.’

The job figures were revealed in research by the GMB union on Monday, in a snapshot that analysed official unemployment and vacancy data across the UK for October 2010.

There were 14 unfilled jobs in Campbeltown and 180 men and women claiming unemployment benefit, a ratio of 12:9; the Scottish average was 3:9.

TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO
Friday 8 December 1995

Phosphorous bomb inquiry report denied

The health and safety executive has denied any knowledge of workers being injured as they laid a pipe line near the Beaufort’s Dyke ammunition dump.

A Glasgow-based newspaper earlier this week claimed workers were burned by phosphorous bombs, similar to thousands which were washed up on Kintyre beaches, and inhaled toxic fumes.

The paper reported workmen as saying they were told to continue the pipe laying operations regardless of their safety concerns.

No one from European Marine Contractors, the firm which carried out the work, was prepared to speak to the Courier about the allegations.

All inquiries were referred to British Gas which was EMC’s client.

British Gas exploration and development boss Mr Jim Willison said he did not know of anyone being injured by incendiary bombs.

He also said he was unaware of the report that Dutch workers had quit the project because of fears about toxic fumes.

‘The operation was carried out within guidelines laid down by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence and the Health and Safety Executive.

‘We were satisfied that the operation was being carried out without any risk to employees.’

FIFTY YEARS AGO
Thursday 3 December 1970

Whisky bottled after 50 years in cask

On November 25 1970 an event that is unique in the history of the Scotch whisky industry took place at Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown; a hogshead of 50-year-old whisky was bottled.

The whisky concerned was distilled at Springbank in December 1919 and was thus almost 51 years old. There are probably no more than half-a-dozen casks of 50-year-old Scotch whisky in existence.

It is the habit at Springbank to reserve small quantities of whisky for longer than normal maturity. Although 20 years is not so very uncommon, 50 years is exceptional.

The particular cask was ‘refill sherry hogshead’ which was filled on December 26 1919, with Springbank at a strength of 11.2 over proof (111.2 proof).

It originally contained the equivalent of 59.1 proof gallons but more than 50 years later, maturation had taken most of the spirit away: there was only the equivalent of 16.4 proof gallons left, and the strength had dropped to 66.3 proof.

The out-turn of the bottling operation was 12 cases and one bottle. These will have a special label and each numbered bottle will carry a certificate individually signed by the company’s chairman Mr Hedley G Wright, whose great-grandfather founded the present company. Unfortunately it is improbable that any of this whisky – after all there are only 145 bottles – will be seen by the retail trade; the price would be astronomical anyway.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
Saturday 4 December 1920

Islay distilleries

Last working season was a prosperous one for the Islay distilleries, as well as for Highlands distilleries generally.

During the summer great activity has been seen in the numerous arrivals of vessels with coal and barley and preparations were made for a resumption of distilling.

Wet weather, scarcity of labour and a scarcity of carts made the securing of peats very difficult, and only the dry autumn relieved the situation and allowed the peats to be got home. At Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Port Ellen, Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila work is now actively going on, and large deliveries are leaving the district.

Highland distillers, however, have now to face the competition again of the distillers of grain whisky, which is now plentiful on the market. The Distillers Co Ltd quotes its grain whisky at five shillings (25 pence) per gallon and with all the high costs of wages, coal repairs etc which encumber the malt distillers, the competition is likely to be severely felt.