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Issue 62 - Pioneer Photos

Whisky Magazine Issue 62
March 2007


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Pioneer Photos

She blazed a trail that many women in whisky have followed, but a chance discovery has shed more light on a woman who is still a legend in the whisky world.

These previously unseen photographs offer a unique window in to the life and times of one of the first ladies of Scotland's whisky industry - Bessie Williamson of Laphroaig.

The images were unearthed among the many photographs, recipes, brewing books, bottles and cans held by the Scottish Brewing Archive at Glasgow University.

“It was a twist of fate, that these photographs ended up in our collection,” explained Iain Russell, archivist of the Scottish Brewing Archive and an expert in the history Scottish drinks industry, “but when I found them, I realised that I was looking at images of the most famous woman in the whisky business, a female distiller who is still revered today.

“Women have recently taken many senior positions in distillery management in Scotland, but rather than forging new paths they are following in the steps of this redoubtable pioneer.” The photographs found in the Archive capture many aspects of everyday life at the distillery and on Islay from the 1920s until the 1960s – from making and shipping out the whisky to picnics and ceilidhs in the local hall.

“Many of the people in the photographs are unknown to us, but the images of Bessie stand out,” commented Iain.

“She is mentioned on many whisky websites but often with contradictory information about her life. So we are trying ...

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