Bessie Williamson - Laphroaig's First Lady

Bessie Williamson came to Islay for three months to work as a secretary for the Laphroaig Distillery and stayed for more than 40 years. Due to her intelligence and interest in the whisky production Ian Hunter, distillery manager and last in line of the family owners, offered her a full time position at the Laphroaig Distillery. When Ian Hunter in 1938 suffered from a stroke he asked Bessie to join him and complete the sales tour Ian made in America. Bessie was very succesful and made more trips during her career, including visits to Chicago World Fair and the New York Trade Fair as the Scotch Whisky Association's international ambassador. During the second World War the distillery was mothballed. After the War Ian Hunter appointed Bessie Williamson Distillery Manager of Laphroaig. When Ian Hunter died in 1954, Laphroaig was bequeathed to Bessie Williamson in a will stipulating that its quality and high standards should be maintained above everything. Later Bessie married Wishart Campbell, a Canadian entertainer with Scottish roots. In 1972, she retired to Ardenistiel House, where she died ten years later at the age of 71. For her work for charity, she was awarded the Order of St John by the Queen.

Previously unseen pictures from Bessie Williamson have been discovered by researchers from the Glasgow University, according to an article in the Herald. The images were discovered by chance in the Scottish brewing archive held by the university. The university is now looking for help in identifying other people in the Laphroaig photographs. They reckon that a number of people, specially on Islay, must remember Bessie Williamson and the Laphroaig workforce from 60 to 70 years ago.


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