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Old Stories from Islay by Dougie MacDougall

At the beginning of this year I had plans to post a couple of stories of Dougie MacDougall on my blog but somehow I only managed to post one story: More Illicit Islay Whisky Distilling by Dougie MacDougall. Today I can present you more old Islay stories by Dougie MacDougall, the late husband of Lily MacDougall who is Chistine Logan's mother. This story is from the booklet "As Long as Water Flows".

Dougie Macdougall: Retracing my thoughts back to the local worthies, there were quite a few of them. There was this old chap, he lived in the vicinity of Port Askaig. Most of his life was spent at the fishing - he was a weel kent face. For a time he was ferryman between Port Askaig and Feolin on the Jura side. This day they were going across with a passenger in an open boat, rowing of course, no engines in those days.

The passenger was in full naval uniform and looked as if he was quite well off, indeed that's what the rowers thought and they were going to charge accordingly. The naval officer took the tiller, but he wasn't up to old Alistair's expectations. In fact, the boat was veering off course with the strong tide. In the end Alistair spoke up angrily, "Keep the boat on is proper course, you must remember you're not in charge of a man-of-war here!" Continue reading...

More Illicit Islay Whisky Distilling by Dougie MacDougall

It's time for another one of those magnificent Dougie MacDougalls stories. The last one I posted was back to November 2009 and that was a story about illicit whisky distilling on Islay. The next story is a follow up of the one I wrote about earlier and is again wonderful to read and has something to do with illicit distilling as well. Those were the days....

Dougie MacDougall: My next story is of a man who was making whisky for years till in the end he knew it was time to get rid of his whisky and still. He lived a quiet life as a farmhand and carried out his distilling in the hills which abound the Glen Road on the south east side of the island. His hideout was also a cave right in the heart of the hills from whence he carried his whisky and sold it to local buyers on the quiet.

This day he took the last lot of whisky which was in a hidden keg under his arm, crossed through the hills and was stepping on to the road when he was apprehended. This pony trap had come on him unaware, he had no chance to run and hide, so he had to brazen it out. He knew in his own heart this must be an excise officer for very few could afford to hire this kind of vehicle. He therefore went boldly forward to meet him. the officer asked him where he was going and why he was carrying a keg of whisky under his arm? The man replied that a few years ago he made his own whisky but since the laws came to force, the time had come for him to destroy his still and do away with the whisky he had in hand. "I am now," he says, "on my way to the village of Bowmore to hand over this keg to the Excise Officer and to inform him that I shall never make any more whisky again." Continue reading....

Of Illicit Whisky Distilling and Alladins Cave on Islay

I have seldom read such a wonderful account of illicit whisky distilling in the old days and it's fantastic that such stories are remembered and (sometimes) written down. Over time these stories will fade away and die together with the people that knew them. That's why I have to thank Lilly MacDougall, late Dougies wife, and Christine Logan, his daughter, for granting me permission to publish these stories online. They give a lovely insight into the recent history of Islay. I wish you pleasure in reading this great story.

Dougie MacDougall: Retracting my thoughts back to the days of Illicit whisky distilling on Islay, there is no doubt that the island was the perfect place with its numerous caves and hideouts in the deep valleys of the surrounding hills. I have heard many a story regarding the illicit brewing of whisky – in fact traces can be seen yet where they had their stills and worked them for many years till the law got too hot for them.

I remember my late mother telling of how her two brothers left the house in the early morning to walk to the west coast of Islay on a poaching expedition with their muzzle loader guns on their shoulders. It is a good three hours walk from the house to the west coast and the return journey would be something similar. They shot a few wild duck when walking along the seashore and quite a lot of wild pigeons from the caves fell to their guns. The time elapsed and as the bags were full and heavy they thought that a little exploring among the caves would meet with their craving for adventure. They hid the guns and game bags in a place where they knew that they could spot on the way back to pick them up. They wandered from one cave to another, commenting at times on how far in they penetrated, for some of them were huge and very dark at the further ends.

The roar and surge of the breakers on the ragged reefs descended with rebounding echoes from the cliffs and open caves which sent messages of orchestral rhapsodies to their musical minds. They wandered along the wild shoreline with cliffs rising sheer to three hundred feet in places. Those shores were constantly battered by gales and heavy seas straight in from the Atlantic, especially in winter time’s high tides. Continue reading.......

Of Old Islay Times, Baldy's Bay and Illicit Whisky

When I wrote about Proaig and McArthur's Head Lighthouse this week I was reminded again and again of the old days in this area. In the story about McArthur's Head lighthouse I already mentioned Dougie MacDougall and his booklet "As Long as Water Flows" and quoted a paragraph from the old days. When I recieved an email this morning from Christine Logan, his daughter, I decided to post another one of his stories on this blog about bygone days along the shores of the Sound of Islay. I don't know about you but I can't get enough of these old nostalgic stories. It must have been hard times back then but judging from Dougies stories, it must have been fantastic as well.

Dougie MacDougall: When Archie, Donald and myself came out of the bar we sat on the old sea wall and conversed for a while about happenings of bygone days. Archie says to Donald, "You are bound to know all the coastline from here to McArthur's Head and with most of all the old stories attached to it." "Indeed I do, Archie, for many a time I have explored the shore, old ruins of houses, caves and landing places where they ferried their livestock across the Sound to Jura en route for the mainland markets." Donald said that the folklore of the Islay and Jura coast was a history in itself and would go down well in book form. Continue reading.....

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