Site of the Former Distillery
Linlithgow, West Lothian
EH49 6AQ Scotland
Viewer's Comments about St. Magdalene
was a centre of milling and malting in the seventeenth century,
and for brewing and distilling in the eighteenth. The raw
materials for these processes were close at hand: barley
in the Lothians, and inexhaustible local sources of water.
"The vast copiousness of water at Linlithgow",
Black's Picturesque Tourist of Scotland noted in
1844, "is alluded to in the following well-known rhyme:
"Lithgow for wells, Glasgow for bells, Peebles for
clashes and lees and Falkirk for beans and peas."
The distillery's early history is obscure. It is said to
have been founded in the eighteenth century by Sebastian
Henderson, on the lands of St. Magdalene's Cross, the former
site of an annual fair and of St. Magdalene Hospital (which
treated lepers). Adam Dawson of Bonnytoun was the licensed
distiller in 1797. He was the spokesman of the Lowland distillers
in their campaign against the exemptions granted to Highland
distillers by the Board of Excise. The Dawsons were also
brewers and maltsters. A list of Scottish brewers in 1825
included Adam Dawson, Bathgate Brewery, and Adam & John
Dawson, West End, Linlithgow. A & J Dawson succeeded
Adam Dawson at St. Magdalene in 1829.
Colonel Ramage Dawson, the managing partner for many years,
died in 1892. He had other interests such as the estate
of Balladn, Kinross-shire, where he resided, "extensive
and valuable coffee plantations in Ceylon", and the
colonelcy of the Haddiagton Artillery. St. Magdalene's ownership
by a private company did not long survive him.
A. & J. Dawson was incorporated as a limited liability
company on 6 November 1894. It had a capital of £70,000
divided into 2,800 preference and 4,200 ordinary shares
of £10. The first directors were J. A. Ramage Dawson,
J. M. Crabbie, spirit merchant of Leith, and George Robertson,
wine merchant of Edinburgh.
Additions to the buildings and improvements in the equipment
were made from time to time to meet increasing demand for
the product. Then intense competition among the Lowland
distillers brought about an unfavorable turn in the company's
affairs. On 17 April 1912, creditors presented a petition
to wind up A. & J. Dawson Ltd. on the ground that it
was insolvent and unable to pay its debts. A liquidator
was accordingly appointed. The Distiller's Company Limited
of Edinburgh was offered the opportunity to buy the distillery,
either on its own account or in partnership with others.
Eventually it agreed to acquire all assets and to assume
all liabilities, on certain conditions.
A new company, also called A. & J. Dawson Ltd. was incorporated
on 16 November 1912 with a capital of £60,000, divided
into 20,000 preference shares, all taken up by J.A. Ramage
Dawson and 40,000 ordinary shares, taken up by him, the
Distillers Company Limited and John Walker and Sons Ltd.,
Scotch whisky blenders of Kilmarnock. The new owners opened
up negotiations with other Lowland distillers which resulted
in the amalgamation of five Lowland distillery companies,
including Dawson's, as Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd., in
July of 1914.
The Loch Lomond
St Magdalene closed in 1983 and was sold for residential
development with some of the buildings converted into apartments.
At the time of its closing, it was within the Diageo portfolio.
The majority of the output of St. Magdalene Distillery was
used for blending. Sometimes recognized as Linlithgow Distillery,
its house style has been desribed as a fine Lowland malt
which is perfumed and grassy.
Courtesy of Diageo Scotland