Newsletter No.54

1. Chairman’s Statement

A Guid New Year to all SBAA members and let us all look forward to the next 12 months and continue to build on the successes of last year.

I would like to start by welcoming three new committee members, Mathew Gillies who takes over as our new Treasurer replacing Helen Carmichael, and Fergus Clark and Paul Mynard.

At the AGM, held in November, there were several event ideas that were suggested, as follows.

  • Belhaven Brewery visit and the new visitor’s centre. (see Last Runnings for details of this). Many thanks to Susan Chisholm for arranging this.
  • Brewing a beer at Stewart’s Brewery, specifically for the SBAA.
  • A further historical brewery walk, this time in Edinburgh’s Southside. 

I would like to make you aware that the Guildford Arms in Edinburgh made the top 10 beer pubs in Britain that appeared in The Good Pub Guide and the only Scottish venue to make the list. As it was pre COVID since I was last there, I made a point to make a return visit, and was not disappointed, with a good range of beers, wonderful décor and great service.   

One of the successes of last year was the introduction of the digital MOJO membership system and although Richard Rees explained the benefits of the system at the AGM, there will be further details on MOJO that will appear in this year’s July Newsletter.

Congratulations to Sir Geoff Palmer, the founder of the Scottish Brewing Archive who recently received the “Edinburgh Award” presented to residents who have made an outstanding contribution to the Capital.  

Our best wishes go to two of our Life Members, Allan McLean and Les Hutcheon, who are both in hospital. Prior to Christmas I visited both and gave them their copy of the Annual Journal. There is an excellent article that Allan wrote about seven years ago that combines two of his passions, trains and beer and is included in this Newsletter. Les also wrote an article last year on Water for brewing and is included in the last Journal publication.

I would like to end by asking for any articles for both the Newsletter and Annual Journal. Your submissions are important for the SBAA to continue and flourish.

I look forward to seeing you at our planned events later this year.

John Martin  


2.   James Aitken of Falkirk beer label – Query ?

The SBAA recently received an enquiry regarding the beer labels of James Aitken of Falkirk.


The enquirer was asking about what looks like a lifebelt on the lower half of three of the labels and includes the numbers 500, 1000 and 100.

Following further research, the enquirer did find out that Aitken’s did use a youth in seas clutching a lifebelt as its Trade Mark.

Does anyone know any further information on this and what the numbers convey ? 

It would be good to know the origin of the lifebelt used by Aitken’s.


3.  New find – Letters to John Jeffery & Co. 1865-1872

Former brewer Harry Scott has passed on five letters addressed to John Jeffery , Heriot Brewery, Edinburgh.  (Venezuela January 1865, Manila June 1865, New Orleans March 1867, Singapore November 1871,Trinadad March 1872). Apparently, they were in the possession of a stamp collector who removed the stamps and passed the single page letters to Harry. The one below is from La Maira , posted at La Guaira Venezuela 25th January 1865. 

It acknowledges the receipt of 300 kegs of “sparkling ale” and 100 kegs of “porter” and financial transactions. Interestingly a contentious issue of another agent supplying suppling Jeffrey’s beers via Portobello and Hamburg and a warning “ You may be sure that the consequences of such management will be against your interests”. 

I have scanned all five letters into a PDF format making them easier to read. I would welcome any member who would be willing to take the time to intrepid the text of the day before I pass the letters to the archive at Glasgow University. If you can help, please let me know and I’ll email you the documents.    Ivor.     


4.  Women and Beer 

The perception at times is that beer was primarily a male pre-occupation , two recent items prove the opposite

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow recently reopened after a major refurbishment. Items on display include “Women Drinking Beer” by Edouard Manet 1878. Although not as famous as the “Bar at the Folies-Bergere” with the prominent red triangle Bass Bottles it still is a significant piece of work that can be viewed in Glasgow. Picture courtesy of Glasgow Museums.  

On 14th of January Dr. Elizabeth Ewan gave a zoom presentation to “the Scottish Studies Foundation” titled A BREWING STORM and told the story about the lives of the brewsters and alewives as they appeared in the surviving town court records of Inverness from 1556 to 1586, and examine what they can reveal more generally about women’s contributions to urban society. Elizabeth’s talk described the colourful life of Elspeth Barnet, a domestic servant who went on to spend her adult life in the brewing trade. From earning her living and breaking the rules while doing so, brawling with customers and other townspeople, assisting other brewsters.

5. Blair & Co. Alloa 

Would like to thank regular contributor Michael Clark for the photo below.

It is believed to be from Malta c.1910. What is surprising is the bold and confident advert for Blair & Co. Alloa Pale Ales and Stouts. One might have thought that Blairs being a local brewer of modest size would have limited export aspirations.  

If anyone can expand on this both the SBAA and Michael would like to hear from you. 


6. Brewing heritage for another generation – 2050 Climate Group

 The 2050 Climate Group exists to empower young people to lead climate action towards a just and sustainable society, and has delivered a number of projects to achieve this aim. Recently it held a well supported event at The Tennent’s Story centre in Glasgow as part of the “Pint and A Plan” initiative supported by SEPA and Tennent’s.  

Apart from furthering the aims of the group on the evening, participants could indulge in the brewing heritage around them. This shows a breakout group with the  “Hansen” yeast propagator, dating from the 1890’s, in the foreground and delegates seated in the last remaining sections of the great casks.  These “Great Casks” were made at Wellpark Brewery by German coopers specifically imported to make casks suitable for “conditioning” lager. The casks were sealed with pitched pine resin to make them gas tight and give Tennent’s Lager a unique sparkling carbonation quality unique in British brewing in the 1880’s. 

The size of the casks can be appreciated in the attached photograph of the Cooperage yard. At its peak, the Brewery employed over 50 Coopers to make and maintain casks and barrels. 

7. Four decades down the line

This article was written by Allan McLean back in 2015 and brings together two of Allan’s passions – trains and beer. Allan was a three times winner of the Gold Tankard award for beer writer of the year when he was a columnist of the Scotsman newspaper.    

My picture shows the famous steam locomotive “Flying Scotsman” during the Rail 150 cavalcade at Shildon on 31 August 1975.

Note the headboard above the smokebox door of the locomotive, below the chimney. It proclaims the identity of the sponsor for the locomotive’s involvement in the sesquicentenary celebrations of the 1825 opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The headboard shows the cavalier symbol and name of William McEwan, brewer. At that time, McEwan’s, established in Edinburgh in 1856, was part of the big brewing company Scottish & Newcastle, S & N. McEwan’s Export had been helped to become a national ale brand throughout Great Britain by being served in cans on board trains.

So it was entirely logical that the name of McEwan should be promoted in association with a major railway event in the North East of England. Or at least it was entirely logical in 1975. But my, what a difference 40 years makes. Nobody then would have believed that Heineken would eventually take over S & N brewing operations in Scotland and England. In those days nobody would have believed that the Edinburgh brewery of McEwan’s at Fountainbridge would cease to exist. Nobody in 1975 would have believed that the McEwan brand would eventually be the responsibility of a company based in Bedfordshire.

And that’s not all that has changed in those 40 years. Today there is a brand of Edinburgh-brewed beer known as Flying Scotsman Ale. It features that famous locomotive on the label. But it is produced at a brewery, which in 1975 nobody would have believed would still be there 40 years later.

That was a very significant year for another reason besides the railway anniversary celebrations in County Durham. It was also the year that a branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA, first met in Edinburgh. I am happy to celebrate the 40th anniversary of CAMRA in Edinburgh and the South East of Scotland. I am also looking back at railway issues from 40 years ago. I will return to these matters in future blogs.

Sufficient to conclude today by noting that Flying Scotsman Ale emerges from the Caledonian Brewery, which was founded in 1869 in Edinburgh as Lorimer & Clark. This historic brewery faced closure in the 1960s and again in later years. It is still there, brewing happily between Slateford Road and a railway line. But the McEwan’s plant, not far off, has vanished from the face of Edinburgh. Happy Birthday to CAMRA in Edinburgh. And thank you for helping to save my favourite brewery — the Caledonian. More of that anon too.

Allan McLean

Shame that the Caledonian brewery is now facing the same fate as Fountainbridge – Ed. 


8. Thanks George   

Here the Chairman presents George Douglas with an engraved tankard at the AGM to express our thanks for his service as a SBAA committee member.

George is stepping down after 12 years as a committee member.   

During that period George also produced two articles for the SBAA Journal. 2019 Vol. 19 d “Transport of Delight” covering beer transport supported with some rare photos and the fascinating “Scottish Brewing Model Trucks” see 2012 Vol. 12c.

We look forward to seeing George at many more SBAA events. 

Remember as a member you have access to all previous journals on our website under PUBLICATIONS.

9. Last Runnings

  Belhaven SBAA Visit – the afternoon of THURSDAY 27th April has been planned for our Spring event. The intention is to run a return mini-bus from the centre of Edinburgh on the day. However,  numbers are limited to members and will be allocated on a first come basis. So, if you would like to come,  please let me know NOW and if you would use the option of the mini-bus – We will publish full details in March. 

  A warm welcome to new member Margaret Sharkey and welcome back to Neil Spake and Alastair Carmichael 

  A recently published book “The story of Bass” by Harry White is relevant as Bass became the ‘parent company’ of so many Scottish Brewers and brands. It’s available at Amberley Publishing and other on-line providers c.£15

  Your new members PASSWORD for the publications section was included in the e-mail that informed you of this Newsletter   


SAD NEWS Thursday 19th January – We have just been informed of the death of the well known and respected member LES HUTCHEON , an obituary will be prepared for the next newsletter.

Correspondence to the SBAA Secretary   

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