Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The rise and fall of Pattison (part one)

I've never found a brewery called Pattinson. The closest I've come is the Edinburgh firm of Pattison. Just one letter difference. Not such a big deal. Their story, albeit brief, tells us much about the opportunities and pitfalls of the beer trade in the 1890's.

It all started so promisingly. William Murray had been the first to spot the potential of Duddingston as a brewing location. Initially they brewed at Ednam, near Kelso in the Borders. They moved to Edinburgh and built a brand-new brewery in Duddingston.

For five years, they were the only brewery in Duddingston, but in the 1890's, three other companies joined them: Drybrough, Pattison and John Somerville. Drybrough was a well-established brewer, which had been brewing at various places since 1750. The other two were new entries to the trade. Both had started as wine mechants and whisky blenders in Leith. They spotted the potential profits of brewing, which, both already having interests in public houses, they were in a good position to exploit. John Somerville, sensibly, teamed up with an existing brewer, Blyth & Cameron of Edinburgh.

The prospectuses of Somerville and Pattison are remarkably similar. They even trotted out the same expert, Lawrence Briant, to say how great the brewery buildings and plant were. Even the size of the breweries was the same: 50,000 barrel a year capacity. Both, based on their contacts in the trade, took a very optimistic view of their future prospects and profits. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, lots. Though far more spectacularly in the case of Pattison. Both breweries, however, remained in operation until the 1960's.

Next time we'll look in detail at the launch of Pattison. And the prospectus that came back to haunt the Pattison brothers.

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