Saturday, 7 April 2012

William Urquhart, Esq, Brewer, Dalkeith

What a stroke of luck. Actually managing to find an article about McLennan and Urquhart. They're one of the breweries that it's harder to track down information on. Despite them having lasted into the 1950's. They didn't fall to one of the usual predators, but Aitchison, who bought them in 1955. The Dalkeith brewery closed in 1958. Aitchison itself only lasted three years longer.

While the text below is mostly about William Urquhart, we do learn something about the Dalkeith Brewery. Mostly what a crap state it was in when purchased by McLennan and Urquhart.

"William Urquhart, Esq, Brewer, Dalkeith
President, Midlothian Licensed Trade Defence Association

Although born and educated in Edinburgh. Mr Urquhart. whose portrait forms the supplement to this week's issue, has been so long resident in Dalkeith that he must be looked upon as belonging entirely to the smaller centre. It is now wearing on for a quarter of a century since Mr Urquhart. in company with Mr Alexander McLennan, came to Dalkeith and took a lease of the Dalkeith Brewery from the then proprietor. The terms of their lease gave Messrs McLennan & Urquhart the option of purchasing the establishment outright, and this option they exercised within a few years after settling in the place. When they went to Dalkeith first, the partners found the brewery to be of the usual country town order, engaged mostly in the brewing and selling of sweet ale, and in bottling. They also found the brewery machinery very much in need of repair, and the water supply, which was obtained from shallow wells, deficient in quantity and very doubtful in quality. The nature of the business changed at the very outset, the local character of the trade being done away with, and the business conducted on precisely the same lines as the big breweries in Edinburgh. The machinery was also attended to. and most important of all, heed was given to the supply of water. A deep bore was sunk to a distance of nearly four hundred feet below the surface of the ground, and an abundant supply obtained of the very finest brewing water. In the hands of Messrs McLennan & Urquhart the business of the brewery greatly increased, and the improvements and extensions of the establishment were rendered necessary, and were carried out as occasion demanded with no sparing hand. The brewings of the firm are mostly in demand in the East country, but agencies exist in several of the large centres in Scotland and North of England, and the ale from Dalkeith is appreciated by many, as its merits deserve, in places far removed from the ancient Midlothian town. The firm is not now constituted as it originally was. Some five years ago. Mr Alexander McLennan, who was Mr Urquhart's first partner, retired into private life, and his brother, Mr James McLennan, was then assumed by Mr Urquhart as partner. The name of the firm is not altered, but the personality of the partners has undergone some change.

Mr Urquhart takes an interest in local affairs, and, for a matter of twelve years, he has served the burgh well on the Commission Board. He is presently the convener of the Water and Drainage Committee. A keen curler, he acts as president of the local club; and a still keener golfer, he is connected with no fewer than four golf clubs, viz: The Old Dalkeith Club (of which he was president last year), the New Dalkeith Club, the Glencorse Club, and the Luffness Club. In politics, Mr Urquhart is a Conservative, and in religious matters he is a staunch upholder of the Establishment.

As president of the Midlothian Association, it goes without saying that the subject of our sketch takes a keen interest In the Trade Defence Movement. He has been at the head of his Association since its formation, and he has had the pleasure of seeing it expand in membership and in funds, until now it is one of the most powerful affiliated associations in Scotland, apart from those connected with the large towns. We hope both it and its worthy president may continue long to flourish."
The National Guardian, July 31 1896.
The first thing that strikes me is the firm was still a partnership in 1896. In the 1890's pretty much every brewery of any size became a public company. Maybe they were just a bit slow off the mark.

The Dalkeith brewery sounds like it was a sleepy sort of business, still brewing the sweet Ale that had been long popular in Scotland. By the second half of the 19th century the demand for this type of beer was falling, with Pale Ale very much on the rise. Though it doesn't explicitly say so in the article, I assume that by run along the lines of a large Edinburgh brewery, they mean it produced Pale Ales in the modern way.

Once again, the importance of good quality brewing water is made clear. Was the need for better water also prompted by the brewing of Pale Ale? It seems to have been much less forgiving of poor or unsuitable water than other styles.

It would be easy to assume that brewers were all Tories. But they weren't. Archibald Arrol, for example, was a Liberal. Which could be quite bizarre, many temperance campaigners being Liberals as well.

What other material do I have for McLennan and Urquhart? A few beer analyses. Would you like to see them? Sure you would. They'll be coming soon.


up4hours said...

Hi, this is an interesting article for me. I am researching my family history. My grandmother Kathleen Jean McLennan's father is William Urqhart McLennan and his Father is James McLennan. According to the census details for 1891 and 1881 her grandfather's (James McLennan) occupation is Brewer. They are also listed as residing in Dalkeith.

I wonder if they are connected to the McLennan & Urquhart brewery.

Thanks anyway.

Adam Kenney

up4hours said...

... I can confirm that they are one and the same McLennan. My 2nd Great Grandfather James McLennan took over the parnership from his brother Alexander.

Thanks for this article it is very informative and a great read!