Sebastian Henderson grundar
destilleriet 1795 men säljer det redan 1797 till Adam
Dawson, som expanderar 1894. 1912 går Dawson i konkurs
och Distillers Company Limited (DCL) köper destilleriet.
1914 grundas Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD) av St
Magdalene, Clydesdale, Glenkinchie, Rosebank och Grange.
1917 utförs omfattande reperationer på destilleriet.
Vattnet togs från Loch Lomond och man hade fyra pannor.
Destilleriet kallas ibland Linlithgow. Den egna
mältningen stoppas 1968 och destilleriet stängs 1983.
Sedan dess har lägenheter byggts i dom gamla lokalerna.
Linlithgow 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
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.
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.
The front of St.
Magdalene Distillery was situated upon the main road
from Edinburgh to Stirling. The economy of its
communications must have been immensely enhanced by the
completion in 1822 of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union
Canal, and by the opening of Linlithgow Station on the
railway line linking the two cities in 1842. Alfred
Barnard, a perceptive observer, noted inThe Whisky
Distilleries of the United Kingdom, in 1887, that St.
Magdalene had its own wharf on the canal, which runs
along the back of the distillery, for unloading
barge-borne coke and coal. Water from the canal was used
for driving an overshot water-wheel for supplying steam
and for fire-fighting.
The movement of raw materials was largely merchandised.
The main means of power must have been the "handsome
beam engine of 20 h.p.", which almost certainly drove
the malt mill, the mashing machine and the heavy
stirring gear in the mash-tuns. One donkey engine drove
the switchers in the washbacks and another was used for
pumping. The water wheel worked the rummagers in the
wash stills. A gas engine of 2 h.p. supplied the power
for hoisting barley to the top of the West Maltings
which had five storeys: one used as a granuary, two as
malting floors and two as duty-free warehouses. The East
Maltings was smaller with four storeys. There was a
total of 19 warehouses, including one of the "enormous
proportions", built in brick on the other side of the
Edinburgh road where there was frontage of 600 feet to
A trade journal reported in 1927 that SMD had equipped
the distillery with the most effective labour-saving
appliances, all driven by electricity. Malting was
carried out on open floors, by manual techniques, and
mechanically, in pneumatic drums. Samples of barley on
offer to all SMD distilleries were tested in a
laboratory on the premises. The maltings continued to
work throughout the economic depression of the 1930s
when production of of whisky at St. Magdalene and many
other distilleries ceased for many years.
Distillation was was restarted after the end WWII. The
furnaces of St. Magdalene's four pot stills, which had
previously been fired by hand, were equipped with a
mechanical coal stoking system in 1961. Coal, which had
been carried on the canal before the war, was delivered
by road until 1971, when the stills were converted to
internal heating by steam from an oil-fired boiler.
Casks of whisky were sent by road to Bathgate Station
and barley was delivered by the same means in reverse
until 1968, when SMD began to supply its Lowland
distilleries with malt made at its large modern
mechanised maltings at Glenesk Distillery, near
Montrose. St. Magdalene's maltings then went out of use.
St. Magdalene takes its process water from Linlithgow's
domestic supply, which comes from the Loch Lomond. The
distillery has its own reservoir on the other side of
the canal. Water from the canal is use for cooling
The distillery was closed in 1983 due to overproduction
and has since been redeveloped for residential use.