Until the 1990s, anyone could walk into the grounds of Glencadam Distillery as the right of way ran through distillery. It was eventually moved to go round by the manager’s house. The right of way was part of the drovers’ road system, where people from Aberdeenshire would drive their cattle and sheep to market in Brechin, or on to the county market in Forfar. Before we built a fence, you could sometimes be surprised in the middle of the night by a local wandering in looking for a dram once the pub had shut.
The town of Brechin used to have a large horse sale which ran for 3-4 weeks in June, with side shows and stalls. The horse sale stopped but the side shows and stalls continued into the seventies.
There used to be a vent on a pipe running from Glencadam Distillery, through the cemetery next door, to the grass by the cemetery gate entrance. When the stills were discharged on a cold day, steam would belch from this vent, emitting a strong spirit smell. Dawdling young children going to school would be told this was the devil breathing, and to run for it, least he come gets you.
There are several theories on where the name of our local town “Brechin” came from. What is generally agreed is that in ancient times, Brechin was a place of considerable religious and cultural importance. Traditionally, Brechin has been considered a city because of its cathedral and its status as the Episcopal seat of the Scottish Episcopal Church, although the burgh lacks a city charter.
The Importance of Brechin
Brechin was of great importance to the Picts, a group of people living in Scotland who were named so by the Romans for the tattoos which decorated their bodies. Initially, around the 3rd century AD, the Picts were a collection of tribes, which later formed into one cultural group, merging with the Scots in the 10th century.
Several ancient Druid burial sites have been found in the parish of Brechin, suggesting that the Druids also had a presence here. A monastery existed in Brechin during the early years of the second millennium, dating as far back as 971, and remnants of a 13th century church still exist. Brechin cathedral dates back to the 12th century.
The most infamous priest of Brechin, known as Hugh de Brechin, was excommunicated by the pope in c1430 because of his 'incontinence and of publicly keeping a concubine…' and 'for not obeying a warning to put away the woman...”
Brechin’s importance as a religious centre decreased with the coming of the Reformation in 16th century, when the church broke off from Rome. Brechin has been the site of considerable military activity. In the thirteen and fourteenth centuries, The Scottish Wars of Independence raged between England and Scotland, as a consequence of Edward I's attempts to subjugate the Scots. In 1290, the death of King Alexander III and his only heir left twelve individuals claiming the rights to the throne of Scotland. King Edward of England was asked to help resolve the situation, and selected John Balliol to be overlord of Scotland. Edward then became angry with King John’s resistance to meet English demands to support a war against the French. On beating the French, Edward marched on Scotland. John eventually surrendered the South of the country to Edward at Stracathro, about 5 miles from Brechin, after hiding out in the hills of Angus.
Bravery in his Men
In 1303, Edward set out to conquer the entire country, taking 7000 soldiers across the Forth, using prefabricated pontoon bridges. Stirling and Brechin were the only real sites of opposition. Brechin Castle was held for 20 days by Sir Thomas Maule, despite facing a much bigger English army with more advanced weaponry. He mocked the army from the battlements, 'dusting' the damaged areas with a cloth to inspire bravery in his men. However, in an unlucky twist, he was eventually struck on the battlements by a missile, which ultimately caused his death, and the castle to be surrendered.
Walter Stewart, Lord of Brechin, was the leading participant in a conspiracy that led to the king's assassination in Blackfriars, Perth in 1437. Assassins were granted access to the royal chambers by his grandson, a trusted member of the King’s household. They found King James hiding in a sewer, and stabbed him sixteen times in the chest. Walter denied his involvement in the crime but he and his grandson, who did confess, were executed. Today, our team at Glencadam have carried on a tradition of craftsmanship and passion for quality. With little changes made to the distillery, the old ways of life live on.