Great Escapes

Written by Sholto Ramsay on Tuesday, 22 May 2012. Posted in Scotch Whisky

Houdini had nothing on some of the devilish distillers who managed to slip through the gaugers' fingers - just when they thought their ward was theirs for the taking. The peatreak industry certainly kept many a man on his toes - because if all else failed, agility was the best bet!

The One That Got Away

A well-known Auchterhouse smuggler called Paterson saved himself with some quick thinking when he was arrested in his bothy one Saturday by a pair of unwelcome visitors. Certain they would have him in jail that night, the officers were soon out with the handcuffs - but not soon enough.

Paterson asked if he could put his coat on first and, since it was a cold day, the gaugers agreed. So when the clamps were put on his wrists, they went over his thick sleeves. When the party were out in the open, Paterson distracted his captors' attention by pointing out an imaginary dog with a hare in a nearby field. Then he pulled up the coat sleeves, slipped off the cuffs and was off like a shot! The gaugers finally gave up the chase - and by the time they returned to the smuggler's bothy he had long since packed up his wares and vanished.

The Key to Success

There was no way James Gilfillan, a man famed for his peatreak along Loch Lomondside, was going to let the gaugers run him aground. Having been press-ganged into the Navy as a lad, he had deserted and fled, not without difficulty, back to his beloved Scots home. There, he decided to try his hand at distilling and soon became a great success.

However, a particular Revenue Officer by the name of Hosie was determined to bring Jamie to book. For a government bribe, he grouped together a few witnesses who were prepared to say Gilfillan was a smuggler. He then called him to court - sure that the arrogant character would show up in the knowledge he would walk away free. But Jamie was on his guard. As he approached the courthouse he noticed a blue uniform - the blue he had feared since he had fled from a life at sea.

Hosie had sent a group of Navy officers, stationed at Loch Lomond, to help him get his man. Still, Jamie wasn't finished yet. Noticing the key to the courtroom was still in the door, he turned it, closed the door behind him and kept the key in his pocket Calm as you like, he went and stood in the dock. Then he made his move, sprinting towards the window, pushing up the frame and leaping out with a wild cry of victory.

By the time the Navy officers got out of their courtroom prison he was miles away - and no one had the nerve to mess with Gilfillan again.