The Lost Millburn whisky bottle?
Image from R.F.Ebert
If you've walked the streets of Inverness, you've likely walked past the 'Burgh or Tolbooth Steeple. Built in 1791, this represented the power base of the town. Where courts met, taxes were collected and also housed a prison, but what of whisky?
Well, it seems there is a local legend about the 2nd and larger ball on the steeple.
This is briefly mentioned in our Quotes Section via the local The hub of the Highlands : the book of Inverness and district publication from 1990:
'The Burgh Steeple, at the corner of Church Street and High Street, was built in 1791, William Sibbald being the architect; he also designed the spires of St. Andrew’s Church in Edinburgh and of Inveresk Church. The Steeple was built by public subscription under Provost Inglis. The upper part of the spire was badly bent in an earth tremor in 1816 and had to be rebuilt. In the larger of the two balls below the weathercock is said to be a bottle of whisky from the Millburn Distillery?. The Court House, now the Prudential office, adjoins the Steeple and was built just after it and in the same classical style. The balustrading along the top has unfortunately been replaced by solid masonry.'
It's an interesting urban myth, perhaps a challenge to the local men to attempt the climb of the 130ft steeple. Somehow managing to burst open the larger ball and see what's inside... As far as I know, I don't think this has been attempted or busted! And I'm not about to try, however it is of interest how such tales begin.
In terms of timeline, this is potentially a good fit. The first documented production at Millburn is noted to be 1817, however with the damage from the tremor the year before, we don't know at this point when the steeple was repaired. There is also speculation (which I'll try to confirm, one day) that there was some form of whisky production on the Millburn site as early as 1807, as noted in our Timeline.
Let's play along here with the legend. How would a bottle of whisky, encased in a metal sphere cope with the Highland elements for over 2 centuries? It wouldn't be something I'd want to pour, or even open, if there was anything left within the bottle. The likelihood is that the bottle itself is the treasure, as if it did exist, then this example of Millburn would be of tremendous historical value to the city and the Scotch Whisky industry.
Now, I'm not encouraging anyone to attempt the climb, but if there's anything substance to this myth, please let me know!