The Angels’ Share

Started by port perran, September 04, 2023, 04:47:25 PM

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port perran

This is one of those tales, which interest some members and infuriate others, of the characters living in and around our layouts.
This particular story will involve several of my layouts including Camelbridge, Perranwell, Tregonning, st Agnes, Wadebridge depot and Trepol Bay.
I've put the story under the General Discussion thread to avoid clogging up my layout threads.

Anyway, here goes but first a little glimpse of my St Agnes Whisky Distillery layout. St Agnes doesn't feature in the storyline just yet but sets the scene, I think, rather well for what is to follow :

Now - onto the story itself :

The Angels' Share

[I make no apologies for stealing the title, and the inspiration for, this little tale from Ken Loach's marvellous 2012 film The Angels' Share. If you haven't watched it I urge  you to do so]

Setting the scene – Glasgow (1940 to 1963)

Hamish Johnstone, born in Glasgow in 1940 at the beginning of the second world war, had grown up in Bedford Lane at the very heart of the Gorbals.

Known to his many friends as Jimmy, after the great Scottish footballer of a similar era, Hamish had left school with absolutely no qualifications to his name but had learned, of course, how to look after himself. One might say he was a graduate of the University of Life.
In fact he rarely went to school at all bacause as the eldest  child of four, he had two brothers and a sister, he took it upon himself to look after his mother and siblings after his father left the family home when he was twelve.

Hamish was well used to taking  any opportunity that presented itself in order to earn a few pennies here and there whenever he could.

At the age of fourteen he discovered, quite by chance, that he possessed a unique and potentially useful talent but more of that a little later.

Hamish's Uncle Tom was a warehouse floor worker  at the Auchentoshan whisky distillery to the North East of Glasgow.
At that time the majority of whisky produced  went towards the production of blended malts such as Johnny Walker, Haig or White Horse rather than being sold as a single malt.  Indeed ninety eight percent of the spirit from Auchentoshan was sold on to one or other  of the great blenders.
The remaining  two per cent was bottled at Auchentoshan as single malt and as such, even in the mid 1960s, commanded a premium price.

When the opportunity presented itself, Uncle Tom was not averse to helping himself to the odd bottle of the single malt which he traded as "currency" in his local pub The Harp, in the heart of the Gorbals,  in exchange for free beer.

One evening, Tom had taken young Hamish, we'll call him Jimmy henceforth,, into The Harp and, even though he was only fourteen, poured him a goodly measure of Auchentoshan.

Jimmy, although semi illiterate, was worldly wise and was well aware that wealthy, well to do individuals, savoured single malts above the more readily available blends.  Indeed, whilst employed collecting glasses at the rather up market Glenfinnan  Hotel in the city, he had witnessed  wealthy businessmen and others enjoying the aroma of single malts and commenting, knowingly, on  the flavour, nodding sagely as they did so.

As Jimmy took the glass of Auchentoshan from his uncle he took a sniff.

Tom looked on in astonishment... "Freshly cut hay, ripe blackberries and a hint of spiced ginger if I'm not mistaken"  muttered Jimmy before taking a sip, "Yes, as I thought, slightly syrupy, brown sugar, baked apples and raspberries and with  a lovely long, lingering finis. Maybe even  a touch of honey in there too".

Uncle Tom was open mouthed, "Jimmy, those tasting notes are almost identical to those described by the master distiller at work. Can you really taste and smell those flavours?"

Tom immediately  turned to Joe the landlord of the Harp "Fetch that bottle of extra special malt I brought in last week Joe. Let's see what Jimmy has to say about that one".

Once again, Jimmy's flavour notes were remarkably similar to those of the master distiller.
"Where on earth did you learn to do that?" Tom said to Jimmy.
"Oh you know, I've just tried a few tots in The Glenfinnan", replied Jimmy, "I'm rather partial to a wee dram especially if some toff happens to not realise he's paid for two glasses rather than one".

Walking home that evening Tom was formulating a plan in his mind..."Young Jimmy, how do you fancy earning a few extra shillings each week? I have a plan"

And so, Tom's little scheme gradually developed.

Over the next few weeks Tom smuggled several bottles of whisky home from the distillery including some that contained spirit that was up to forty years old.
The trouble was that usually the bottles were not labelled so Tom didn't know exactly which whisky was in each one.
Jimmy's role was to sample the whiskies and match them to the tasting notes of the master distiller thus enabling Tom to sell the bottles on to some  of the more illustrious hotels in and around Glasgow.

It was clear that Jimmy possessed a quite remarkable palate producing a nice steady income from both Tom and Jimmy.

Over the next few years Jimmy developed his palate even further, eventually taking up a position as junior blender at the Auchentoshan distillery, a role that paid extremely well.

The big problem was that holding down a responsible job didn't suit Jimmy at all. He much preferred the excitement  of  underhand dealing and the freedom of being able to do what he wanted when he wanted.

In early  1963, Jimmy heard about a brand new whisky distillery in, of all places, Cornwall. The distillery had developed, over a few short years, a remarkable reputation for its products.
Jimmy was intrigued. So much so that, on a whim,  he headed south by train in November of that year.

To be continued


I'll get round to fixing it drekkly me 'ansome.


I am one of those interested members. I look forward to the next instalment. (Out of interest, do you know if 'Auchentoshan' is anything like 'Jura'?  ???  :) ).
I used to be indecisive - now I'm not - I don't think.
If a friend seems distant, catch up with them.


Cancel that last bit Martin. I have been reading the tasting notes and reviews for 'Jura' and they tend to confirm what I thought when I opened my last bottle - something has changed and not necessarily for the better.  :no: . However, having read the tasting notes and reviews for 'Auchentoshan', I will be looking out for it.  :)
I used to be indecisive - now I'm not - I don't think.
If a friend seems distant, catch up with them.

port perran

The Angels' Share - Part Two

First a rather poor photograph of the Withered Bough public house which will feature in this episode

Jimmy's trip to Cornwall was largely uneventful even though his knowledge of railway timetabling was, shall we say, somewhat limited.
He didn't, of course, purchase any tickets.
Why would he?
He was skilled in the art of dodging the ticket collector, or anyone in authority for that matter, and wily as a fox. However  what he didn't possess was any geographical sense.  He knew Cornwall was a long way but hadn't banked on it being quite so far.
An overnight stay in Bristol was involved simply because his train terminated there and there were no overnight onward connections. A long night was spent on a bench in the waiting room at Temple Meads station.

Nonetheless early on a Thursday morning Jimmy boarded a service to Exeter St David's headed by a rather wheezy Hall class of locomotive.
For some reason, known only to himself, Jimmy then took a Southern service into Cornwall but was a little perplexed  to find that this train departed East from Exeter in the direction from whence he had just arrived. He had no idea where he was headed but had for some unknown reason  heard mention of a town called Wadebridge so made up his mind to alight there.

Eventually, after a two hour journey that involved a stop at every conceivable wayside station, the train, headed by an ageing T9 4-4-0 pulled into Wadebridge station.

Jimmy alighted then had a look around the station. How could he exit without having to pass the ticket collector?
He was well aware of the old trick of looking confident. Show hesitation and one would attract attention but act in a confident way and no one would ask questions.
As luck would have it there was a gate, used by the Royal Mail for delivering parcels, about three quarters of the way along the platform. Jimmy's trained eye spotted that it was unlocked and in a flash he was outside standing at the junction of Southern Way and Guineaport Street.
 He looked at his watch which showed 12-15pm.

Jimmy paused. He realised he had no plan whatsoever. The only thing he knew about Cornwall was that the St Agnes Whisky distillery could, in one way or another, offer him some sort of  opportunity, illicit or otherwise. Plus, he needed to get away from Scotland and make a fresh start somewhere new.

He took a walk through town popping into a shop to purchase a pastry thing as he was hungry. It was then that he realised that he could barely understand what the locals were saying and worse, they couldn't understand him.
Nonetheless he had managed to discern that it was a pasty which he had purchased and sat on a bench to eat it and have a think.
If he was to discover anything about the local  whisky what better place to start than a pub so he scanned the street up and down before settling on The Penny Farthing, a rather scruffy looking establishment situated half way along a side street.

Jimmy was used to seedy, rough local pubs but this one surprised even him. As he walked in he felt at least twenty pairs of eyes follow Him as he walked slowly to the little bar.
Standing at the bar he was somewhat bemused that the landlord made no attempt to serve him.
"A pint of your best" said Jimmy.
The landlord looked him in the eye, "We don't serve foreigners in here. Especially Scottish ones that I can't understand".
To Jimmy this was a challenge. He calmly took a bundle of ten  pound notes from his pocket and peeled one off, never once taking his eyes off the landlord.

"As I say" continued Jimmy, "A pint of your best and one for everyone in here if you don't mind".
The landlord looked around, eventually receiving a curt nod from a large, balding chap standing, nursing a pint, at the end of the bar.
The rather surly landlord poured Jimmy's pint and took the note but offering no change in return and saying nothing..
It was the large chap at the end of the bar who broke the silence "I'll take a drink with you stranger but first, what do you want in here?"
This was just the break that Jimmy needed "Let's sit at the table over there. Perhaps you can give me some information. In return I'll keep you in ale".
After an hour or so in which Jimmy discovered that Bert was a local villain he started asking about St Agnes whisky.
"We don't have that in here" said Bert "You'll need a posh pub the likes of which don't allow me or my mates  in. Probably best to try the Withered Bough over at the back of the railway sheds down by the river. Why are you interested anyway?"
Jimmy winked, "Thanks Bert. I sense a little business opportunity if you know what I mean? Enough said?".

With that Jimmy finished his pint and headed back out into town.
He decided to find somewhere to sleep for the night eventually finding someone with a room to let on the outskirts of town. It was a bit rough and ready but it would do.
After a bit of a rest and a tidy up he set off in the early evening to find the Withered Bough.

Jimmy eventually found the pub. It was not in the most attractive of areas immediately behind the railway sheds but it backed onto the river and had a nice extension area presumably for diners. Maybe he would buy himself something to eat later.

On entering he was immediately aware that this was a very different establishment from  the Penny  Farthing.
A blackboard near to the entrance welcomed customers and  offered chicken in a basket and black forest gateau amongst other things but it was what was on a shelf behind the bar that immediately attracted Jimmy's attention, a bottle of St Agnes Whisky – Distiller' Choice ten years old.

I'll get round to fixing it drekkly me 'ansome.


You have to admire the ivy growing up the walls. 

Train Waiting

Great stuff, thank you, Martin.

You mentioned in your introduction to Part One that your story might infuriate some members of our FabulousForum.  I can't imagine that to be the case at all.  A nice little story, illustrated with charming pictures, is one of the joys of model railways since at least John Ahern and PD Hancock's time.  And that's just published ones!  Think how many young people made up stories when playing with their toy trains - I certainly did.

I'm hoping it's chicken in a basket followed by Black Forest gateau for tea tonight.  Perhaps, if I'm especially fortunate, accompanied by a lovely bottle of 'Blue Nun'.

I'm looking forward to Part Three.

Thanks again and all best wishes.

Please visit us at

'Why does the Disney Castle work so well?  Because it borrows from reality without ever slipping into it.'

(Acknowledgement: John Goodall Esq, Architectural Editor, 'Country Life'.)

The Table-Top Railway is an attempt to create, in British 'N' gauge,  a 'semi-scenic' railway in the old-fashioned style, reminiscent of the layouts of the 1930s to the 1950s.

For the made-up background to the railway and list of characters, please see here:

port perran

Part Three

Jimmy felt somewhat out of place in the Withered Bough. Most of the other customers were couples or foursomes out for an after work meal or just a drink. However, he felt much  more  comfortable than he had earlier in the Penny Farthing and was glad that he'd taken the trouble to spruce himself up and put on a decent pair of  trousers and a sports jacket.

Jimmy's eyes were fixed on the bottle of St Agnes whisky sitting on the top shelf and his mind started to wander back to his days of endless tastings at the Auchentoshan distillery in Glasgow.
He was quickly brought back to his senses by the barmaid, "What can I get you sir" she said smiling radiantly.
"Oh, yes, of course", stuttered Jimmy who had given no consideration to what he might drink. His eyes quickly scanned the beer pumps. "A pint of Summer Lightning if I could".
"Certainly sir. And will you be dining with us this evening?"

Jimmy was certainly hungry so opted to say, "Yes please. Do you have a table for one?"

Before the barmaid could answer two well dressed young men, probably in their mid thirties, strode up to the bar next to Jimmy who immediately noticed that one of them was carrying a case of six bottles of St Agnes whisky which he unceremoniously plonked onto the bar accidentally brushing Jimmy's arm as he did so.
"So, sorry old chap", said the man who had been carrying the case.
"No worries at all", replied Jimmy eager to learn who these two chaps were.

The barmaid, obviously distracted by the appearance of the two men quickly regained her composure saying "Sorry, Mr Biggins, Mr McLeary, I'll just finish serving this gentleman"
Turning back to Jimmy she enquired "Sorry Sir, you were about to confirm whether you will be dining with us this evening?"
"Ah yes please", replied Jimmy, "Could I see the menu please?"

The barmaid handed Jimmy the menu then turned her attention to the two men, "Sorry she said" looking at both men, "Unfortunately George the landlord  isn't here this evening but I'll leave the case of whisky in the cellar for him. I'll ask him to give you a call in the morning".
"Perfect", replied the taller of the two men, "We'll have two pints of best if we could. It's been a long, hot day over at the distillery. Meetings all day".

Jimmy"s ears pricked up. As soon as the two men had received their drinks he took the opportunity to introduce himself. This seemed to be a heaven sent opportunity. A chance to meet someone from the St Agnes distillery on his very first day in Cornwall.

It wasn't long before Jimmy was enjoying an early dinner with Tom Biggins and Ross McLeary the master distiller and general manager of the St Agnes Distillery.
The two men were extremely interested to learn of Jimmy's remarkable palate and his ability to identify flavours and smells in whisky.
Quite by chance the two men were meeting with the Chairman of the distillery, William Murdoch-McLeod, that vety evening at the Station Hotel in Trepol Bay. They invited Jimmy along with them.

Soon, all three men were aboard a train from Wadebridge headed for Trepol Bay.

Jimmy couldn't believe what was happening......and all on his first day in the far South.

The photograph shows the train, with the three men on board, heading away from Wadebridge towards Trepol Bay

I'll get round to fixing it drekkly me 'ansome.


Hi Martin,

Just catching up after working in the heat. Like the story very much and great pics as usual  :thumbsup: .

Looking forward to more.

Cheers, weave  :beers:

port perran

Part Four

The evening was still young as the three men stepped down from the train at Trepol Bay station and made their way over the concrete footbridge to the nearby Station Hotel.

William Murdoch-McLeod was already there sitting at a round table in the far corner of the bar. William was a big man with a loud, booming voice accentuated by a very broad Scottish accent.
"Welcome, welcome Tom and Ross how are you both? And who is this young chappie you've brought along with you?"

With the introductions over the four men settled down to enjoy their pints. The Chairman was intrigued to learn all about Jimmy's  talent for whisky tasting  and it wasn't long before he produced a small sample bottle of St Agnes 25 year old from his briefcase.
He watched with interest as Jimmy nosed a sample and then took a sip and was absolutely dumfounded when the young Scot was able to identify the various flavours and aromas.

Jimmy, on the other hand, was desperately keen to learn more about the St Agnes distillery. He needed to learn as much as he could.
He had heard a rumour whilst working at the Auchentoshan distillery that the founders of the St Agnes distillery had purchased four casks of whisky from the Ladyburn distillery south of Glasgow.
Ladyburn was in a financial crisis with rumours that closure was imminent but it was well known that they held reserves of whisky from the mid twenties which would make them 40 years old.
Jimmy would dearly love to get his hands on a few bottles of the stuff.
He'd need to find out a lot more but knew it was vital not to appear too inquisitive at this early stage.

Nonetheless, a seed was sown. In fact Jimmy was invited over to St Agnes the next afternoon for a look round the distillery and to sample some of their products.
This was an opportunity far too good to turn down.

Eventually, having enjoyed a very productive evening Jimmy caught the last train back to Wadebridge arriving at just after 11-15.
He had to admit, giving himself a wry smile, that all four men had been particularly open , welcoming and trusting.

Making his way back to his lodgings in Wadebridge, as fate would have it, he happened  bump into Big Bert, the man he'd talked to in the Penny Farthing that lunchtime.
Bert had obviously been enjoying a few pints during the evening which had loosened his tongue.

"Ah, Jimmy lad. Just the person. I've been asking around after our little chat at lunchtime and  I might have a little business to put your way concerning that there local whisky that you were telling me about. Could be a nice little earner for the both of us if you get my drift".

Jimmy was very tired after a long day but, intrigued, he agreed, a trifle reluctantly, to meet Bert in the Penny Farthing at 11-00 the next morning prior to  catching the train over to St Agnes.

The photograph shows Jimmy making his way carefully back over the concrete footbridge at Trepol Bay ready to catch a train back to Wadebridge

I'll get round to fixing it drekkly me 'ansome.


Chris in Prague

Quote from: weave on September 05, 2023, 10:38:22 PMHi Martin,

Just catching up after working in the heat. Like the story very much and great pics as usual  :thumbsup: .

Looking forward to more.

Cheers, weave  :beers:

Seconded! It's surprisingly hot in Prague, too and I'm also back at work.


Love the evening scene martin


Well that reminds me of the last time I was in St Agnes on business, yes, I had a rather sore head.

Train Waiting

Quote from: Nbodger on September 06, 2023, 06:50:00 PMWell that reminds me of the last time I was in St Agnes on business, yes, I had a rather sore head.

So sorry to hear that, Mike.  Did you hit it on something - a low doorway, perhaps?

Best wishes

Please visit us at

'Why does the Disney Castle work so well?  Because it borrows from reality without ever slipping into it.'

(Acknowledgement: John Goodall Esq, Architectural Editor, 'Country Life'.)

The Table-Top Railway is an attempt to create, in British 'N' gauge,  a 'semi-scenic' railway in the old-fashioned style, reminiscent of the layouts of the 1930s to the 1950s.

For the made-up background to the railway and list of characters, please see here:

port perran

Quote from: Train Waiting on September 06, 2023, 07:30:32 PM
Quote from: Nbodger on September 06, 2023, 06:50:00 PMWell that reminds me of the last time I was in St Agnes on business, yes, I had a rather sore head.

So sorry to hear that, Mike.  Did you hit it on something - a low doorway, perhaps?

Best wishes

No, he tripped walking down the hill at Stippy Stappy [you might need to ask Mr  Google what that is]
I'll get round to fixing it drekkly me 'ansome.

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