Friday, 1 February 2013

Limavady Distillery

The number of distilleries on the island of Ireland can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. The situation was much different in the nineteenth century, most particularly following the revision of the distillery laws in 1823. A great number of small legal stills were set up in areas which had been strongholds of the illicit poteen trade.

The first substantive reference to a distillery in Newtown-Limavady goes back to 1818 when a William Cathar, (variously Cather), was operating a forty nine gallon still. This produced approximately nineteen thousand proof gallons per year. By 1846 the distillery seems to have been owned by a Peter Rankin. How long he worked the distillery is not entirely clear, but by 1887 it had been acquired by Young, King & Co Ltd. which had its Head Office in Belfast. A period of relative prosperity for the business followed, but by 1915 distilling had ceased. It has been postulated that this may have been due to the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act 1915 which, after a one year transitional period, imposed a minimum of three years warehouse bondage before spirit could be sold.

One of the late nineteenth century managers of the Limavady Distillery was a James McLaughlin who would have been a brother of the grandfather of Dan MacLaughlin, one time Resident Magistrate of Londonderry.

Sources: "Irish Whiskey - A History of Distilling in Ireland,"  E.B. McGuire.


  1. Hi, I believe my grt grt grandfather Robert Young may have owned this distillery. He and his father Samuel, died in 1914. My great grandfather Alexander and his family moved to England after his father and grandfather died. Do you know if there are any records online available for the distillery?

    Kind regards
    Toby Young

  2. Hi Toby. You will probably have seen the , "wiki," article on Samuel. I note that he was MP for East Cavan. If you google Samuel Young MP you will come across a page which has links re his will and the distillery. I think that the company was originally a blender. It seems to have been wound up circa 1946, (members voluntary winding up.) I believe that it was by that stage part of the United Distillers Group.