Thursday, September 26, 2019

Another Ulster-Scots distillery brand - Mitchell's of Belfast and Glasgow

There's an excellent blog devoted to Mitchell's here, so I'll not repeat all of the history.

They were two brothers, both Scots, one of whom, William Charles Mitchell (1834 – 22 July 1894), came to Belfast in 1863 to run Dunville's. He had previously worked in a distillery at Port Dundas near Glasgow, said to have been the biggest in Scotland. Eventually he left to do his own thing and around 1871 formed Mitchell & Co Ltd Belfast. He also teamed up cross-North Channel with his brother David Mitchell (1838– April 1917) who was back in Glasgow and they formed Mitchell Brothers Ltd. David also later became managing director of United Distillers Ltd of Belfast. The brothers took design 'inspiration' from the classic Dunville's VR label for some of their own products.

The Mitchells were Liberal Unionists; David chaired public meetings in 1891 in Falkirk for Polmont Liberal Unionist Association.

Their Irish brand was Cruiskeen Lawn (the name of an old traditional song), their Scotch brand was Greybeard Heather Dew. Their famous printed ceramic/stoneware jars are still pretty easy to get hold of today. As you can see below they even produced a pocket encyclopedia - a 'Dictionary, Atlas and Gazetteer' - among their range of promotional items.

As well as multiple commercial and civic roles in Belfast, William Charles was a founder of the Ulster Reform Club, a founder of the Belfast Benevolent Society of St Andrew, President of the Belfast Scottish Association, a member of Belfast Burns Club and a member of Belmont Presbyterian Church in the east of the city. He died in London on 22 July 1894. Almost a decade later, a grand organ in his memory was presented by the Mitchell family to Queen's University Belfast in 1903 and was installed in the Great Hall, with an inscription in his memory. The Northern Whig account of the presentation said that he was 'one of those Scotsmen to whom Belfast owed so much', and that he had been a champion within the Presbyterian Church for the introduction of organs - 'one of those who stood in the forefront of the long fight for liberty to use the aid of musical instruments in the worship of the Irish Presbyterian Church'.

 His son, Robert Armstrong Mitchell (1868–1950), seems to have taken over the Belfast business and was also a director of the Glasgow one. In 1886 he purchased a house called Marmont in Strandtown, East Belfast. In 1961 it became Mitchell House School, offering specialist education for children with physical disabilities - its website is here. Robert's son, and namesake, died in 1982 aged 80.

(PS these Mitchells are not the same as the Mitchell & Son of Dublin who sell famous whiskeys such as Green Spot still today.