top of page


The Story


St.Magdalene Distillery History 1765-1983    


The Hospital of St Mary Magdalene is first mentioned in 1335. The suggestion that it provided for pilgrims is apparently mere guesswork, based on the fact that there is a "Pilgrims' Hall" in the vicinity. According to a charter of 1528, this was a poor's hospital, with a chapel and a cemetery. Its lands were alienated before 1 June 1591. Spottiswoode states that this hospital was "formerly governed by the Lazarites". There is no evidence of this. There are references to land held by this order in the territory of "Kathlac" (possibly Cathlaw), but no connection between this land or this order and St Mary Magdalene's hospital is indicated.

In origin this may have been a hospital for lepers as payments to the Lazar House, as distinct from the alms-house, of Linlithgow are recorded in the mid-15th century. And from this the distillery took its name!? This site is now occupied by a warehouse.

Or maybe it was like this:

St.Magdalene Distillery is so called because it´s situated on the lands of St. Magdalene`s Cross once the site of a popular and important annual "Madline" fair, which in turn derived it`s name from St.Magdalene`s Chapel which at one time stood nearby.


The first distillery in Linlithgow was Bulzon in 1750, this was followed shortly after by Bonnytourn founded by Andrew Dawson, one of the first recorded licensed distillers.

Sebastian Henderson the founder of St Magdalene obtained land from the Countess of Dalhousie adjacent to the Bonnytourn distillery and built St. Magdalene. One main reason was to be close to supplies of coal and coke transported along the Union Canal.

So St Magdalene Distillery was possibly established already in 1765 not 1798 as you can see below what happen.

At this point the village of Linlithgow had five licensed distilleries.


We now by fact that in 1798 Adam Dawson purchased the St Magdalene Distillery from Sebastian Henderson. Because St Magdalene Distillery was the better distillery he switched output from Bonnytourn to St Magdalene. Eventually absorbing Bonnytourn in to St Magdalene as one large site......maybe was the idea.


For the majority of the 19th century the distillery was run by the Dawson family, initially by Adam Dawson (1747–1836), who had trained as a maltster and was the youngest son of a sheep farmer from Kippendavie near Dunblane. Adam Dawson and his wife Frances McKell had ten children, including James Dawson the prominent champion of Aboriginal interests. Another son, John Dawson (1796–1878), continued the distillery business along with his brother Adam Dawson Jnr (1793–1873). By 1856 the distillery was capable of producing 4,000 US gallons (15,000 l; 3,300 imp gal) of whisky per week, and employed around 30 people. The distillery became a limited company in 1895.


The sale of the distillery to A&J Dawson Distillers Company in 1912, was brought about by the untimely death in January 1912 of John Kellie Dawson, son of Adam Dawson Jnr, from meningitis at the age of 43.


Three years later in 1915 became St. Magdalene and theres new owner William Greer&Co, one of the founding five distilleries of Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD). The other distilleries was Clydesdale, Glenkinchie Grange and Rosebank.


St. Magdalene Distillery was renovated and modernised in 1927.

During World War II the distillery was mothballed/silent, from the end of 1930-ies to 1946.


After St. Magdalene closed in 1983 due to over production, some of the buildings were converted into apartments.

Today you can still see the large gaunt blackened stone buildings and the characteristic pyramid roofs of the maltings houses visible to the east belong to St.Magdalene distillery. The large warehouse at the west end of the group dates from 1880 although the rest are probably earlier.


Today St Magdalenes all remaining stuff! like name, casks, whatever left over, is owned by the company DIAGEO.






bottom of page