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“…in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.”
– Daniel 7:7
The Gorbals Vampire
Regular readers will be aware that I like to indulge my love for spooky folklore when Hallowe’en comes around. In previous years I’ve shared stories of the Devil’s visit to Bowmore and the Haunting of Ballechin House. I’ve investigated the phantom wolf that prowls the grounds around Tomatin and went in search of the beast that stalks the hill above Ardbeg and last year I told a grim tale of grave robbing that culminated in a violent murder at Deanston mill. This year, however, I’ve looked much closer to home for a little sliver of the macabre…
The Adelphi distillery once perched on the southside of the River Clyde in the city of Glasgow. Established in 1825 by Charles and David Gray, it occupied an area of the city known as the Gorbals. The Gorbals was once a successful industrial suburb but in the 1870s, the old village was cleared away to be replaced by modern tenements. In the years that followed, the area became seriously overcrowded and poverty and disease were rife. Even today, the Gorbals still struggles to shake off its undesirable reputation.
The Gorbals was also the backdrop to one of the strangest series of events to ever take place in Glasgow. Near the heart of the area, not far from the site of the old Adelphi distillery, lies a Victorian cemetery known as the Southern Necropolis. On a foggy night in September of 1954, two local children took fright when they apparently saw a looming figure skulking among the gravestones. By the following day, school playgrounds were awash with rumours of missing children, said to have been kidnapped and murdered by a seven-foot-tall vampire with iron teeth.
No-one is sure where the story came from, though there had long been tales of an old witch that haunted Glasgow Green called Jenny wi’ the Iron teeth. Misbehaving children were often threatened with the rhyme…
“Jenny wi’ the Airn Teeth,
Come an tak’ the bairn,
Tak’ him to your den,
Where the bowgie bides,
But first put baith your big teeth,
In his wee plump sides”.
In fear of the Vampire, children were driven into a frenzy. After school they armed themselves with knives and crosses and went with pet dogs to hunt among the gravestones for evidence of the Vampire. The Necropolis was a queer place at night, however. Shrouded in smog and eerily lit by the fires from the neighbouring iron works, shadows danced and burled in the gloom. Soon calls echoed across the cemetery as various alleged sightings of the beast sparked terror among the young hunters.
Such was the commotion, the Police were called to the scene. Upon arrival, they found the cemetery overrun by hysterical children. Only a typically torrential downpour of freezing Glasgow rain calmed the mob and allowed the police to direct them homeward. They returned the following night, however. Soon the local community was embroiled in a full-blown panic. Parents kept their children indoors and demanded that police guard the graveyard, in case the monster should venture forth again.
There is, of course, no evidence of the disappearance of any children at the time of the events. Some attribute the children’s reaction to overactive imaginations. Others blame an American Horror comic published in 1953 called “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth”. It’s debatable, however, whether any of the children actually had access to the comic.
Nevertheless, local Christians decided that the Comics industry should be held responsible. The Children and Young Persons Harmful Publications Act of 1955 banned the sale of “repulsive or horrible” reading material to children. The same act remains in place today, although somewhat ironically, the tale of the Gorbals Vampire has itself been immortalised as a comic book.
Wandering through the cemetery today, it’s easy to see how the Southern Necropolis could inspire such wild imaginings. Over the years it has fallen into disrepair and the gravestones are cracked, toppled and broken. Memorials to the long dead are buried under moss and vines and overgrown bushes poke jagged fingers outwards, as if trying to snare passers-by. It didn’t help that I visited on an incredibly gloomy day with drizzle in the air and gusting winds stirring the crooked trees. One could be forgiven for imagining oneself on the set of a Hammer Horror picture.
A short distance from the Necropolis is a mural dedicated to the story. It was designed by teenager Ella Bryson with help from the Art Pistol street artists. The mural is located at St Luke’s Place, a mere stone’s throw from Adelphi Street, where the original Adelphi distillery once stood.
The Adelphi Private Stock Reserve is a blended Scotch whisky bottled at 57.6%. It retailed between £35 and £40.
Smell: Lots of citrus. Furniture polish. Heather honey. Toffee. Vanilla. Wood smoke and charcoal. Pepper. A splash of water brings forth a maritime character with sea shells and fresh, ocean air.
Taste: The peppery spice is right at the forefront. Then comes some oaky citrus and more toffee. Vanilla and honey. A touch of hazelnut. Caramel. An undercurrent of bonfire smoke throughout. Water tones down the spice and dials up the honey and caramel notes. A wee note of biscuit, right at the finish.
Thoughts: This is a cracker of a dram. A slight lightness of body tells you you’re drinking a blend but the intensity of flavour more than makes up for any slight lack of weight. You really get the feeling some fine whiskies have contributed to its creation.
As time goes by, it develops more of a coastal, almost medicinal character, suggesting, perhaps, an Islay influence. Whatever, the components, though, it has been put together fantastically well. In fact, there are whiskies two or three times the price that fail to meet this standard.
While on the subject of price, an enormous amount of credit must go to Adelphi. Their Ardnamurchan single malt bottlings have been brilliantly affordable and this rather exceptional cask strength blend is an absolute bargain.
Thanks for reading. Happy Hallowe’en.
For more on Adelphi visit here.