SOME had called it an eyesore, others hailed it as a landmark, but one thing is certain about the red distillery tower –Dumbarton won’t look the same without it.

The tower was constructed by Hiram Walker in 1938 on the site of the old McMillan Shipyard to house Dumbarton’s continuous stills and, while most of the distillery’s buildings were demolished following its closure in 2002, the red tower remained.

The impressive distillery was official opened on September 28, 1938 but had its grand opening derailed by the threat of war. The initial plan was for a ceremony to be held at the Burgh Hall but the plans had to be changed when the hall was commandeered for military purposes at the threat of air raids.

Chairman at the time Harry Hatch spoke about the facility’s availability for war purposes at the opening in light of the change of plans.

The distillery was constructed to support the approximate weight of the Queen Elizabeth, 75,000 tons, and used 10,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete, 3,000 tons of steel and two million bricks.

However, the last of the red bricks that stood so tall in the Dumbarton skyline have finally met their end. At the hands of a skilled demolition crew, the metal frame of the building was the final piece to be brought down.

There is now no sign of the one million gallons of whisky that were held in the tanks, nor the boilers that used a share of the facility’s 1,000 horsepower to evaporate 50,000lbs of water every hour. The first warehouse constructed stored approximately £6.8m of whisky, more than enough for a few drams.

Hiram Walker and Sons purchased the George Ballantine and Co name in 1936, just two years before setting up in Dumbarton where Ballantine’s quickly became well known with its famous square bottles.

In 1974 Hiram Walker and Sons built the Kilmalid site and were eventually bought out by Allied Distillers in 1988. The Kilmalid sight is now all that remains of the old Hiram Walker and Sons and is now owned by Chivas, who just recently announced that they will be moving their production there from Paisley.

The distillery had its warehouse facilities out in Dumbuck which was famously guarded by a gaggle of geese. Known as the “Scotch Watch” they were led by a gander lovingly named Mr Ballantine.

When the geese first took up their watch there were only five plus Mr Ballantine – but by 2001 there were as many as 100. The feisty gaggle of Chinese white geese patrolled the site to ward off would-be intruders.

The birds were used in promotional material to advertise Ballantine’s, and even became a tourist attraction.

The birds’ watch came to an end when the distillery closed but they were happily retired to live with an existing flock at Glasgow Green.

Council officials recently spoke about the necessity to look to the future rather than living in the past when discussing the tower and the opportunities for regeneration its demolition would bring.

Councillor Patrick McGlinchey said: “While the demolition of the distillery tower marks the end of one chapter in Dumbarton’s history, it also marks the start a new, exciting future.

“By transforming derelict, post-industrial land into new town-centre housing, sitting alongside the council’s new Dumbarton headquarters, we will help revive the high street – bringing more people to live, work and visit the town centre.

“All of these new developments will be integrated with the rock and castle via new walkways, weaving the town’s greatest asset back into the fabric of Dumbarton. All of this, taken together, will make Dumbarton one of Scotland’s most transformative, exiting towns over the next five years.”

When the Reporter asked the people of Dumbarton about what the tower meant to them, there was a mixed response. James Jackson, 27, said: “The tower was iconic, it should’ve been made into a landmark. It was a piece of the heritage in Dumbarton, it’s the same with the steelworks on the Clyde. If they are regenerating the area though we need to get a decent shopping centre.”

Mary McDiarmid, 67, said: “I think it should’ve been knocked down long before now, it’s a bit of an eyesore. If they’re trying to improve the area they need a few decent shops. There’s not one decent shop in Dumbarton. Maybe a Primark, it’s cost effective and nice.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie added: “The demolition of the old grain tower marks the beginning of a major new development in the heart of Dumbarton town centre. New homes, new shops and new council offices with over 600 staff will increase footfall on the high street and are part of the Labour council’s plans to regenerate our town centre.

“That, coupled with the development of a waterfront path linking Dumbarton Rock and Castle with the town centre to boost tourism, will put Dumbarton back on the map.”