Saturday, September 1, 2012

Johnnie Walker Statue

This statue of Johnnie Walker, one of the men who 'put Kilmarnock on the map', was sculpted by Alexander 'Sandy' Stoddart. 

Stoddart was born in Edinburgh in 1959 and has been 'Her Majesty's Sculptor' in Scotland since 2008. He has been quoted as saying, "My great ambition is to do sculpture for Scotland", and he has achieved this mainly through his large monuments to figures from the country's past.
John Walker (1805-1857) was a grocer, but, although his name was given to the spirit, his son, Alexander, became more important in its history. A terrible flood in the town in 1852 destroyed all the Walker stock and, when Alexander afterwards went into the family business, he persuaded his father to give up the grocery trade and to start selling whisky instead.

The family's blend of spirit was first known as "Walker’s Killme Whisky" and it quickly became extremely popular, thanks to Alexander, and later, his own son, also named Alexander. Between them, they made the Johnnie Walker Whisky a common name worldwide and were also responsible for introducing many other blends and mixes of the spirit. 

In 2009, the world's largest distiller, Diageo, announced that it was closing the Kilmarnock plant, where more than 700 people were employed.  It actually shut down on March 23rd, 2012 and the link between the firm and Kilmarnock came to an end after 192 years. The last bottle made was brought out to a single piper's lament. A song was especially written for the sad occasion, and the lyrics included, 

"The great striding man knows we're his best fan 
but Killie's no part o' Diageo's plan." 

(The "striding man" referred to the figure on the bottle's label, still used today)
 All employees and, indeed, the whole town, mourned the end of an era.

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