A sad end to 73 years of Torrylinn Creamery

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Words and pictures by Colin Smeeton

Torrylinn Creamery in Kilmory will close its doors for the last time next week after its owners, First Milk, made the decision to shut down the 73 year old Arran institution, as reported in last week’s Banner.

The news comes as a great loss to the island, and especially to the five loyal staff who were employed there, but it has not come entirely a surprise as the writing has been on the wall for many years.

And so it was that on Wednesday July 17 the very last cheese likely ever to be produced using traditional handmade skills at Torrylinn was made and the Banner was there to witness the occasion.

Throughout its long and turbulent history, and under various owners, the business has faced many challenges, most notably the nationwide decline in the industry and the ever-dwindling number of dairy farms on the island, once again owing to market conditions.

Having faced imminent closure before, the creamery has soldiered on through difficult times, winning numerous awards along the way despite competing against a far larger and better funded competition.

Having struggled to survive, the small creamery at the foot of Butter Hill, has become a treasured ‘old’ institution on Arran whose origins caused a huge stir when it opened in 1946. Causing all of the excitement the official opening was undertaken by none other than King George VI who brought with him Queen Elizabeth – who would become the Queen Mother – Princess Elizabeth, The Duke of Montrose, Princess Margaret and Prince Philip who was the King’s courier in 1946.

The Royal party met with the creamery manager, Mr Young, and Mr Farquarson and Mr Primrose of Scottish Milk Marketing Board amid huge fanfare and crowds of people who gathered to catch a glimpse of the King and the visiting party.

It was in 1991, after milk shortages had been plaguing the organisation and threatening its very survival for a number of years, that the creamery faced its biggest challenge. New legislation from the European Community (EC) deemed that the premises were unsuitable and that upgrading would need to take place, to the tune of £300,000, a huge sum in those days.

But, as was customary for the small creamery, the business survived, shutting down for 12 weeks in the spring and by the time it reopened it fully complied with all of the EC regulations and was able to continue trading.

Torrylinn had been given a new lease on life and a completely refurbished plant with a visitor centre and a shop.

The ever present threat of dwindling Arran milk suppliers and the declining markets continued though and it was hoped that when First Milk took over the company in 2007 that fortunes would change for one of Arran’s oldest factories on the island.

Torrylinn endured under the new ownership and continued to win awards for its quality products but it’s declining fortune and lack of investment meant that last year First Milk announced that they would seek a buyer for the business.

Following a concerted effort by First Milk, industry leaders and local politicians, to save the organisation, the enterprise received no offers and no credible interest and the announcement was made that the creamery would shut down for good on Wednesday July 31, 2019.

The last team at Torrylinn Creamery, Allan Nicol, Richard Scott, Stewart Kilpatrick, Philip Ward and Lisa Edwards, who won a Scotland Food and Drink excellence award in May this year. 01_B30cheese01

Torrylinn staff: George McIver, Alistair McIver, Wendy Birch, Margaret McIver, George Hotchkiss and Neil McLean pictured in August 1992 after the upgrading of the premises. 01_B30cheese02

Neil McLean and Margaret McIver cut the curds into slabs in 1992. 01_B30cheese03

October 1985: The seven man crew at Torrylinn are, John Allan, Drew McHarg, Margaret McIver, George Hotchkiss, Margaret McBain, George McIver and Neil McLean. 01_B30cheese04

Head cheese maker Allan Nicol with some of the cheese products produced at Torrylinn before it shut. 01_B30cheese05

The Torrylinn Creamery in Kilmory had been in operation since 1946. 01_B30cheese07

Torrylinn staff look out over the very last batch of cheese ever made at the creamery which will shut down at the end of the month. 01_B30cheese08

King George VI introduces his wife Queen Elizabeth to the creamery boss at the opening in 1946. The present Queen and her sister can be seen behind her. 01_B30cheese09

Stewart Kilpatrick and Lisa Edwards prepare the cheese slabs for further processing. 01_B30cheese10