Legend of Byeway, the Glenrothes Distillery Phantom


There is no denying that we have all been afraid at some point of time in life. Fear lives in us and feeds off us. What we fear might be different but essentially it evokes the same kind of feelings in every one. The strangest thing about fear, however, is that we cannot refrain from it. Often what we are afraid of, makes us curious and nearly defiant. Think of a situation where you are lying on your bed and you suddenly feel that there’s someone under your bed. Now you can think of two things to do. First, you can pull the blanket over your head, shut your eyes, and pretend to be asleep while praying to your guardian angel. Second, (and this is what is likely to happen), you will sit up on your bed and slowly bend down to take a look, hoping there is no monster. To be honest, we probably don’t even know what we will be doing if we do find that monster.

What has been a subject of several research is if fear is innate in us or instilled by circumstances and people. While we are not here to bring up that age-old debate, we can surely go back a few years in time and recall how we grew up listening to or reading horror stories. Then at thirteen, when we could walk into a theatre to catch a horror flick, we did. And while the terror stayed alive inside our head for a long, long time, we simply couldn’t get enough of it.  But stories told have a charm of their own. It has probably to do with imagining it unfold before your eyes and feeling the chill run down your spine. Horror in its own way is quite fascinating, come to think about it.

Now we are way past Halloween. Nevertheless, here’s a tale of the ghost of Glenrothes Distillery to spook you a little.

A long time ago, around the early 20th century, Colonel Grant of Rothes, who had gone to battle at the Boer War found an abandoned child on a track, hiding under a bush. Colonel Grant, who was a kind man, could not leave the orphan behind and brought him to Moray, Scotland, all the way from Africa. His name was Biawa Makalaga, but Grant began calling him “Byeway” owing to when and how he was discovered. Little Byeway grew up to become a constant helper for Grant and was well known around Moray. The workers at the distillery loved and respected him for his knowledge about the stills and interest in the production of scotch for the longest period of time. He was also a popular football player, representing his village on several occasions. But time flies as it does and the year 1965 claimed Biawa Makalaga’s life. Six years went by peacefully. On 1972, Glenrothes Distillery decided to install a new pair of stills and this is when the ghost of Byeway started appearing. Workers claim that on more than one occasion they have seen the phantom of Byeway in the still rooms. Although nothing sinister ever happened, it spooked people, particularly those who didn’t know him that well. The phantom of Byeway caused sufficient disruption and the authorities were compelled to address the situation. So, they approached Cedric Wilson, a wise old university professor with an ardent interest in the paranormal, to investigate these strange occurring. Wilson arrived, investigated the distillery and walked to the cemetery close by where Byeway was buried. He stood at the gate of the cemetery silently for a while, then walked to a single gravestone and started communicating with the deceased. After a little while, he walked back to the distillery and told the authorities that the issue could be simply resolved by correcting the positioning of the stills. Byeway kept appearing at the distillery because the misaligned stills made him restless. He feared this could adversely affect production and also pose a threat to the workers. So, the stills were aligned properly and since then the phantom of Byeway was never seen in Glenrothes. But the good people of Glenrothes started the tradition of raising a ‘Toast to the Ghost’ with a dram of their scotch.

The legend of Biawa Makalaga is a beautiful one and is also  evidence to the fact that not all ghosts mean evil.