Hi, Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Rab, originally from Rutherglen in the Southside of Glasgow. The locals like to call it ‘ruggie’ and it’s a traditional working class area. I studied Civil Engineering at Glasgow University and after graduating in 1995 got a job on the railway maintaining and constructing new infrastructure. I’ve worked all over Scotland from Dumfries to Thurso. If there is railway track I’ve probably been there. I loved it, there is a real sense of community and we were proud to say we worked ‘on the railway’. I even worked at Corrour station for a short time which featured in the original Trainspotting movie. I can confirm it’s as remote as the movie makes out.
Photo of Rannoch Moor I took from Corrour Station while on the sleeper train to Fort William last March. The original trainspotting with same view.
So what brought you South?
My partner Jo got a job in Southampton in 2007. Being an engineer London was the obvious place for me to work as there is so much construction going on, so after staying in a few places we settled in Winchester in 2009 and are still here. Winchester is amazing, only an hour to London by train and 30 minutes to the coast it has everything you need.
Over the years I’ve worked on some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the Capital. I worked in Farringdon station for 2 years when Thameslink was being upgraded. We demolished the supports of the metropolitan line platform and constructed a new tunnel underneath while passengers were still using it. I still have nightmares about whether the temporary works holding up the platform will work.
For Crossrail I worked in Soho Square where we constructed a shaft in each corner. The shafts were for compensation grouting when the main tunnel boring machine came through in case any of the buildings started sinking. One of the shafts was right outside the British Board of Film Classification and when they were watching a film we couldn’t make any noise in case they missed a swear word and gave it the wrong classification. Well that’s what they told us anyway, personally I think they just wanted peace and quiet to enjoy the film. The opening of Crossrail is slightly delayed but I think once opened people will wonder how they coped before.
Most recently I’ve worked on some enabling works for HS2, the new high speed railway from Euston to Birmingham. Eventually it’s supposed to get all the way to Scotland but I have my doubts. There is even talk of scrapping it entirely so one to watch.
We hear you also like whisky?
Yes! Although I love engineering I don’t love the long hours so started to think about trying something else. I visited the whisky island of Islay on holiday last August and when I came back had some inspiration from somewhere to set up a ‘pop up’ whisky bar. I’ve always enjoyed a dram but over the years found some places to be slightly intimidating and very expensive. My aim with the pop up bar is to introduce people to whisky in a friendly and welcoming way while keeping the cost of a dram low. Some of the 10year old malts I sell are cheaper than a cup of coffee on the high street which is crazy.
In just under a year I’ve done lots of different events and the feedback has been amazing which is so satisfying. People love the map I have on the bar which shows what flavour to expect from each whisky and I also have a map of Scotland showing the location of the distilleries. Folk are always keen to point out on the map where they’ve visited or asked me to recommend where to go. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and so standing blethering about Scotland and serving whisky is the dream job. Lots of bars you go in now you hardly get a hello never mind a conversation so I think folk just love to have a chat.
I’m focussed on weddings, private parties, small food and music festivals, that kind of thing. I’ve also done a couple of beer festivals and I’m trying to revive the ‘hauf an a hauf’. A measure of whisky drank alongside a half pint of beer. Brewdog have just started doing Boilermakers which is an American term for hauf an a hauf so that’s helping with the promotion!
The couple of weddings that I’ve done couldn’t have gone better. I have an option when hiring the bar that you can have a mini tasting experience for guests where they can try 3 whiskies. There’s nothing better than for somebody to say ‘I don’t like whisky’ only to then say ‘Oh, I didn’t realise it tasted it that’ after tasting it.
Whisky isn’t going to be for everyone but my mission is to at least get people to try some!
Some photos of the bar.
How did you hear about London Scottish House (LSH)?
Lettie the Relationship Manager at LSH came across the bar and got in touch. She was keen to see if we could collaborate and host some whisky tasting events which is exactly what we’ve done. We hosted our first ‘Beginners Guide to Scottish Whisky’ together which got great reviews. The night was informal and relaxed and folk loved hearing about the plans for LSH and having a look around. A lone piper was practicing in the hall which also went down a storm!
We have already planned another so hopefully we can build on the relationship and see where it takes us.