Wayfarer Column- The tale of Mull’s bottle of expensive champagne

A good living can be made by those who can weave a tale or two around an everyday occurrence.

They can spot something significant in an unusual happening and instead of just passing by can weave a tale of interest around it. Many of these tales are fabrications unlike those I expound which are facts that I have come across and pass along in a more interesting fashion.

Christopher James the owner of Toronsay Castle on the Isle of Mull often wondered what lay behind a locked panel in a sideboard in his family’s ancestral home. When he took over the running of the castle his curiosity got the better of him and in 2008 he hired a specialist locksmith to solve the problem. On opening the panel a drinks cabinet was exposed containing a port decanter, a bottle of claret and a bottle of 1893 Veuve Cliquot Champagne. An expert stated that the bottle of champagne was literally priceless, but it would be very difficult to find a buyer. It became known as the Toronsay Bottle and was the only surviving bottle in mint condition of that vintage from this famous champagne house. Christopher James made a gift of the bottle to Veuve Cliquot where it stands proudly on display in its visitor’s centre in Reims. James was delighted that the bottle had returned to its rightful source, but before you get carried away by his generosity, appreciate that he was aware the contents of the bottle would be undrinkable as champagne does not usually last for longer than thirty years.

Just think of the person who in 1893 locked that expensive champagne away for a special occasion. The special occasion could never have arisen in that person’s lifetime as it had lain there for all those years until curiosity brought it to light.

The first balloon ascent in Scotland took place in Edinburgh on 27th. August 1784. James Tytler from Angus flew in a hot air balloon he had designed and built himself, which rose three hundred feet above the ground and drifted for nearly a mile before landing softly. Tytler’s flight would have been longer had he found some means of safely taking a burner with him to sustain the necessary hot air to keep the balloon aloft. Such ingenuity, plus a lot of courage was necessary by inventors of yesteryear, who had virtually to take their life in their hands to progress us to the modern world where flight over vast distances is common.

Such tales are of interest to those who like to know where everything comes from, so I’ll be back next week with more.