The Pattison Crash
last updated March 24th 2015

THE TRIAL July 8th - 17th 1901
The stoppage was December 5th 1898 and it took more than two and half year until the trial started. You can read about reconstructions attempts, the sale of assets but also other trials where the Pattison brothers were involved (see below)

The trial is described day by day. It is a bit complicated to follow all of the affairs and what they were accused of. For this reason there is a summery of the indictment on each page which you can zoom in. The defender for Robert Pattison, C.J Guthrie said last day of the trial - There are three questions to be answered:
- when was it?
- what was it?
- why was it?

and he has a very good point here, because none of the questions has a simple answer.
It was a lot of witnesses (over 80), figures, dates and the weight of the productions was over 7 tons. I am not a lawyer or an accountant but I can still not say if they were guilty. They made errors, omissions were made in books and some sales were questionable but were this done with the intention to defraud people. I very much doubt so, specially in the case of Walter Pattison.
Perhaps the defenders should have called in Alfred Barnard as a witness. He wrote after his visit: ”we cannot help testifying to the excellent manner, in every department, is conducted, and the order and method that prevails everywhere”

    DAY 1             DAY 2            DAY 3          DAY 4           DAY 5           DAY 6           DAY 7            DAY 8           DAY 9

"What Happend When?                        The indictment
time frame        time frame
Click on the images to expand/shrink

More than two years before their own trial both Robert and Walter Pattison were called as witnesses in a trial in Inverness (February 1899). A licensed grocer - Brown & Stark went in liquidation in January 1899. This company had made business with Pattison and George Archibald Brown bought the business in 1887 from Alexander Elder of Pattison, Elder & Co.
Brown & Stark had bought two parcels of Adelphi whisky from Pattisons Limited - (First parcel -£170 5s 9d, and noted on the invoice as lying in bond at Leith and second parcel - £480 13s 4d noted on the invoice as lying in bond at the distillery).
The liquidators of Pattison Limited said that they were "precluded from producing the books of the firm without an order from the Court of Session."
Robert Pattison used this fact when he answered questions - he did not recall or, as he had no access of the books, he could not say.
   "They owed you the money and you got it from the bank on your joint credit? - Oh, no."
Pattisons whisky might not have caused headache but the memory seems to be affected

   "- You are hardly giving yourself justice, Mr Pattison. Apparently you had many transactions of the same class - numerous bills presented by you in bank which the acceptors said represented whisky? - I do not know; I do not think it."
On one bill there was a note ”Above to adjust aqua." He was asked what that meant and replied - It was sometimes used for whisky. (Laughter)
The key question was where the "Aqua" was, if it existed at all and if so who was the owner.
Walter Pattison was then examined and he had even worse memory and without the books he could not give any details.
In April the trustee got access to the books and other trustees on other bankrupt estates which had transactions with Pattisons, Limited also got the permission to see the books.
Same month Robert Pattison were called in for examination by the Edinburgh Bankruptcy Court. The London syndicate negotiating for the business wanted the examination to be conducted in private and the examination was adjourned..


During the three months from the last examination a lot happened. The attempts for reconstruction had finally failed and the properties and stocks were out for sale by the liquidators. Exactly the same questions as for the whisky was asked - did the money exist and who was the owner, Pattison Limited or Robert and Walter Pattison. Robert was asked what he had done with his share of the £150.000 received at the flotation of the company. Once again he used the argument that the liquidators did not gave him access to the books and he could only answer from his memory. Mr Irons objected to allowing his client to answer any question unless those pertaining to bankrupt's private estate. He was however lectured by the Sheriff: "you should not interfere with the examination of the bankrupt."
The Trustee, to the Sheriff - "It seems to to me very difficult, my Lord, to know what is true and what is not true"
Questions were asked about a purchase of Brandy from Planat & Co in France which was bought prior to floatation and he could not say in which way the account of the French Firm was paid.

Following the crash the domino effect caused problems for whisky merchants, distilleries and others. In September it is reported that:
   " The Procurator-Fiscal has been engaged for some days at the offices of the company making a thorough investigation into alleged irregularities, which date back to the formation of the limited liability company.".
During the autumn the first and second dividends are paid out to the creditors (5s and 1s 6d)

It took a very long time from the crash until Robert and Walter Pattison were arrested (8th April 1901- They were both released from Carlton Prison on bail after a few days.

Belfast News-Letter - Monday 27 February 1899
Dundee Courier - Friday 17 March 1899
Aberdeen Journal - Friday 17 March 1899
Aberdeen Journal - Saturday 08 April 1899
Glasgow Herald - Tuesday 18 July 1899
Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 18 September 1900
Edinburgh Evening News - Friday 12 October 1900
Edinburgh Evening News - Thursday 03 January 1901
Manchester Evening News - Monday 08 April 1901
Edinburgh Evening News - Monday 08 July 1901
Yorkshire Evening Post - Tuesday 09 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 10 July 1901
Edinburgh Evening News - Thursday 11 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 11 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Friday 12 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Saturday 13 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 16 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 17 July 1901
Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 18 July 1901
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 20 July 1901
Edinburgh Evening News - Tuesday 21 October 1902
Dundee Courier - Saturday 12 January 1907