Bow Street Origins – A Tale of John Jamesons

Published August 7, 2018

Back in the late 1770s an enterprising young Scotsman, John Jameson, first arrived in Dublin looking to invest in the developing distillery business in the city. Records are sparse for this period, but we know that like all good entrepreneurs he sought to network in his adopted city. The records we do have show he joined the Convivial Lodge No. 202, of the Dublin Freemasons on the 24th June 1774. Shortly afterward opportunity presented itself in Bow Street where a number of distilleries were already established.

It’s likely he bought into one of the pre-existing distilleries in Smithfield and set about transforming it into what was to become the legendary Bow Street Distillery. Success soon followed, and in 1805 he was joined by his son John Jameson II who took over the family business that year. John Jameson II and for the next 41 years he drove the business forward before handing over to his son John Jameson III in 1851. In 1901 the Company was formally incorporated as John Jameson and Son Ltd., and as part of a Prospectus issue the following year, published a brief history of the firm noting A Distillery was in existence in Bow Street in the year 1780.

John senior was able to enjoy his retirement, secure in the knowledge of a job well done! To celebrate the success of his whiskey he commissioned two portraits of himself and his wife Margaret, to be painted by Sir Henry Raeburn the foremost artist of the day. These portraits now hang proudly in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, do pop in and say hi to John and Margaret if you are passing.

Of course, you can also see Bow St itself by coming to visit us at our home in Smithfield!

Carl Quinn, Archivist, Irish Distillers