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date: 25 August 2019

Jameson, Johnfree

(bap. 1740, d. 1823)
  • Anne Pimlott Baker

John Jameson (bap. 1740, d. 1823)

by Sir Henry Raeburn

by courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland

Jameson, John (bap. 1740, d. 1823), Irish whiskey distiller, was baptized on 5 October 1740 in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, one of the children of William Jameson (b. 1718) of Alloa, and his wife, Helen Horne, of Thormaneau, Kinross-shire. In 1768 he married Margaret (1753–1815), eldest daughter of John Haig, whisky distiller, of The Gartlands, Alloa, and his wife, Margaret Stein, of Kennetpans, Clackmannanshire, from another important lowland distilling family, the first regular exporters of Scotch whisky to London. They had eight sons and eight daughters. Jameson was sheriff-clerk of Clackmannanshire from about 1770 until his death.

Some time in the late 1770s Jameson visited Dublin, a flourishing centre of production of Irish whiskey despite the heavy excise duties, and about 1780 he bought a share in a small distillery in Bow Street, which according to a tradition repeated by Alfred Barnard, who toured the Irish distilleries in the 1880s, belonged to three wealthy men, a baronet, a general, and an ‘honourable’. Jameson later established two of his sons, John and William, in the business. By 1800 the younger John Jameson was running the distillery, and after his marriage in 1802 to Isabella, daughter of John Stein, who also had a distillery in Bow Street, he took this over too. The title John Jameson & Son dates from 1810. By then the firm was operating a 1256 gallon still, and by 1821 it was the second largest distillery in Ireland. William Jameson ran another of John Stein's distilleries, in Marrowbone Lane, which became Jameson and Stein in 1802, with a 1206 gallon still. William died in 1802, and left his distillery to a third and younger brother, James, later a director and deputy governor of the Bank of Ireland, and the firm became James Jameson & Co. A fourth of Jameson's sons, Andrew, who had a small distillery at Enniscorthy, co. Wexford, was the grandfather of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of wireless telegraphy. The Jamesons continued to marry members of the Haig family: Jameson's grandson John Jameson married Anne Haig, and two of their sons, including the eldest, another John Jameson, went on to marry daughters of John Haig of Fife. James Jameson's grandson also married a Haig.

The Jamesons became the most important distilling family in Ireland, despite rivalry between the Bow Street and Marrowbone Lane distilleries. John Jameson senior died on 3 December 1823.


  • A. Barnard, The whisky distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887), 353–6
  • J. Laver, The house of Haig (1958), 13–21
  • E. B. McGuire, Irish whiskey: a history of distilling, the spirit trade, and excise controls in Ireland (1973), 340, 372–4
  • The history of a great house: the origin of John Jameson whiskey (1924)
  • M. Magee, 1000 years of Irish whiskey (1980)
  • D. Thomson, ‘Raeburn’: the art of Sir Henry Raeburn, 1756–1823 (1997), 180 [exhibition catalogue, Royal Scot. Acad., 1 Aug 1997 – 5 Oct 1997, and NPG, 24 Oct 1997 – 1 Feb 1998]
  • b. cert.


J. Burke, (1899); 2nd edn (1904); 3rd edn (1912); 4th edn (1958); 5th edn as (1976)