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Tearful farewell for last Johnnie Walker bottled at Kilmarnock plant

London, Sat, 24 Mar 2012 ANI

London, Mar 24 (ANI): The last bottle of the famous Johnnie Walker whisky was bottled at the Kilmarnock plant on Friday, ending a 200-year-old tradition.

Only 70 of the 700 workers who once worked at the factory owned by the world's largest distiller, Diageo, witnessed the final bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky rolling off the production line.

Some staff at the factory, which opened in the 1950s, are moving to new jobs at Diageo's operations in Shieldhall, Glasgow, and an expanded bottling plant in Fife. Others have agreed to a severance pay-off and 82 are being made redundant.

"It is a real sad occasion. I am incredibly emotional and I'm trying to hold it together. I was hoping to stay on till I retired," the Scotsman quoted Elaine Nicholl as saying.

The 55-year-old had started work at the Johnnie Walker factory in 1972.

Johnnie Walker founded the world famous brand in Kilmarnock.

A shopkeeper, he first produced the whisky that bears his name in 1820 and sold it from his shop, calling it Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky.

The firm joined the Distillers Company in 1925, which was acquired by Guinness in 1986. Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo in 1997.

In 2009, after Diageo announced it was closing the plant, 20,000 people marched through the town demanding the firm stay. But the campaign failed.

Worker Rhona McCristall, 51, shed a tear after working at the site for more than a decade.

"I'm devastated. Waking up on Monday will be strange as I am used to going into work every morning.

"The problem is there is no work going here and this is the final nail in the coffin for our town," she said.

However, Diageo spokeswoman Pauline Rooney said that their focus was to "minimise the impact" on people.

"Diageo's focus throughout the closure programme has been to try to minimise the impact on our people and, where possible, to find new jobs for those who wished to remain with the business," she said.

"We are pleased that nearly 200 of the Hill Street staff have successful moved to new jobs with Diageo, but we regret that we have been unable to find jobs for everyone who wished to stay with the business.

"Each and every member of staff in Kilmarnock deserves enormous recognition for the way they have handled this very difficult process," she added. (ANI)

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