The scallop diver’s dram

I was introduced to this recipe by a scallop diver of over 40 years. He said the brew was his most faithful fan – insisting, only whilst drinking it, were his tales quite so compelling.

One such story was told around a campfire on the beach at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull. As we sat facing the sea with our backs resting on my upturned kayak, a tarp over our heads and a hot whisky Scallop Diver’s Dram in hand he quietly regaled the story in his softly spoken Hebridean lilt:

“Wearing leaded boots and using a long rubber tubed snorkel to the surface, I would walk along the sea bed in search of good scallop beds and keep my haul in a rowing boat on the surface above me. This I would tow all the while until I was satisfied with the value of my day’s scallop catch for market.”

Whilst sipping the dram his eyes lit up in recollection: “The seemingly un-captained and mysterious rowing boat above me would often be seen from a distance by captivated hill walkers and ramblers as it evidently and unnaturally made slow but steady headway along the shore against tides, currents, wind and logic.”

With a wrye wrinkled smile, the diver continued…

“Such busy people, walking hills in fluorescent macs, often incomers and, lacking in a little ken, always eager to believe a good tale from the highlands”

“So when returning to town for their cakes, coffees and souvenirs, incomers reported their sightings of the mysteriously wandering boat. Islanders revelled in earnestly telling the townies they had been lucky to have witnessed the rare and ghostly boat of Big Willy McIvor, a  wreck-salvager and scallop-diver of great repute who long ago discovered a shipwrecked sunken whiskey cargo containing more cases of the finest malt than one man can count.”

“The discovery was a bonanza and Big Willy McIvor soon fell in love with ‘diving the dram’ as he fondly came to call it. Word spread Big Willy had, deftly devised and perfected the art of sitting for a break on the sandy sea bed to take a wee dram by opening upturned bottles and drinking through a straw pointing upwards into the bottle. All the while he worked dervishley at the surrounding salvage.”

“The wreck kept him in pocket and the dram kept him un-focussed. He was blissfully unable to see his life otherwise, or at all. But, you’ve got to take the pleasures which come your way he thought and, in a blurry way, he had found much contentment.”

Taking a slow sip o’ the dram, the diver’s upbeat delivery slowed…

“Tragically Big Willy‘s career took a tumble as it became evident among professionals he was anymore unable to dive sober. Times were changing and quite unfairly his work with commercial wreckers dried when rumours of dripdram, his patented diving device mixing whiskey vapour and oxygen to a divers underwater respirator, circulated in port.”

“Sadly Big Willy McIvor has is said to have died of a broken heart on discovering he’d drunk the last dram of the last bottle from the last submerged case in cargo.”

”Others who knew him better, say he saved the last bottle for this looming occasion and, calmly sitting back on the ocean bed to finally admire his underwater fiefdom, opened the flow of dripdram. His body is sitting somewhere offshore to this day, staring to sea, perfectly-poised and perfectly-pickled.”

“The abandoned and ghostly boat can sometimes still be seen following the old submerged and disused clamming routes offshore. People say the lonely vessel searches for its lost captain whilst others say drunken Big Willy McIvor has at last found a new case.”

The diver looks to us all, “To Willy” he said, raising his glass. “To diving the dram”, I say raising mine.

Scallop Diver’s Dram Recipe

– boil some water
– insert cloves to the rind of a lemon slice
– place lemon slice in water

– spoon a little honey to the steaming mix
– stir with vigour
– pour in whisky to taste

Stories have never sounded so good.


Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions and, employing Octane’s Eight* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, ocean fresh**.

*Octane’s Eight – is our philosophy. We believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods. We have 8 methods of sourcing wild food.

**Ocean fresh – on the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old as the term fresh fish is of course relative. So, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

See ocean fresh in practice with the post ‘Drive through calimari’ – ocean fresh calimari caught, cooked and served in under an hour

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