Anna MacLeod

Professor of Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University

Born: 15 May, 1917, in Kirkhill, Inverness-shire.

Died: 13 August, 2004, in Edinburgh, aged 87.

ANNA MacLeod was a much respected and admired authority on brewing and distilling. She was a dedicated teacher at Heriot-Watt where she is remembered with much affection by former students and academic colleagues. The process of brewing and distilling fascinated her and her advice was often sought on the complexities of the finer points by both industries. In the Sixties, both were still male preserves but this forthright and courteous lady was so able and well informed that the subject never became an issue with colleagues. She was also a born diplomat. MacLeod never showed any preference for any particular brand of whisky. She insisted, with a wry and knowing smile, that the label on the bottle should be spelt without an ‘e’.

Anna MacGillivray MacLeod was the daughter of the manse and attended Invergordon Academy and Mary Erskine’s School, in Edinburgh, (where she was dux in1924) before reading Botany at Edinburgh University from where she graduated with a first. In 1941 she joined the staff at Moray House before moving to Heriot-Watt in 1945.

While carrying out her normal teaching schedule, MacLeod did a PhD at Edinburgh University in 1951 and furthered the research into the process of malting in various seeds with a close-knit group of students. MacLeod was always keen to provoke her students to think for themselves and pushed their imaginations to the limit. An oft-heard response after a student had presented a paper was MacLeod’s follow up question: "Now what?"

She was a tireless worker on behalf of the brewing industry and Scotch whisky. From 1964, she edited for twelve years the Journal of the Institute of Brewing. In 1970, she was elected president of the institute.

Despite a heavy workload, MacLeod, in the late Sixties, wrote a thesis (Studies on the Germination of Barley) for which she was awarded a Doctor of Science from Edinburgh University. This was followed in 1975 with a Personal Chair at Heriot-Watt University as Professor of Brewing and after she retired in 1977, she was made an emeritus professor there. From 1981 - 83 she served as council member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1993, in recognition of her long and distinguished service to Heriot-Watt, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the university.

MacLeod was a character full of energy and drive and she revelled in her teaching posts. She was certainly no whisky purist and Professor Geoffrey Palmer, of Heriot-Watt (and a former student of MacLeod’s), remembers her with much affection.

"Anna was very loyal to Scotch whisky and she embodied academic excellence with a passion for biology. She enjoyed drinking both blended and malt whisky and added water to both; though never ice. ‘Good water releases the aroma of the whisky and enhances its taste’ was her strongly held view.

"Anna was a wonderful person to study under and then work with as a colleague: she stimulated and encouraged you in equal measure."

MacLeod was a long-time resident of Drummond Place, in Edinburgh, where she was often seen in the communal gardens. A fellow "potterer" was Dr Alison Elliot the current Moderator. "These two distinguished ladies made a rare and charming picture in the gardens as they strolled round Drummond Place," one resident recalls.

Professor MacLeod never married.