Janet Sheed Roberts celebrated her 110th birthday in August last year
SCOTLAND. Janet Sheed Roberts, head of the Grant-Gordon family of distillers and granddaughter of the Glenfiddich founder William Grant, has died peacefully at her home in Dufftown at the age of 110. “Wee Janie”, as she is fondly known in the family, was the last surviving grandchild of William Grant and at 110 years old was the oldest woman in Scotland.
Although never directly involved in the running of William Grant & Sons, Janet’s support was crucial to the growth of the company and to Glenfiddich’s success in building a market for malt whisky outside Scotland. In a statement, the company said: “In her youth she and her family helped support her grandfather, William Grant. When married, she travelled the world with her husband Eric, attending functions and award ceremonies. As an older woman, taking care of both her elderly mother and sister, she became a central figure of the family, and has always been present to commemorate important moments in the company’s development, such as the award to the Glenfiddich, in 1974, of the Queen’s Award to Industry for Export Achievement.”
Her contribution to the business was honoured recently with the unveiling of one of Glenfiddich’s rarest ever vintages, the 55yo Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve. Only 11 bottles of the malt have been produced – one for each decade of Janet’s life – and each is being auctioned to raise money for good causes. To date around Â£185,000 has been raised from the sale of four bottles, and one of the 11 has been made available for auction within the travel retail community – click here for more details.
Janet opened the Glenfiddich Visitor Centre in 1969
Peter Gordon, Glenfiddich chairman and great-nephew of Janet Sheed Roberts, saluted her life, saying: “We have lost an incredible woman. My great aunt, Janet Roberts’ contributions and unwavering support for the business and for the family members who did so much to make the company the success it is today is immeasurable. She lived a remarkable life, and witnessed great change at the Glenfiddich distillery over the past 110 years, and she will be sadly missed by all of us. She was a gracious Highland Lady.”
Receiving the Queen’s Award to Industry for Export Achievement on behalf of Glenfiddich in 1974
Janet Sheed Roberts 13 August 1901-6 April 2012
Janet was born in the School House in the Cabrach where her father, Charles Gordon (31 July 1866-18 March 1929), was the local school master at the Cabrach School before joining William Grant & Sons in 1903, becoming its third Director. Her mother was Isabella Gordon (née Grant; 5 February 1874-29 May 1965), youngest daughter of Elizabeth Grant (née Duncan) and William Grant, the Founder of William Grant & Sons.
Janet studied law at Edinburgh University and met her future husband Eric Lloyd Roberts while practising as a lawyer
Janet Roberts and her family moved to Glasgow when she was just two years old as the company bought its first premises in the city. Although the family returned to northern Scotland later, it was at Glasgow University that she studied for her Bachelor degree; subsequently she was awarded a MA. LLB. after studying law at Edinburgh University. She was the only woman in her class.
While at University Janet was a capable sports woman, playing for Edinburgh University Women’s 1st Hockey team. She practised law for a number of years for the firm of McGrigor Donald, and it was while working for this firm that she met her future husband Eric Lloyd Roberts (1909 – 8 November 1980). They married in Glasgow in 1938 at the Glasgow University Memorial Chapel.
A pioneering woman in whisky
Janet Roberts was never directly involved in the running of William Grant and Sons, but contributed greatly to the company’s development through her unwavering support of those close family members who did so much to make the company the success it is today. In her youth she and her family helped support her grandfather, William Grant, founder of the company.
When married, she travelled the world with her husband Eric, attending functions and award ceremonies. As an older woman, taking care of both her elderly mother and sister, she became a central figure of the family, and has always been present to commemorate important moments in the company’s development, such as the award to the Glenfiddich, in 1974, of the Queen’s Award to Industry for Export Achievement.
In recognition of her extraordinarily close link with the business she was given the honour of opening the Kininvie distillery on 4 July 1990. This was particularly apt as Janet had lived for many years at Hazelwood House, the dower house of Kininvie castle.
Janet was afforded the honour of opening the Kininvie distillery in 1990
“Wee Janie” as she was known to the family, had been granddaughter, daughter, sister, wife, aunt and great aunt to successive Chairmen and Managing Directors of the business for over a century:
• Her father, Charles Gordon (Director 1903-1929), successfully expanded Grant’s into the English market as well numerous other markets worldwide.
• Her brother, William Grant Gordon (1899-1953, Director Chairman, 1936-1953) steered the company through the difficulties of the Second World War and laid the foundation for the company’s post-war growth.
• Her husband, Eric Lloyd Roberts, (Director 1953- 1980, Chairman 1963-77) took the company from strength to strength introducing, amongst other things, the triangular bottle in 1957, the building of Girvan in 1963 and the award to Glenfiddich of the Queen’s Award to Industry for Export Achievement in 1974, to name just a few.
• Her youngest nephew, Alexander Grant Gordon (1931-, Director 1956-77, Chairman 1977-96) played a key role, among other things, in the development of the first triangular Glenfiddich bottle, launched in 1961, and in pioneering the single malt whisky market from 1963 onwards; and as Chairman he steered the company to ever greater success.
• Her oldest nephew, Charles Grant Gordon (1927-, Director 1953-2003, Chairman 2003-2008, Life President 2008- ) played a key role in numerous developments such as the building of Girvan and, in America, the growth of William Grant & Sons Inc.; and as Chairman he energetically pushed the development of the company, something he continues to do to this day as Life President.
• Her great nephew, Peter Grant Gordon (1959-, Director 2003-2008, Chairman 2008-) is the present Chairman and is meeting the challenges of growing the company in a market more competitive than ever.