Mystery surrounding 'Glenturret' engraved stone found in China

Construction workers in China have uncovered a giant piece of rock engraved with the word Glenturret - the name of a whisky distillery in Crieff, Perthshire.

Published 23rd Feb 2016
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

The discovery came during a recent excavation for a resort at Moganshan, a hilly vacation destination of China two hours from Shanghai.

The developers of the resort know some of the property used to belong to Dr. Duncan Main, a Scottish missionary doctor who dedicated 45 years of his life to working in China in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What they are puzzled about is the connection to Glenturret.

Staff at Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, Perthshire are baffled too and have called on the public to help them solve the last pieces of an intriguing puzzle, one that gives a new twist to UK-China trade relations.

Grant Horsfield, founder of "naked Retreats", which operates a luxury eco-resort in the area and is working on opening more properties, said:"We know Dr. Duncan Main, one of the most famous missionaries in China at the time, had a castle on the property and that it was used as a summer retreat by him and his hospital staff.


"It was built in 1910 as a sanitorium and known simply as #1 Moganshan. We also know it passed into the hands of the government of Zhejiang for a short time during China's nationalisation and then was handed back to Dr. Main's son, S.

Duncan Main. It was then sold to the Jiangnan Auto Company and opened as the Green Shade Inn.

"However, it was not well maintained and was torn down in the 1960s."

Mr Horsfield got in touch with Glenturret Distillery, home of The Famous Grouse and The Glenturret Single Malt, after he and his workers found the name engraved in bold letters into a piece of rock.

With the help of researchers on both sides of the world, including the local history officer at the AK Bell Library in Perth, the two parties have filled in some of the blanks.

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The discovery has baffled Chinese construction workers. Picture: Central News Agency

The discovery has baffled Chinese construction workers. Picture: Central News Agency

Stuart Cassells, General Manager of Glenturret Distillery, said: "At first it might seem not seem like a surprise that a Scottish missionary doctor would be linked to a Scottish whisky distillery. But the fact is that Dr. Duncan Main was born and brought up in Ayrshire and was educated in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We have yet to find a link between Dr. Main and our own region of Crieff, which is some distance away at the foot of the Scottish Highlands.

"We're wondering if perhaps Dr. Main was such a fan of his native drink that he was one of the first importers of Glenturret whisky to China. Another possibility is that the rock has uncovered a link not to Glenturret Distillery but to a British steamship called Glenturret that we also know existed.

"What is clear is that Glenturret made its mark, literally, halfway around the world. We'd love to have someone come forward to shed some more light on what is truly a fascinating story and a very colourful cast of characters. Otherwise, for us, it may not be so much the Year of the Monkey as the Year of the Whisky as we try to clear the whole mystery up."

Glenturret Distillery is asking anybody with information on Dr. Duncan Main, particularly regarding his time in China, or the mysterious rock to get in touch with the distillery at

The Timeline of #1 Moganshan and Glenturret:

1775: 'Hosh' distillery, later known as Glenturret Distillery, is established beside the waters of Turret Burn in Crieff, Perthshire.

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1856: Dr. Duncan Main is born in Kirmichael, Ayrshire.

1873-1881: Dr. Main begins studying business and soon becomes interested in missionary work and medicine. He studies at both the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh.

1881: Dr. Main marries Florence Nightingale Smith, named after the original Florence Nightingale. They set sail for China and a career as missionaries. They settle in Hangzhou.

1910: Moganshan in the mountaintop bamboo forests near Hangzhou has become a popular getaway for missionaries and their families escaping the stifling heat of Shanghai. #1 Moganshan is built as a sanitorum for Dr. Main, his family and his hospital staff.

1921: Following the American Prohibition, Glenturret ceases distilling whisky. It will remain closed for another thirty years.

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1926: During their time in China, Dr. Main and his wife have been credited with opening more than 30 medical and welfare institutions. Dr. Main has received several honours and decorations from the Chinese government. The couple retires to Scotland.

1928: #1 Moganshan is nationalised under the leadership of Zhang Jingjiang, the then governor of Zhejiang.

1931: The older son of Dr. Main, S. Duncan Main, disputes ownership of the villa. The property is returned to Dr. Main's son.

1932: Dr. Main's son sells #1 Moganshan to the Jiangnan Auto Company, founded in 1932 by Zhang Jingjiang. It is known as Green Shade Inn.

1957: Glenturret Distillery reopens in Crieff.

1960s: After years of neglect, #1 Moganshan is torn down.

2007: Grant Horsfield opens the first of his "naked" eco-friendly villas in Moganshan.

2015: Glenturret Distillery celebrates its 240th anniversary. It remains the only whisky distillery in Scotland to hand mash during its production process. Maker of The Famous Grouse and The Glenturret, it is the most visited distillery in Scotland.

2016: naked has an additional six resorts under development. In excavating the area of Moganshan, Horsfield and his company uncover a rock bearing the name Glenturret.

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