island of Eriskay
- On 21/07/2010
- In Auction News
From Stornoway Gazette
A bottle of Ballantine's from the "Whisky Galore" ship, The SS Politician, is being offered at Bonhams annual Scottish Sale in Edinburgh between 17 - 20 August.
It is believed to have been salvaged from the wreck of the ship in the 1950s or 1960s and is being sold with photographs of the salvage operation at an estimate of £1,200 – 1,800.
In 1941, the SS Politician set sail for Kingston, Jamaica with a cargo which included pianos, motor parts, bedding and 28,000 cases (264,000 bottles) of whisky.
The ship ran aground in a gale off the Outer Hebrides near the island of Eriskay. Luckily the crew were rescued unharmed; and so, over the next few weeks, was the whisky. Islanders, from Eriskay and beyond, starved of whisky by war time rationing, systematically liberated around 24,000 bottles before the authorities caught up with them.
Some of the looters were fined; some ended up in jail; few of the stolen bottles were recovered. The hull of the ship was blown up by a frustrated local customs officer to put the whisky beyond temptation, prompting one anguished islander to exclaim, "Dynamiting whisky ! You wouldn't think there'd be men in the world so crazy as that !"
In 1947 the Scottish author, Compton MacKenzie wrote a novel, Whisky Galore, based on the incident which, two years later, was turned into a successful Ealing Comedy film of the same name.
Whisky from the Politician rarely appears at auction. In 1987, eight bottles were retrieved from the wreck which still lies submerged off the coast of Eriskay and sold for £4,000. Despite extensive salvage efforts in 1989 only 24 more bottles were recovered.