UK Film Poster for Whisky Galore! 1949
the Whisky Wreck Incident, 1941
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast.”
~ Compton Mackenzie, Whisky Galore, 1947
Inspired by the real events of 1941, when a cargo ship ran aground in the channel between Eriskay and South Uist, Compton Mackenzie's Whisky Galore is the story of how the booty on board became appropriated by a group of Scottish islanders under "the rule of salvage." The SS Politician was carrying all manner of trade goods, from cotton to medicines to biscuits, but the ship is best remembered for the contents of Hold Number 5: some 264,000 bottles of Scotch whisky! The novel formed the basis for the 1949 Ealing comedy of the same name, Whisky Galore! directed by Alexander Mackendrick, featuring a ceilidh with a Half Reel & Tulloch and and Scottish Country Dance Eightsome Reel! This movie was recently remade in 2016, sadly without any dancing. Slàinte! 🥃
Today, February 5th, marks the anniversary in 1941 of the incidents that led to the novel and two films of the same name - "Whisky Galore!"
Adapted from the novel "Whisky Galore" by Compton MacKenzie, the 1949 film on the same name was just remade in 2016.
The novel and adapted films are based on the real-life 1941 shipwreck of the S.S. Politician near the island of Eriskay and the unauthorised taking of its cargo of whisky. The plot deals with the attempts of Scottish islanders to take advantage of an unexpected windfall, despite opposition from British authorities.
On 5 February 1941, during gale force winds, the S.S. Politician ran aground off the Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides and later broke in two near the islet of Calvay. The crew were all unharmed and were looked after by the locals for a while.
But when the locals learned from the crew what the ship was carrying, a series of illegal and well-organised salvage operations took place before the customs and excise officials arrived.
The island's supplies of whisky had dried up due to war-time rationing, so the islanders periodically helped themselves to some of the 28,000 cases (264,000 bottles) of Scotch whisky before winter weather broke up the ship. The men wore women's dresses on their "fishing trips", to keep their own clothes from being covered in incriminating oil from the ship's holds. The islanders considered the rescue of this bounty in line with the rules of salvage, but the local customs officer was incensed. The police raided villages and crofts looking for the whisky.
Bottles were hidden, secreted, or simply drunk in order to hide the evidence.
To learn about the two recently auctioned bottles from the actual shipwreck, click the whisky of the same name!