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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 13:44 GMT
Whisky Galore relic snapped up
Whisky case panel
Thousands of cases of whisky were on board
A relic from the ill-fated cargo ship which inspired the film Whisky Galore has fetched more than 1,500 at auction.

The SS Politician secured its place in Western Isles folklore when it ran aground in the Sound of Eriskay more than 60 years ago.

It provided a bonanza for islanders when they salvaged its cargo of whisky.

We are absolutely delighted but I am not surprised

Bonhams spokesman
A whisky case panel from the vessel was expected to attract bids of up to 500 when it was auctioned in London on Tuesday.

However, a spokesman for auctioneer Bonhams said the lot had done "exceptionally well" to secure a bid of 1,528.

"Selling for three times the top estimate is a cause for celebration," he told BBC News Online Scotland.

"We are absolutely delighted but I am not surprised that someone wanted a permanent memento from one of the most embarrassing moments for the company, and one of the most memorable for the islanders."

A collection of marine paintings and memorabilia was sold on Tuesday by Harrison Line, the Liverpool shipping company which owned the Politician.

BBC documentary

This included the stencilled wooden panel from a Ballantine's Liqueur Whisky case, which is thought to have held a dozen bottles.

The panel was accompanied by a photograph of the vessel and a video of a 1982 BBC Scotland documentary about the stranding of the Politician.

The ship left Liverpool on 3 February 1941 bound for Kingston, Jamaica.

Eriskay
The ship ran aground on Eriskay
Its cargo included 22,000 cases of Scotch whisky.

However, the weather deteriorated as she steamed north in waters which were unlit because navigation marks had been turned off for wartime security.

At 0745 GMT the following day the Politician struck rocks on the northern side of the island of Eriskay.

While the marooned vessel awaited salvage local fishermen boarded the ship and found the crates of whisky.

Islanders swarmed aboard and removed the cargo in the dead of night.

Sent to jail

It is estimated that up to half the cases of whisky eventually found their way ashore - along with other items including silk, perfume, bicycles and toothpaste.

Nineteen islanders were eventually prosecuted for looting whisky and sent to jail for a month.

The tale provided inspiration for author Compton Mackenzie, who lived on nearby Barra.

The novel Whisky Galore, based on the event, was published in 1947 and turned into an Ealing comedy the following year.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  BBC Scotland's Forbes McFall
"Pillars of the community conspired to outwit customs officials"
See also:

03 Dec 02 | Scotland
21 Nov 02 | Scotland
13 Jun 02 | Business
12 Jun 02 | Scotland
25 Sep 99 | Scotland
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