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Saturday, September 25, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK

UK: Scotland

A modern-day tale of Whisky Galore

The trawler Ormaza was visited by boatloads of raiders

A Spanish trawler which crashed off the Western Isles has been plundered by boat loads of raiders.

Just as a whisky cargo was famously "liberated" from the SS Politician by the islanders of Eriskay and Barra in 1941, the modern-day raiders allegedly rowed out to the wreck of the Ormaza and made off with tools, ropes, fishing gear and fittings.

But unlike the famous "Whisky Galore" saga, the small amount of alcohol on board had already been taken off by police and coastguards.

Rumours abound in nearby Stornoway that the boats wheelhouse lights are to be used as a pub decoration and the liferaft is now hidden in the back garden of an island property.

[ image: The vessel Ormaza crashed last week]
The vessel Ormaza crashed last week
As in 1941, coastguard officials and police chiefs say they are not amused and are demanding that the raiders' spoils be handed back.

Simon Riley, deputy district controller at Stornoway Coastguard, said: "We have been to the wreck and we can confirm that items have been taken without permission.

"We don't know who is responsible yet but we are confident we will find out."

Together with the Receiver of Wreck, Veronica Robbins, Mr Riley arranged for forms to be available at island police stations where alleged raiders can register their "finds".

He said: "By registering, they will then be treated as people who 'recovered an item for its own safety'. No prosecution for theft will then follow.

"If the item is of value to the owner, maybe an insurance company, the finder can then subsequently negotiate a finder's fee.

"People could be putting themselves in great danger as there is little of commercial value left on board. Treasure hunters will be disappointed."

'No amnesty'

Acting Inspector John Macdonald, of Stornoway Police, said the forms were not a way of offering an amnesty.

He explained: "Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, finders who deliberately hide recovered property forfeit the right to salvage.

"However, the Receiver of Wreck may make payments where finders hand over recovered property."

The 130ft trawler hit the headlines having gone aground twice - in Lochinver on Sunday and then on Lewis early on Monday. It is not being salvaged.

When the remains of 120 tonnes of diesel fuel are finally taken off, the trawler will be left to be swept away by winter storms.

The classic 1949 Ealing comedy, Whisky Galore, based on Compton Mackenzie's book was set on the fictional Hebridean island of Todday.

It features a ship going aground with a cargo of Scotch Whisky and cunning locals plot how to salvage what they can from the wreck.

The film is loosely based on fact. In 1941, the SS Politician did run aground at Calvay, just off the island of Eriskay.

Several islanders were later prosecuted at Lochmaddy Sheriff Court for theft of whisky.

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