SS Politician ran aground on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides
- February 4, 1941
The SS Politician, a British cargo ship, famously ran aground off the coast of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, on February 5, 1941. The incident became legendary, especially because the ship was carrying a significant cargo, including 264,000 bottles of whisky, which was highly prized during the wartime rationing period.
Local residents of the small island, facing the scarcity of goods due to the war, saw an opportunity in the stranded vessel. In the days following the grounding, many of the islanders salvaged much of the cargo, including the whisky, leading to a series of legal battles and efforts by the authorities to recover the excise goods.
The story of the SS Politician and the subsequent whisky salvage operations inspired Compton Mackenzie to write the novel “Whisky Galore,” which was later adapted into a popular film of the same name, released in 1949, and then remade in 2016. The tale captures a humorous and somewhat affectionate portrayal of the events, highlighting the clash between the local islanders’ traditional ways and the bureaucratic mindset of the wartime British government.
The wreck of the SS Politician remains a fascinating story of wartime salvage, community spirit, and the enduring appeal of a good whisky tale. The incident has left a lasting legacy in the culture and history of the Outer Hebrides, celebrated in literature and film and remembered as a notable event in the region’s history.