£4,200 for the whisky they tried to bomb...

A bottle of whisky salvaged from the Whisky Galore ship, The SS Politician, was sold today for £4,200 on the second day of Bonhams annual Scottish Sale in Edinburgh.  

It was retrieved from the wreck of the ship in the 1950s or 1960s and had been estimated to fetch just £1,200-1,800.  

The story of the SS Politician and its cargo of whisky is known round the world thanks to the novelist Sir Compton MacKenzie who based his book 'Whisky Galore' on the real life events.  The novel was later made into a very popular Ealing Comedy film.

In 1941, the ship set sail for Kingston, Jamaica with a cargo which included pianos, motor parts, bedding and 28,000 cases (264,000 bottles) of whisky. It ran aground in a gale off the Outer Hebrides near the island of Eriskay. 

Islanders, from Eriskay and beyond, starved of whisky by war time rationing, systematically salvaged 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!"

Whisky from the Politician rarely appears at auction.  In 1987, 8 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.

The whisky section of Bonhams' Scottish sale made a total of £92,000 and practically every bottle was sold.


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