Whisky Galore bottle resurfaces

The unique encrusted bottle.
The unique encrusted bottle.

A unique surviving bottle from the wreck of the SS Politician has been ‘unearthed’ in a small Cheshire village recently.

The bottle, which still contains the original whisky, will be offered for sale in a lot as one of two bottles that were salvaged with five others in a 1970 diving excursion by the vendor

A recent remake of the hilarious rib-tickling film starring Eddie Izzard “Whisky Galore”, from the 1949 book by Compton McKenzie and original Ealing Studio film is based on the true real life story of the fated SS Politician which was wrecked and sank in a storm off the coast of Eriskay on 5th February 1941.

The SS Politician, amongst other cargo, had in its No.5 Hold 28,000 wooden crates of whisky destined for New Orleans and the Caribbean. Many of these crates floated to the surface and were eagerly collected up by the islanders.

However one fastidious and righteous Excise officer Charles McColl sought to thwart the islanders in deeming that Excise Duty had not been paid and therefore the whisky belonged to the Crown.

There have been a number of organised dives to the wreck, including a well-publicised one led by South Uist’s Donald MacPhee in 1987, which brought eight bottles back to the surface.

Two of these bottles which still retained their original contents sold in 2013 at Christies for £12,050.

A much less publicised and broadcast dive in 1970 was recorded in a Daily Mirror article published on Tuesday 31st March 1970.

A team of four divers which included the vendor retrieved five bottles and one half bottle from the wreck. Two of these bottles, including the encrusted bottle illustrated, will form the centrepiece of the Auction at Wright Marshall Ltd, Knutsford, Cheshire on September 5th.

The Ship’s manifest included whisky shipped by Geo. Ballantine of Glasgow and WA Gilbey of London detail of which is clearly shown on the base of the bottles.

A unique encrustation has formed and is firmly attached to one of the bottles.

This is not a barnacled crust but has been formed by the reaction of the explosion of the dynamite blast.

Amazingly the explosion did not shatter the bottle, instead it created the unusual “pyroclastic” looking shape that appears on the bottle in the 1970 photograph.