24th November 1993. Whisky and Bank-Notes Galore.
Today in 1993, four of the last 14 bottles of whisky from the wrecked SS Politician in May 1941 were sold at Christie’s Glasgow for over £11.000.(1)
The cargo salvaged in 1990 was labelled ‘Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of these Bottles’.
The 74% proof spirit was undrinkable being contaminated with sediment and iron, but the value was in the intrigue and mystery of the sinking which was made into a novel by Compton Mackenzie (1947) and later in 1949 in the Ealing Comedy film.
Left unguarded for week it fell prey to the Islanders who looted most of the 260 thousand bottles of whisky, as well as the cargo of cotton, plumbing fittings, pianos, motor-cycle tyres and other merchandise, which included thousands of 10/- bank-notes for Jamaica.
However 1000 cases of whisky were still on board in October 1941 which were dynamited on instructions from the zealous customs officials Gledhill and McColl as no duty had been paid.
The police became involved and later 40 were arrested and 15 jailed for up to 6 weeks.
The story of the 290 thousand of blue 10/- Jamaican bank-notes was only revealed when the files of The Crown Agents were opened and released by Public Record Office..
The authorities were obviously embarrassed as these notes were being circulated in England and Europe for years. Most were never recovered.
Official salvage operations continued to 1944 and not until the 1980.s did freelance divers start the lucrative salvage of the whisky.
However only 8 bottles, actually 7 and one-half bottle, raised in 1987 have been officially authenticated as genuine from the Politician. CHEERS!
(1) The ship sank on 5th February 1941.
NOTE RE LETTER of AUTHENTICATION.
The collector’s items were part of the cargo on the 8,000-ton cargo ship the SS Politician which sank off the shores of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1941 and inspired the book and film Whisky Galore.
The bottles, which have documents of authentication, are to be sold as a pair by Britain’s biggest internet-only auction site Scotch Whisky Auctions, based in Glasgow, with bidding opening on Saturday and closing on May 5.
Daily record 25.4.2013/Pics bottles and ship.
Museum of Liverpool/salvage/Pic.
telegraph.co.uk. Bank Notes Galore/Pic.
independent.co.uk. Bottles of Whisky recovered. Tues 23rd November 1993. John Arlidge.