The Whisky Galore is one of the most popular tales in Scotland is that of a group of islanders raiding shipwreck of 240,000 cases of whisky. This novel was written by Compton Mackenzie in the year 1947. The novel draws its inspiration from a tale that has assumed legendary proportions. However, it was not just whisky that the ship was carrying. There was a lot of money too which was onboard the vessel, the SS Politician, which disappeared along with the cases of whisky.
In 1941 the SS Politician sank around the Island of Eriskay in Scotland. It was eight years later that this incident was novelized and the story retold of how the locals found the ship’s cargo and managed to hide all of it before the men from excise managed to find any of it. Along with the liquid cargo there was an additional eight cases of currency that came from United States and West Indies. The Crown Agents tried their very best to make sure that these stolen currencies would not come into circulation and assured the administration of Jamaica of the same. But over the years these stolen notes kept appearing from time to time at banks across the globe.
The SS Politician set sail during the time of whisky rationing. When it was wrecked off around the Island region in Scotland in a small island group called the Great Toddy and Little Toddy, it was almost like people had been given a new lease of life! The people of this area saw this incident as god sent as they had almost run out of whisky in the island. Several cases of fine whisky were retrieved and salvaged before the ship sank but in order to enjoy their spoils, the people of this area had to ensure that the English Home Guard Captain wouldn’t get a hold of the liquor and confiscate it. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse and of clever wit and humor between the poor people and the pompous, selfish and misguided Captain.
Though the main premise of the story is the wreckage and the cargo theft, the author cleverly weaves in the details of life in Outer Hebrides. This also includes some major clashes of culture between the island of Great Toddy which had a Protestant population and the island of Little Toddy which had a Roman Catholic population. The author also weaves in little sub plots to the narrative such as that of a couple wanting to get married to take the story forward and improve its commercial appeal.
While the novel Whisky Galore has elements of fiction in it, the event is a real life incident. According to history records the main problem that the people faced here was that of transferring the whisky. The main consignment of the ship was metal vats of whisky which were being shipped to the United Stated to be matured in barrels. The main problem for the people was to find containers and bottles that could hold the consignment easily. So popular was this book that it was made into a film in 1949.