The story of Whisky Galore, Sir Compton MacKenzie‘s fictitious account of the grounding of a ship bearing a load of whisky on the shores of one of the Outer Hebridean islands, and of the hilarious sequel, is familiar to most of us.
This superbly researched little volume gives the actual facts surrounding the incident. Richard Hutchinson begins with a grim account of the way the inhabitants of that string of islands were treated in the centuries preceding the 1941 grounding of the SS Politician, an 8,000 ton cargo ship, in the Sound of Eriskay.
His sympathy is entirely with the islanders, who, once the ship had been declared a hopeless loss, helped themselves to what they regarded as lawful booty and goods that needed to be saved from the ocean.
The authorities, and particularly two customs officials, disagreed and the outcome was unpleasant for some. I found the entire story spell-binding, right up to the last moment when, only a few years ago, four bottles of the illicit booty appeared under the floorboards of an island cottage.