While whisky investment can be an exciting and potentially lucrative project, there is no doubt that that the tale of the ship full of Scotch that ran aground and had its cargo pinched by opportunistic Hebridean islanders still captures the imagination, even if it cost nothing for those who were never caught.
The SS Politician ran aground on Eriksay in 1941 and the tale of the locals who swiped the loose bottles and then avoided attempts by police and the taxmen to find them was such an endearing true life story that it was turned into a film, Whisky Galore, in 1949, with a remake in 2016.
Now, a 100-year-old veteran of the incident has revealed his own involvement. Willie Macleod, from the Isle of Lewis, was one of the salvage team at the wreck and he managed to get his hands on 12-14 bottles.
Speaking on the BBC Alba show Trusadh, he revealed: “I had them in a case under the bed and I was onboard the Politician when a launch came past and this was the customs. I thought ‘that’s my whisky gone.’” However, it turned out the boat was actually paying a visit to a neighbour who had about 25 bottles and whose wife had tipped off customs officers as he was constantly drunk.
Mr Macleod also revealed that during a party 15 years after the incident he met a retired policeman who had been on the ship and had spotted a man with a briefcase who he thought was one of those involved in taking the whisky. However, the inspector was persuaded by the ship’s captain to go for a dram with him instead of following the suspect.
This was just as well, as the man with the briefcase was Willie Macleod.
Of course, there are far more legitimate ways of acquiring whisky, but the epic tale of the SS Politician remains one of living memory.Unfortunately, the 1990s launch of a blended whisky called SS politician, which mixed small amounts of salvaged Scotch from the wreck’s cargo with other malts, was not a success. But many salvaged bottles from the ship have been sold at auction.