View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Politician

The SS Politician was a merchant ship, which was sailing from Liverpool to Jamaica in December 1941. On February 5th, she ran aground on the island of Calvay, between the larger islands of Eriskay and South Uist. She later broke up and sank. Her cargo included tens of thousands of bottles of whisky - which inspired Compton Mackenzie to write his famous book Whisky Galore, the word Galore being one of the few Gaelic words that are in common usage in English today. Gu Leor means plenty.

The whisky was salvaged by the islanders. Although a near-endless supply of whisky may seem like heaven on earth, it did cause serious health problems in the longer run. Alcoholism and all its attendant problems, for instance.

The Politician did not just carry whisky. She also had a consignment of Jamaican banknotes, a grand piano, bathroom fittings and bicycles. The fittings were put to good use outside one islander's home, and were still being used decades later - in an outhouse beside a stream.

Even here in Lewis, there are stories around, if you know where to listen. Of the odd case being 'smuggled on request', and the skipper of the ferry distracting the 'polis' whilst the runner makes his get-away.

Friday 4 February

Yesterday's storm finally abated after midnight, but not before blasting the north of Lewis and Shetland with gusts of 104 mph. A fishing vessel broke free from its moorings in Scalloway, Shetland, and had to be tied up again - in 90 mph winds. There appear to have been no casualties. The weather continues inclement in central Scotland, but is not too bad here in the islands. There was a thin drizzle this afternoon.

Events in Egypt continue to develop unpredictably. Liberation Square remains the focal point for the movement which seeks to oust president Mubarak, whose followers tried to remove the protesters with violence yesterday - unsuccessfully. It would appear that this is an issue for the Egyptians themselves to resolve, and there is no way to predict how it will end.

The fishing vessel Jack Abry II which ran aground on the Isle of Rum earlier this week is still stuck fast. There appears to be an oil leak within the vessel, but no oil is leaking out. Dutch salvage equipment is on its way to the island, but the winter weather may delay the recovery of the boat.
This image courtesy