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The Legend of Whisky Galore

The famous tale of how a group of Scottish islanders raided a shipwreck for its consignment of 24,000 cases of whisky has grown into a legend.

But the wreck of the ship that became the inspiration for one of Britain's best-loved films was carrying something far more valuable.

Official files released recently by the Public Records Office show that it was not just spirits that disappeared - but a substantial sum of hard cash.

The SS Politician sank off the Scottish Island of Eriskay in 1941 and eight years later the film Whisky Galore recounted the story of how the locals raced to retrive the ship's liquid cargo, hiding the bottles before the excise men could find them.

But as well as whisky, the Politician was carrying eight cases of currency to the West Indies and the United States.

In all, there were nearly 290,000 ten-shilling notes, which would be worth the equivalent of several million pounds at today's prices.

Although the Crown Agents, who were supplying the notes to the colonial administration in Jamaica, were confident they would not get into circulation, for years they kept turning up at banks around the world.

In April 1941 Captain E. Lauriston, who was in charge of the salvage operation noted that there were reports of banknotes from the wreck turning up on Benbecula.

The Crown Agents were not concerned, noting in a memorandum : "the local police service is in no doubt on a very, very small scale but the nature of the place and its surroundings should tend to reduce the chances of serious loss through the notes being presented and paid."

The following month, however, an empty cash case was found abandoned in the hold of the ship. By June of that year the notes, were turning up in bank branches as far away as Liverpool. By mid July, 168 had been tendered in Jamacia and 141 in Britain.

By 1958, the Crown Agents reported that 211,267 notes had been recovered by the salvage company or Scottish police and had been destroyed.

A further 2,329 had been presented in banks in England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Malta, Canada, the United States and Jamacia, of which only 1,509 were thought to have been presented in good faith. But that still left 76,404 notes which were never accounted for and whose fate remains unknown.


The current trend for remakes of classic films is set to continue with plans for a new version of arguably Scotland's finest film, Whisky Galore! The remake of the classic Ealing comedy set in the Western Isles is the brainchild of French-based media giant Canal Plus.
The original, shot on location on Barra in 1948, tells the story of a ship that runs aground off the fictitious island of Todday and the wily islanders' attempts to outwit Customs officers and salvage thousands of cases of whisky.
The film was based on a novel by Compton Mackenzie, which was inspired by the wreck of the SS Politician off Eriskay in 1941.
It is understood "advance discussions" are under way between representatives of Canal Plus and a British production company to remake the film, but no stars have been chosen yet.
Donald Manford, Western Isles councillor for Barra, welcomed the proposal.
He said: "It would be absolutely wonderful to shoot the film on Barra again, both for the economy directly and the impact the movie would have on tourism by advertising the beauty of the island.
"A remake is certainly something I would strongly encourage and we would help the film's makers in any way we can."
Mr Manford, whose grandfather was involved in the real-life drama on Eriskay more than 60 years ago, added: "People around here joke that the only politician that brought us any good is lying at the bottom of the sea. Maybe she will bring us luck again."
The original film had a large cast including the leading Scottish actors of the day such as Gordon Jackson, Duncan Macrae and James Robertson Justice.
Scottish first-time director Sandy Mackendrick and an 80-strong cast and crew sailed for Barra from Oban, and had to contend with the worst summer for 80 years.
The film went over budget and over schedule and was considered a disaster when studio boss Michael Balcon first saw it.
He wanted to cut it down and release it as a supporting film. It was re-edited, but the film still performed poorly on its original release. A sequel, called Rockets Galore!, was also shot on Barra.
Calan Plus inherited the rights to the Ealing comedies and other British films through a series of takeovers, and is keen to exploit remake rights.
Articles Courtesy of The Press and Journal 07.07.03


JANUARY 2004 - Team signs up for Whisky Galore remake

Plans for a remake of the classic film Whisky Galore have taken a step forward, with a British production team signing up to the project.
Whisky Galore Film Ltd, comprising the people behind films such as the Madness of King George and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, could be making the Outer Hebridean island of Eriskay famous again as the backdrop of the now-legendary Compton MacKenzie tale.
It was revealed last year that French film company Canal Plus, which now owns all the Ealing Comedy rights, was planning to remake the 1949 classic. It is understood the remake is to be shot in Scotland.
A statement from the production company read: "Whisky Galore Film Ltd can confirm they have optioned from Studio Canal the remake rights of Sir Compton MacKenzie's book Whisky Galore. We are in the early stages of development, but will hopefully soon be in a position to formally release full details on the project."
Articles Courtesy of The Press and Journal 19.01.04



A New version of one of Scotland's finest films, Whisky Galore, is to be shot in the Western Isles, it has been confirmed, and the producer will be a Lewis man.
Leading French film company Canal Plus has signed a deal with the British production team Whisky Galore Film Ltd, which was set up last year by Iain Maclean and Ed Crozier for the purpose of remaking the movie.
Lewis man Mr Maclean, from Leurbost in Lochs, said yesterday: "We have every intention of shooting the new Whisky Galore in the Western Isles, and everything is going well."
He said that, unlike the original, they did not intend to shoot the entire film on Barra, but were keen to use various locations throughout the Western Isles.
"We would film from Barra up to the west coast of Lewis. This would mean that the whole of the Western Isles would benefit as it would be a massive boost to the islands in terms of tourism."
The idea to remake Whisky Galore came from Iain himself and he approached a friend working in London's west end shows.
Respected UK film producer Stephen Evans became involved. He has been responsible for 13 films which have received 11 Academy Award nominations, including two Oscars.
His hits include The Madness of King George, Wings of the Dove and The Luzhin Defence.
Most recently, he was executive producer of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, directed by George Clooney.
The original Whisky Galore movie made in 1949, is based on the true story of the sinking of the SS Politician off the Outer Hebrides in 1941, while she was destined for the United States with 50,000 cases of Scotch whisky on board. Islanders made sure that the cargo did not go to waste - and there are still bottles of the famous whisky around.
Compton Mackenzie subsequently wrote the novel Whisky Galore, and eight years later an adaptation of the book was made into a movie.
The new Whisky Galore will, like the original, be set during the war years.
But Mr Maclean said: "We intend starting it off in the present day although mostly it will be set in the same time period as the original. We hope to start filming within the next year."
Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal