Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Whisky Galore – and Burns Night ..

We cannot go past 25th January without celebrating Robbie Burns, but as I’ve posted about him before ... I thought whisky galore might be another way of looking at the Scottish whisky legends.
Raspberry Cranachan

So please enjoy your haggis ‘n neaps, cranachan dessert (oatmeal, raspberries, malt whisky, Scottish honey and double cream), toasts of whisky as the pipers pipe the Haggis to the table before serving.

While I remind you of Whisky Galore the book, the film and the Whisky;  I’m not sure why Whisky Galore popped into my head, but it did ... and I then found this fascinating tale.  (The book in the States was released as ‘Tight Little Island’).  I’m sure many of you will have read Compton Mackenzie’s book and/or seen the Whisky Galore Film (1949).

Eriskay is in the Hebrides
Compton Mackenzie’s (1883 - 1972) fictional account based on a real-life incident that occurred in 1941 on the Hebridean island of Eriskay when the S.S. Politician ran aground, and how a group of local Scottish islanders raided a shipwreck for its consignment of whisky – which spawned the legend: Whisky Galore,  (the genre for the book is ‘farce’).

Official files released by the National Archives perhaps 70 years after the event (purely deduced from the Article appearing in The Scotsman seventy years afterwards) ... noted that the cargo of the ship trading with Jamaica and the US via New Orleans contained ....

Beautiful treacherous Eriskay
.... cotton, stoves, cutlery, medicines, baths and biscuits. But that was not all she was carrying.  Secured in hold number 5 were nearly three million pounds of Jamaican banknotes and 260,000 bottles of first class whisky.  As the whisky was for the American market no duty had been paid.  The cargo was expected to sell for nearly half a million pounds.

Some innovative and dynamic whisky experts have very cleverly formed themselves into the Whisky Galore Limited company – trading on the famous name.

SS Politician Whisky
Their website tells of the legend and shows pictures of the whiskies they have created for sale under their banner.  As I mentioned above the official files released by the Public Records Office show that it was not just spirits that disappeared – but a substantial sum of hard cash.

The book encompassed the islanders’ story of how they were determined ‘to have’ the bottles of whisky before the sea swallowed them completely, or before the Excise men arrived to collect the duty.

The thirsty islanders had nearly run out of the “water of life” and saw the grounding of the cargo vessel as an unexpected godsend.  They managed to salvage several hundred cases before Neptune gathered in his bounty.

Mackenzie’s prose captures the various accents of the area and also includes much common Gaelic that was in use at the time; while the book contains a useful glossary of both the meaning and approximately pronunciation of the language.

Whiskies from
You can imagine the gloom descending on the disconsolate natives – no spiritual drink ... but hark, a loud thumping crash is carried with the stormy winds, jagged tearing noises rise above the waves – a ship is downed ... the departing crew allow a glint to the residents’ eyes.

Then of course the farce begins ... typical British Home Guard humour – this time the bumptious Cap’n orders the cargo confiscated ... the wily locals determined to outwit that righteous foreign English commander ..

... let ‘battle’ begin – bottles being smuggled away, hidden in crevices, in caves, buried in crypts ... everywhere ingenious hidey-holes being filled – guess who wins this skirmish ... well we know ... and no doubt many toasts with the golden spirit ensued.

The ship held an even greater treasure which 70 years on is known to us today ... eight cases of currency – in all there were nearly 290,000 ten shilling notes, which would be worth the equivalent of several million pounds today.

Ten shilling note:  Old Mauve Britannia
notes were only issued in war time
Treasures St
The Crown Agents thought the notes would not get into circulation – and to a degree they were correct, but for years they kept turning up at banks around the world.

The Crown Agents in 1941 also noted 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 surrounds should tend to reduce the chances of serious loss through the notes being presented and paid.”

Even contraband notes can find their way around the world ... in 1941 one empty cash case was found abandoned ... by 1958, the Crown Agents reported that 211,267 notes had been recovered by the salvage company of Scottish police – and then had been destroyed.

2,638 notes had been presented in banks in England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Malta, Canada, the United States and Jamaica, of which only 1,509 were thought to have been presented in good faith.  But that leaves 76,404 notes which were never accounted for and whose fate remains unknown.  I wonder when they will show up – and where they are hidden.

A map of the main taste variables in the vast and bewildering universe of uisge beatha.  For further details please visit – it’s a wonderful map isn’t it?

So on this day of Burns’ Night – celebrate with a toast of whisky or other tipple to those smugglers, hoarders, escapaders, authors, script writers  and film makers who give us these legends to draw images from for our future stories or blog posts ....
Whisky Galore Fudge

... the evening is traditionally brought to an end with a vote of thanks (perhaps some whisky fudge), after which everyone is asked to stand, join hands, and sing Auld Lang Syne ... and here endeth Burns Night for another year!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Inger said...

Because of my diabetes, I can't drink whiskey and can't eat those yummy looking pastries, but I can read. And reading this wonderful adventure story, which I had never heard before, brought me a lot of joy. Thank you again for taking the time to inform and entertain.

Old Kitty said...

I do like that map showing the universe of something I can't pronounce but I get the alcoholic drift! I am currently keeping my christmas cake about to be simnel cake (LOL!) with generous amounts of drambuie! Yum!

Happy Burns Night Day to you too!

Take care

Liesl said...

I having hiccups 'cause I drank my beer too fast just now...(we didn't have any whiskey in the house so I had a beer and now I am paying for it!

Birdie said...

My daughter is dancing for a Robbie Burns night on Friday. She hates when they bring out the haggis!

A Lady's Life said...

Well that was fun
Lets celebrate Robbie Burns night lol

April Plummer said...

I don't drink whisky often, but when I do I like Gentleman's Jack. But I prefer to read with my red wine...speaking of which, I haven't had any in awhile...

Anonymous said...

This was very interesting, Hilary. Not being a drinker, I don't know what whisky tastes like. But it's been in our stories for how many years? Ah memories...the stuff, IMHO, that great books are made of! And fun celebrations, too.

I just saw your comment over at Glynis Smy's place about my ghost writing efforts. I told my friend she's got to dig really deep before I can finish the book. She says she's working on it.

Here's joining your hand for an Auld Lang Syne on Burns Night day, an occasion that keeps bringing a smile to my face. I'm also smiling because we have a warm, dry day today here in Virginia USA. Strange weather everywhere, it seems, especially in our country. But there's still that feeling that winter is somewhere just around the corner...That's okay. I'm enjoying the good days as they come!!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Diane said...

I am quite fussy about whisky, but the ones I like, I love. No we did not have haggis tonight. Nigel is back in bed with his second dose of flu since Xmas - we just had left overs! Mind you a hot whisky with lemon and honey went down OK! Diane


Reading your posts Hilary is like going on an adventure without moving from my chair,
This was a good Burns Night blog, though I don't drink because of medication one can imagine.
Thanks for another adventure.

Take care.

Patsy said...

I've only eaten cranachan once, but reading this reminded me of it and I want more NOW!!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Inger - sorry about not letting the mouth partake .. I actually dislike whisky; but am delighted you enjoyed the read. I hadn't come across the story before and was glad to find it for Burns Night.

@ Old Kitty - I think it's the universe of single malt whiskies .. I just loved it - so had to include it.

Ah now Simnel Cake sounds a good idea ... what an excellent thought - where are you now .. I might potter up the M23 and M25 sniffing for drambuie and cake - exactly: Yum!!

Thanks just seen two films!!

@ Liesl - well as long as you haven't got a cobra spitting at you .. I don't mind: that story was delightful .. a real fun read!! A beer seems a good idea for a hot Burns night - I had one of those in Johannesburg .. and it was a hot one - 34 degC .. we wilted.

@ Birdie - that will be fun .. but the haggis is a tradition and I must say I love it - though one or twice a year is enough! I hope your daughter enjoys her dancing on Friday ...

@ A Lady's Life .. glad you enjoyed the post.

@ April .. I know some people love whisky and glad you enjoy your treat occasionally. Red or White wine is me too ... perhaps the time to crack a bottle?

@ Ann .. not nice - but then I don't like whisky!! Your American stories too.

I had no idea what IMHO meant - and had to Google it .. talk about naivitee this end of the world!

Glad the ghost writing is coming along - as the extracts you gave us were very good indeed - it must be tough for your friend .. a difficult story to tell - I admire her courage digging deep.

Thanks Ann - Old Lang Syne has nearly gone here .. but I'll sing with you. The weather is very warm here .. but some cold is coming, but for how long .. as you say enjoy 'the now'.

@ Diane .. oh no - not another attack - gosh I hope you both get clear soon and can enjoy the Spring in good health - my thoughts. Oh yes - I've had a few left overs this year ... and lemon and honey - without the whisky, as it's not my favourite.

@ Yvonne - delighted and thank you so much ; I can imagine medication doing funny things with alcohol - but very glad you enjoyed the tour of the Isles!

@ Patsy - every time Burns Night comes round .. I think to myself one day I must try Cranachan .. and as you say I want one now!!

Cheers everyone and so good to see you - thanks so much for the wonderful comments .. Hilary

Pearson Report said...

Hilary - that was just the best post ever! My dad loved his Whiskey and I enjoyed a whiff myself, now and then, until I discovered Bombay Gin!

But...In honour of the distinguished Mr. Burns I will raise a glass (or two) and say "Prost"!

Super informative and fun post!!

Cheers, Jenny @ PEARSON REPORT

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

I don't drink anymore, but I remember the taste of whiskey--very nice.

E. M. Prokop said...

Another great story...You are wonderful Hilary! I don't drink, but I loved the adventure! I know there are Robbie Burns celebrations/dinners here in my town tonight..he must be celebrated all over the world!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I am teetotaler now but I've had a whiskey or two. It's not for the weak. :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

My father's family is from Scotland, and held Bobby Burns in the highest regard. (My grandmother's bust of him resides on my piano, and my grandfather's collection of Burns' poetry is on my bookshelf.) I'll pass on the haggis, thank you very much, but perhaps a wee nip of whiskey is in order.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jenny - thank you! My Dad did too - but he stopped drinking early on - but I've never liked it, then gin disagreed, but I do like a vodka and tonic.

Hope you enjoyed your glass or two in honour of Mr Burns with a Prost to all blogging friends .. I'll do it with coffee now. Delighted you enjoyed the story ...

@ Richard - for some reason whisky never appealed - but good for being alcohol free.

@ Eve - thanks Eve I aim to please and in doing so help myself too. Yes there were a few celebrations around town here as well - for Rabbie Burns ...

@ Teresa - teetotalling is a good word .. whisky and rum have never been my favourites ..

@ Susan - I remember your comment from last year about your Grandparents love for Mr Burns that they brought with them from Scotland. I think of your bookshelf with its poetry, the piano with its bust occasionally - funny how some comments stick around!

Lovely to see you Jenny, Richard, Eve, Teresa and Susan - hope you enjoyed your tipple to Mr Burns .. enjoy the rest of the week .. cheers Hilary

Bob Scotney said...

I've been surprised that there has been little publicity for Burns Night this year. If I hadn't found some Burns related postcards yesterday it would have passed me by. No excuse for a product of a Scottish University.
I enjoyed you reminding us of Whisky Galore even if I'm not allowed any these days.

Saucy Siciliana said...

That raspbeerry cranachan looks delightful and so tempting, I wish I could taste it! I am following you from Rome, Italy.

Anonymous said...

I don't partake in the spirits, but found your post an interesting read. That raspberry cranachan looked interesting. I'd be willing to give it a try, if I had the chance.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bob .. I had heard bits and pieces going on .. and I'll be over to look at your blog - the Burns info - sounds interesting.

I hope you had a dram or two .. especially if you graced their shores for a degree! Oh I see you didn't - as you're not allowed sorry ...

@ Francesca - delighted to have someone following me from Rome - the Saucy Sicialana blog sounds fun - I'll be over ..

One day I must try or make the raspberry cranachan .. does look and sound very tasty ..

Thanks Bob and Francesca - delighted to see you both .. cheers Hilary

Julie Flanders said...

I hadn't heard of Robbie Burns night, but now I want to celebrate. Love the Whiskey Galore story, I was not familiar with that either. Now I'm wondering where and when those notes will turn up too, what a fun story. :)

Unknown said...

I have never tried Whisky but I want to before I die. I didn't know there were so many kinds. How cool to find so much 'treasure' Whisky on a ship.

Helen Ginger said...

Love the story! I don't drink whiskey, but I might partake of that whiskey fudge!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I agree with Yvonne. I could travel with you, Hilary all day long. This was another fascinating post. I don't drink much, but if I change, I'll definitely check out all of the above. Hee. I do like Crown Royal on those special freezing winter nights.

Unknown said...

When I lived in Orkney, the Burns Night Supper was one of the highlights of the year. I still miss it!

I love whisky. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - haven't you .. I'm quite surprised. I too loved the Whisky Galore story and glad I found it and posted about it .. yes - I wonder where the notes are to be found ...?!

@ Clarissa - ah! definitely something to be tried ... but ask someone who knows their whiskies .. when you try. I just loved the legend of Whisky Galore and the map ...

@ Helen - thanks .. you're right the story is such fun ... I'll share the whisky fudge with you - looks beautifully packaged, doesn't it?

@ Joylene - thanks so much - I see the Crown Royal whisky is only made near Lake Winnipeg! so you are supporting a local brand.

Thanks Julie, Clarissa, Helen and Joylene .. delighted to see you .. cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shirley .. must have been very interesting living in Orkney - with all their traditions .. and I can imagine Burns Night was special. One day perhaps you'll get back again for a visit ..

Cheers Hilary

Linda said...

What a spirited tale! Money, whisky, looting. As always you bring us enlightenment, wonderful images and a bit of history. I don't blame those thirsty islanders for salvaging all that fine whisky.

Talli Roland said...

I forgot all about Burns Night! I do love some good whisky - the smokier, the better.

I'd love to know where those notes are hidden!

Pearl said...

That was fabulous. I'd no idea!


Susan Scheid said...

I seem to be having trouble getting comments to take tonight, so trying again. Even though I'm a day late to the celebration, I enjoyed every whisky-filled line. Makes a lot more sense to salvage whisky ahead of the excise man than throwing tea into the Boston Harbor.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Linda .. exactly as you say .. and nor do I blame them for salvaging what they could get and improving their lives briefly ..

@ Talli .. well you are doing much more important things and getting first hand accounts of the Spring uprisings of last year - I'm looking forward to reading more insights of your visit to Mr TR's homeland - Egypt.

@ Pearl - good to meet you and thank you for following and commenting ..

@ Susan - your latest post on the Japanese Exhibition at the Met - is superb ... and I'm so looking forward to returning to hear some of the music you've selected.

It's interesting you struggle to comment here - whereas I can't comment in embedded comments and quite often the blog freezes and I can't even read.

Anyway - glad you enjoyed the post .. and as you say salvaging seems much more sensible than waste - the Boston tea party was another story.

Here's to a Burns night tipple for those that missed out .. and thanks so much for visiting - Linda, Talli, Pearl and Susan - cheers Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Hilary, I want to join in these Whisky Galore celebrations. Sounds intriguing. Hand me the whisky fudge. Ohhhhh!

Thanks for alerting me to not being able to comment. A common enough problem at the mo. I've reverted to pop up window. Maybe that'll help.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise .. I think I'll stick with the whisky fudge - the drink does nothing for me. But the Burns night celebrations .. would be fun!

Pleasure - I've been over to comment - it's so frustrating this commenting business ..

Cheers and have a good weekend .. Hilary

April Plummer said...

Morning! I've nominated you. :)

Chase March said...

That cash must be long gone. How would anyone be able to spend it if they were in possession of it anyway?

It's a "wayst" - That was the word verification for this post. Thought that was kind of funny. It sounds or looks like how Burns might have penned the word in a rhyme.

Cheers (even though I don't drink - I've got my water bottle)

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Excellent read Hilary and thanks for your email that I will reply to now!

Lovely to see another post on the Bard!

Anna :o]

Juliet said...

What a great story of ingenuity and good spirits (!) Thank you Hilary.

Karen Lange said...

Wow, I did not know this, Hilary! I am thinking I should hire you to do my research for me - you are so good at it! :)
Happy weekend,

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Has anyone looked under Dunvagen Castle on the Isle of Skye? I wouldn't put it past the MacLeods to have confiscated, hidden and built over the fortune. Aye...I'd look there for sure! :D

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ April .. many thanks for the Versatile Blogger award - I'm really poor with these .. but I love getting them: so many many thanks!

@ Chase .. I agree I think it must have floated away into the North Sea or Baltic .. or frozen wastes of the Artic ...

What a wonderful word verification "wayst" - absolutely right .. Burns would have creased up too - I think. Certainly fits in to the Old English/Scottish feel ..

@ Anna - loved your Rabbie Burns style poem .. it is great. And glad you appreciated this one ..

Thanks for the reply - we'll sort something out .. re commenting.

@ Juliet - it was fun to write as most had been done for me .. glad you enjoyed it.

@ Karen - I am very random! and change my mind quite often .. but I find out so much .. and love writing about things others wouldn't think to blog about .. I really do appreciate your comment.

@ Amy - good thoughts .. I have no idea! I imagine a lot of people looked 'anywhere and everywhere'

I'm not sure how you can speak ill of your forebears?! Perhaps you'd better come over and we go take a look together - I'd like a share too! Och Aye .. you canna leave me behind .... when you feel like digging let me know ...

Cheers - hope you're having good weekends .. bye for now .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

That sounds like dinner chez Funster. Jim pipes as the chicken and salmon dishes are ferried to the table.

I think a bit of whiskay wiht raspberries and double cream would be very very good.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. sounds absolutely wonderful - always pipe in the dinner .. and that drink of whisky with the cranachan would be so good to finish with .. and definitely no washing up that night!

Cheers - enjoy Sunday - have fun practising your songs and devising new lyrics .. Hilree xoxox

Empty Nest Insider said...

I'm going straight for the Whisky Galore Fudge! I hope it has a little chocolate thrown in to the mix. Another great post Hilary! Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. actually that's a good idea .. chocolate whisky fudge! Glad you enjoyed the story .. cheers Hilary

Grace said...

I love your blog. It's always full of interesting stories. You clearly put a great deal of time in this and I for one wish to thank you for doing so.

It's been a wee bit since I have visited you, but am all caught up now on your posts.

Thanks again for all your hard work and for all the entertainment and education that you give us.

In Him,

Theresa Milstein said...

Whiskey is a big deal to a lot of people. Even more than I knew! I don't have many mixed drinks and I never have anything on the rocks. But I can see if were out at sea for an extender period of time booze would be as important as money.

Janet Johnson said...

Loved the story of Whiskey Galore. I can just picture the scene. :)

As always fascinating stuff!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Grace .. many thanks and I'm so pleased you enjoy the articles and stories I weave around.

No worries - I've been busy myself .. and sort of wing quietly along .. and get to blogs as and when I can.

Just appreciate your comment.

@ Theresa .. certainly whisky suits some peoples' habits (personally I dislike it - as I do rum, and I can't drink gin) - but it's mainly the islanders' who got the relief from having a wee dram when it was going - so a boat load of the stuff was a real treat in war-time austerity! On the ships I imagine it was rationed out each day ...

@ Janet - great to see you .. and glad you can picture the craggy rocks and men scrambling to rescue cargo and cash! Glad you found it fun.

Thanks Grade, Theresa and Janet .. have good weeks - cheers Hilary

The Blonde Duck said...

It looks like a rumbling good time!

Golden Eagle said...

Those are a lot of lost notes! I wonder if they'll ever turn up . . .

Interesting post! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Blonde Duck .. not sure it was exactly that - but those islanders weren't going to miss out on any good fortune that just might be coming their way whisky!

@ Golden Eagle - I wonder too - it would be lovely to come across one of the ten shilling war-time notes .. glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks so much - cheers Hilary

Wholesale Printing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Davina Haisell said...

Hi Hilary.

I had trouble getting past the "haggis ‘n neaps, cranachan dessert." :-)

I have not read Mackenzie's book, nor seen the Whisky Galore Film. But I found the account of the S.S. Politician to be very entertaining.

I haven't had any whiskey in years but when I did drink it, I mixed it with Coca Cola. I'm more of a rum drinker, myself, but cheers to you, Hilary, and a belated Robbie Burns day.

Thanks for this post. As Inger said, way back at the top of the comment stream, this was quite an adventure.

Anonymous said...

This is a great tale and one told best during an evening of enjoying a bottle of great whisky. Its been years since I drank any but I sure am tempted to go to the store and buy a bottle. But I'll refrain. But for how long .....

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Davina - I too can get stuck on the food elements in peoples' blogs .. just glad Mackenzie had the idea of writing a book, and the early film would have suited the British so well in the late 1940s .. rock scrambling and old salts drinking their whisky.

I don't like whisky, nor rum! But each to our own .. and thanks for coming by and commenting - it was fun to write about ..

@ Stephen - you've got something there .. where the whiff of Player's tobacoo, the salt air, the crashing waves, and cruel rocks could be elaborated on - along with another glass of the spirit.

After your achievements and successes perhaps a dram or two will be deserved .. what you do with the rest of the bottle - I've no idea!

Thanks Davina and Stephen .. great comments - cheers Hilary