A bottle of whisky, pulled from a wreckage in Scottish seas, has found its new home at the Scottish Maritime Museum. The unlabelled bottle, from the SS Politician which ran aground off Eriskay in 1941, was one of 264,000 bottles retrieved from the sunken vessel and has now become part of the museum’s collection.
The bottle joins a diving helmet, worn by the diver who recovered the artefacts, two bricks carried as cargo on the vessel and a poster of the 2016 remake of Whisky Galore! – the novel and film that document the story. Abigail McIntyre, senior curator of Scotland’s national maritime collection was thrilled to offer the relics a home.
“We’re over the moon to add this bottle of whisky, which has become so embedded in Scottish island folklore, to the collection. There are so many fascinating topics we can explore with our visitors through it, from island life during the war period, to underwater archaeology and recovery, challenging our understanding and portrayal of smuggling in Scottish waters.
“The wreck of the SS Politician had a profound effect on the life of the islanders of Eriskay. As well as looking at the impact of the shipwreck generally, we can also explore maritime laws and their implications through this wonderful new artefact.”
Due to the fragile nature of the items, they needed to be handled with extreme care. The museum enlisted the help of Malcolm McArdle from PACK & SEND Glasgow City, and his team’s innovative ways of transporting fragile items, to take the bottle from the Scottish island of Orkney to the mainland. Consisting of a short trip on water and a 300+ mile trip on road to the museum, it was a fascinating project for Malcolm and his team.
“The tale of the SS Politician is famous in Scotland, so to be a small part of its story felt great. We came up with a solution to ensure the items were packaged and transported securely, arriving safely at the destination. We’ve had many weird and wonderful items come through the doors of our service centre, but this was really special.”
After finding its new home at the beginning of October, the bottle of whisky will initially go on show in the boatshop exhibition space at the Linthouse Building in Irvine, where it will be free to view. It will then feature in a “Smuggling and Swashbuckling” exhibition in 2023.