At the dawn of the millennium Eriskay entered a new era, when a causeway connecting it to South Uist by road was finally opened – making it easier than ever to discover the delights of this island.
Eriskay is alive with the essence of the Outer Hebrides – and as such has provided much inspiration to the arts, prompting the penning of the famous Hebridean song, the Eriskay Love Lilt as well as furnishing the storyline for one of Scotland’s most famous stories – Whisky Galore
It was off the shores of Eriskay that the ship the S.S Politician foundered in 1941 – and from here that the local seafaring community set sail to salvage her precious cargo of Whisky – which was in short supply on the islands during the war years. Island fishermen used their boats to reach the wreck, reportedly bringing more thousands of the bottles ashore, which they distributed across the island using the indigenous Eriskay ponies – a hardy Hebridean breed of which there are only around 400 left on earth.
To prevent staining their fishing clothes with oil from their vessel, they dressed in their wives garments for the murky mission - something of a risk for sailors who reputedly each usually wore a traditional seamless Eriskay jersey knitted to their own unique pattern to facilitate identification in the event of an accident.
The incident became the basis from Compton Mackenzie’s book Whisky Galore, which was later brought to the big screen by the world famous Ealing Studios, and visitors to Eriskay today can see an original bottle of the whisky brought ashore from the stricken ship displayed behind the bar at the Am Politician Lounge in Balla.
Of course, contraband is not the only famous thing to have come ashore on Eriskay’s stunning white sands – the island is where Bonnie prince Charlie first set foot on Scottish soil and it is said that the pink flowers that bloom here in the machair grasses grew from seeds he dropped from his handkerchief on his arrival before heading off to the mainland to lead the Jacobite Rebellion.
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