Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie

This is just the second book by Compton Mackenzie which I’ve read. I started off with Keep the Home Guard Turning and this one is its sequel. World War ll is having more of an impact on the islanders than before. Disaster has struck and there is no whisky to be had anywhere. Previously they had been rationed to one ‘nip’ every other day but now the islands of Little Todday and Great Todday are completely dry and the boat is eagerly awaited, hoping it’ll be loaded with whisky supplies but the islanders are always disappointed. All of the whisky which is being produced is being sent to America to help pay for the war.

Sergeant-major Odd who comes from London/Nottingham has come back from Africa where he had been sent on war business and is determined to marry his Peggy. The few English characters in the book give Mackenzie the chance to have some fun with the different accents, he obviously had a good ear and although it doesn’t appear in this book, I was impressed that in the first one he wrote the Scottish characters saying amn’t I and English ones saying aren’t I, some writers who should know better don’t seem to have noticed the distinction.

Anyway, if you’ve seen the film which was made of this book in 1948 you’ll know that relief for the islanders comes in the shape of the ship the SS Cabinet Minister. When she runs aground on some rocks it isn’t long before the men of the two Toddays come to the rescue and they’re thrilled to learn from the crew that the ship is carrying 50,000 crates of whisky, bound for America.

Well they can’t leave it all to the tender mercies of the sea can they! I could only find a teeny wee bit of the film on You Tube, but it gives you an idea of it.

This book was first published in 1947 and the author does admit that a ship called SS Politician, with a similar cargo did come to grief off the island of Eriskay in 1945, and Mackenzie claims that that is where the similarities end!! This is another humorous read from the author who is better known for his Monarch in the Glen books.

Mackenzie based another of his books on the same islands, it’s called Rockets Galore and I’ll be reading that one next year for Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland 2014 challenge.

6 thoughts on “Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie

  1. Want to read these books, but haven’t found Whiskey Galore in digital for free yet. Will have to break down and buy it. I have quite a few of his other books in digital though and have read 2 Monarch of the Glen books. Love the video. Be sure and click on the snippet Whiskey Galore Drinking Song in the right top corner after this snippet is done!

  2. My favourite film!

    Did I tell you that our choir’s former Gaelic tutor (92years old now and fit as a flea) was at home in Eriskay after the Politician went aground and that her father was one of the islanders who took bottles from the ship. Her mother hid some bottles in the peat stack,and when the excisemen came looking for whisky they started dismantling the peats. They gave up as their hands were scratched and cut by the roots in the dried turves, but little did they know that that was exactly where her mother had hidden the bottles they had! Her mother had called their bluff when they said they would search the stack. Living history!

    • Evee,
      The film was on yesterday, it almost wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
      That is amazing that you know someone who was involved in the real thing and it hadn’t even occurred to me that the turves would be hard to handle.

  3. I was looking for a book that takes place in Scotland and I think this one will do just fine! I’m in the mood for a humorous read. I found the book AND the movie on the internet. This is going to be a fun book and film!

    • nancy burns,
      I really enjoyed the book. I have a feeling that the film might be in black and white so might feel really dated. I hope you enjoy it.

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