Thursday, 9 August 2012

ERISKAY

Eriskay secured its place in history in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived there with a handful of followers, intent on starting an uprising in support of his father James Stewart, the exiled King of Great Britain. It is said that a reminder of that event lives on in the form of the sea bindweed which grows on the island. This plant is not native to the Hebrides, and the story goes that the Prince accidentally let some seeds drop from a handkerchief after landing on the island. Another event which the island is famous for, and which was the inspiration for a book and a film, was the story of a shipwreck which was raided by the islanders for its consignment of 24,000 cases of whisky. The ship was the SS Politician, which sank off the island in 1941 and the book was Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie, which came out in 1947, followed by an Ealing comedy film two years later. The film was actually shot on the nearby island of Barra. It has since transpired that it was not only whisky that disappeared from the shipwreck, but also a substantial sum of money. The SS Politician was carrying eight cases of currency bound for the West Indies and the United States.

Eriskay is a mere 6 square miles, with around 100 inhabitants. There is just one shop, which was started by the local people as a co-operative after the island's shop and post office closed in the late 1970s. Being the only shop on the island, it offers a wide range of goods and doubles as a Post Office. The island as a whole was taken over by the residents in 2006 in a community buy-out. Eriskay can be reached from South Uist by a causeway, from where a narrow, gently undulating road weaves through the emerald green machair, which in spring is thick with daisies and marsh marigolds. In summer there are boat trips with a good chance of seeing the bottle nosed dolphins which visit the waters off the island at this time of year.

Map of the island.


Bonnie Prince Charlie's Beach © 2004 Kenny Davidson, via Wikimedia Commons


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