After the stranding

archive photo of a ship close to shore
Photograph of 'SS Politician' stranded at Eriskay, painted in war-time colours. B/HAR/12/BoxN/3/1, S2006.00653, Harrison Line archive, copyright unknown, Courtesy of Charente Ltd

At 10.30am on 5 February 1941 one of the ship's lifeboats left with 26 men and was washed ashore at the foot of the cliffs of Rudha Dubh, across the Sound on South Uist. Although the boat was smashed to pieces the crew survived without any injuries, but they returned to the 'Politician' by the Eriskay ferryboat later the same day. At 4.45pm the RNLI lifeboat came from Barra to rescue all of the 50 crew and land them on the Island of Barra. Chief Officer RA Swain recalls how the islanders were "very kind, replenished us with hot drinks laced with good rum, and generally made us very comfortable for the night".

The next morning, 6 February, Captain Worthington and his officers returned to the ship to see if there was any hope of re-floating her, but water had flooded the engine room and several of the ships' holds.

On 8 February the Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association tender 'SS Ranger' arrived with a party of salvage experts led by Commander Kay and divers, to survey the damage to the ship. The Ranger also supplied power to the winches to help the Captain and crew remove some of the 500 tons of cargo, which as well as the whisky included cars, bicycles, mail and cotton. The severe gales hampered attempts to remove the cargo and inspect the ship for salvage. It was not until 15 February that divers were able to inspect the ship's hull. Captain Kay, in charge of the salvage operation, decided to make no attempt to save the whisky as its hold (number 5) was flooded with water and fuel oil, and he believed it was contaminated. For this reason he didn't place an armed guard on the ship.

archive photo of a ship
Photograph of the Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association's tender 'Ranger' in the Mersey. PR 270, copyright unknown

On 18 February the coaster 'Corteen' began loading the salvaged cargo, and four days later sailed for Glasgow fully loaded. The salvors had salvaged as much of the cargo as they could without diving and on 24 February the salvage officer, Commander Kay, signalled "Regret... diver's examinations shows salvage of vessel impracticable". The ship was declared a total loss and it was decided to leave the 'Politician' where she was. That same day, 24 February, the crew left the ship for the last time, and Harrisons gave notice of the abandonment of the ship to the insurers. On 12 March the Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association abandoned the salvage project.