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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

THE sinking of the SS Politician

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception



THE sinking of the SS Politician - inspiration for the film Whisky Galore - ran aground off the island of Eriskay in February 1941 with 24,000 cases of Scottish malt in its hold and hard currency worth millions today. Along with the whisky, a lot of the cash simply disappeared.
The story of the missing banknotes is in the files of the Crown Agents department which was responsible for supplying the Empire with currency. In 1941, the department had dispatched 290,000 blue 10-s
hilling notes to the colony of Jamaica.
The Politician, bound for Kingston and New Orleans out of Liverpool, broke up on rocks off Eriskay on February 6 at the start of the dangerous voyage across the submarine-infested North Atlantic. The fate of the money would occupy the department for the next 20 years. link


Arthur H. Hodges was the last Chairman to sign as Island Treasurer and the first to sign as Chairman of the Commissioners of Currency.

Hon. A H. Hodges, Island Treasurer, Chairman (1936 to 1938) - Signature 4

Chairman, Commissioners of Currency (1939 – 1940’s).

This photograph was taken mid to late 1930's at the Constant Spring Hotel. Arthur Hodges (far left) is shown here with his family.

Further Information: Arthur Harris Hodges C.M.G., M.L.C. Island Treasurer and Chairman Commissioners of Currency. Born in England, December 16, 1884, entered Imperial Service 1903. Clerk, Accountant Generals Department G.P.O. London. 
Accountants Office G.P.O. Bloemfontein. In 1904 served in the civil service Orange River Colony, Australia. Appointed Assistant Treasurer to Nigeria in 1910 and made Deputy Treasurer in 1921. Acting Treasurer for Nigeria 1925 – 27 – 28 and 1932. Posted to Jamaica 22nd November, 1934 and became Island Treasurer from 1936 – 1938. Chairman Commissioners of Currency 1939 – 194(2). Appointed C.M.G. June 1938. Lived at 47 Lady Musgrave
Road, St. Andrew, Jamaica.
Collection National Archives UK
Andre Chin's photo.


"JAMAICA 10 SHILLING (S.S. POLITICIAN NOTE)" - The Government of Jamaica 10 Shilling note as shown is dated 1st November, 1940. The colours are blue, pink and green. The obverse shows King George VI, and the Jamaican Coat of Arms on the reverse. The watermark is a pineapple. The printers were Thomas De La Rue & Co Ltd., London, England and the printed signature is that of the Hon. Arthur H. Hodges (Chairman, Commissioners of Currency); The reverse design!! - Private Collection

"JAMAICA 10 SHILLING (S.S. POLITICIAN NOTE)"

The S.S. Politician (A Cargo Vessel) sailed out of Liverpool in February 1941 bound for Jamaica with a cargo of 250,000 bottles of Whisky and 200,000 pounds (400,000 pieces) of Jamaica 10 shilling notes dat
ed 1940. Due to the war being raged in Europe, the German U-Boats were taking a heavy toll on the British and American merchant vessels with heavy loss of life in the Atlantic. The S.S. Politician was ordered to sail north along the coast and to cross the Atlantic by its northern waters. This route took them up the coast of Scotland where the ship ran aground near to the islands of Barra and Eriskay by the western isle. The ship was stuck but did not sink immediately as it was upright for a quite a few days. The crew of the politician were rescued by the Islanders and given shelter during their wait for rescue by the British Authorities.

It was not too long before the Islanders discovered that amongst the Cargo was a substantial consignment of whisky, a commodity which had become scarce in wartime Britain. The subsequent looting by the islanders of an estimated 2000 cases of whisky as well as other cargo left the ships cargo hold in a sorry state. The records of The Bank of England shows that after destroying most of the salvaged notes, 76,400 pieces were still unaccounted for. All the unaccounted pieces have serial numbers starting with C/10 or C/11 and just about all have the staining on the top edge of the note. Small quantities started turning up in England and Jamaica between 1947 to the 1950's. The Jamaican Government demonetized the early blue ten shilling notes in 1950 and replaced it with a purple and orange note of similar design. 

The story of the grounding and looting of the S.S. Politician was made famous by Compton Mackenzie in his novel "Whisky Galore" which later was made into a film.

The Government of Jamaica 10 Shilling note as shown is dated 1st November, 1940. The colours are blue, pink and green. The obverse shows King George VI, and the Jamaican Coat of Arms on the reverse. The watermark is a pineapple. The printers were Thomas De La Rue & Co Ltd., London, England and the printed signature is that of the Hon. Arthur H. Hodges (Chairman, Commissioners of Currency); Showing the obverse of this note, see next photo for the reverse

COMMISSIONERS OF CURRENCY FOR THE YEAR 1940

Hon. A. H. Hodges - Chairman
Hon. M.H. Hawkes - Collector General
Hon. Sir Thomas Roxburgh KT CMG

A. H. Hodges - sig. 4
Chairman, Commissioners of Currency (1939 – 1940’s). - Private Collection
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