Friday, 18 May 2007

Ghost Story

On 4 August 1982 my mother and father sailed out of Loch Eynort in South Uist, and set a course south for North Bay, Barra. By late morning they were off the south-eastern tip of South Uist, with Hartamul Isle, Eriskay, coming up abeam.

My father went below to do some navigating at the chart table (this was before the days of sat nav), leaving my mother alone at the wheel. It was misty seawards, so she was keeping an eye open for fishing boats.

Suddenly, she saw the loom of something to the east. For a moment she thought it might be a glimpse of a hill on Rhum - but Rhum was over 30 miles away, and visibility was less than six miles. She reached for the binoculars, focussed, and saw a ship bearing down on them fast, with foam creaming from the bows.

Panicking a bit, she called down to my father that there was a boat steaming straight at them. He came scrambling up from below, and they looked....and saw nothing. Nothing but the misty Sea of the Hebrides. They stared, unable to understand how, with visibility at five to six miles, a ship so close could have disappeared completely.

Later my father thought of the SS Politician - the 8,000 ton 'Whisky Galore' ship that had run at speed onto the rocks of Hartamul Isle off Eriskay on 5 February 1941. When my mother saw the ship, they must have just about been crossing the fatal track she came in on forty-one years before.

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