King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 eBook

Edward Keble Chatterton
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855.

It was not many years after this incident that a 70-ton cutter named the Charming Molly arrived at Portsmouth.  A Customs officer went on board her and found a man named May, who produced the key of the spirit-room, saying he was master of the ship.  In the spirit-room the Customs officer found a hogshead of gin containing 62 gallons.  May was anxious to show that this was quite legitimate, as there were sixteen men aboard and the contents of this cask were for their use.  The Customs officer now inquired if there was any more liquor on the ship, and May replied in the negative, at first.  The officer then said he would search the cabin, whereupon May added that there was a small cask which he had picked up at sea and had kept for the crew’s use.  This cask was found in May’s own state-room, and contained about three gallons of brandy, though it was capable of holding another gallon and no doubt recently had so done.  However, May now said that that was the entire lot, and there was not a drop of anything else on board.  Yet again the officer was not to be put off, and found in the state-room on the larboard side a place that was locked.  May then explained that this locker belonged to a man named Sheriff, who was at present ashore, and had the key with him.  However May volunteered, if the officer saw fit, to open it, but at the same time assured him there was no liquor therein.  The officer insisted on having it broken open, when there were discovered two new liquor cases containing each twelve bottles of brandy, making in all eight gallons, and two stone bottles of brandy containing five gallons.  Even now May assured the officer that he had no more in the ship, but after a further search the officer found twelve dozen bottles of wine in a locked locker in the cabin.

We need not follow this case any further, but as a fine example of deliberate lying it is hard to beat.  Throughout the exciting career of a smuggler, when chased or captured, in running goods by night or stealing out to get clear of the land before the sun came up, this one quality of coolness in action or in verbal evasion ever characterised him.  He was so frequently and continuously face to face with a threatening episode that he became used to the condition.


[10] See also Appendix I.



We have already frequently referred to the Riding officers who were attached to practically all the chief ports of England.  For the reasons already given the south-east coast had especially to be well provided in this respect.  And, because of the proximity to the Isle of Man, the Solway Firth had also to be protected efficiently by these officers, additional, of course, to the aid rendered by the cruisers.  Wales, however, seems to have been left practically unprotected.  In the year 1809 there was inaugurated what was known as the Preventive Waterguard in order to supplement the endeavours of the cruisers and Riding officers.  Under this arrangement the coast of England and Wales was divided into three districts, each of which was under an Inspecting Commander, the Revenue cruisers being now included in the Preventive Waterguard.

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King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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