Cornwall, Smugglers, Poldark land

Ian Parson

It was February the 10th, four days before the feast of St. Valentine.
Precisely on the stroke of mid-day an elaborate golden carriage passed through the arch at Buckingham Palace. Heavy

Cornwall Smugglers

In Poldark days Penzance was infamous for Cornish smugglers.

rain was falling yet the crowds were thick from the palace gates to St. James Chapel. Londoners were determined to enjoy the spectacle regardless of the weather.
Queen Victoria in a stunning, trend-

In Poldark days Cornwall ran on smuggling. Whole villages took part in 'free-trade runs' or smuggling

In Poldark days Cornwall ran on smuggling. Whole villages took part in ‘free-trade runs’ or smuggling

setting white dress was to marry her Prince Albert today. After the ceremony they would return to Buckingham Palace for an elaborate, no expense spared dinner before finally retiring to Windsor Castle where the newly married couple would enjoy some much needed time alone. The crowds were ecstatic. The cannons in a twenty-one gun salute rang out across London.
* * *
The same day a few hours later, off the coast of Cornwall, the bow of a wooden fishing lugger slammed through the mass of icy foam that made up half the six-foot wave. Cold, salty water assaulted all the senses of the young Cornish boy aboard. He forced his stinging eyes to stay open as they reached the peak of the wave and began to tilt forwards. He held on tight as the bottom of the vessel splat down hard. When it did he braced for the wave to try and tear him off his feet. He briefly spotted the silhouette of the Cornish coast before them and his heart longed to be with Betsy, cuddled up in front of the fire. Then the boat rolled and the view was gone. Icy water slapped hard across his face and Betsy faded from his thoughts as the deck moved beneath his feet. There was no denying it, though; he had caught a glimpse of land and that was good enough for him. Holding tightly to the rail he cast his gaze down the side of the boat, and through slitted eyes made out the shape of his Pa at the helm, bellowing instructions.
“Veer starboard boy!” he shouted as another wave crashed onto the bow and saltwater rushed over the decks, grabbing at their ankles as it streamed down the wood.
The boy tightened the sails and the tough little lugger responded instantly.
“’Ow’s it lookin’?” his Pa yelled.
He scanned the sea, the horizon, and the cliffs.
“All clear!” he shouted back.
The way seemed clear, it was now or never, they should continue at top speed.
At the helm his Pa understood and the boat jerked forward for all she was worth. There would be no naval cutters patrolling these waters on a stormy night such as this. Those fine sleek vessels were far too valuable to risk chasing the likes of them. The tough little lugger skilfully hugged the rocky coast, oblivious to the foul weather. If lady luck held the crew could raft the goods over the side and—not a moment too soon—get the hell out of here.
It was not the boy’s first time on a ‘run’. His Pa was a free-trader, a smuggler, just like his father before him, and now the boy was following them in the family business. Smuggling was a side-line that had been the family’s main source of income for years. Officially they were fishermen, but the catch had dwindled year after year, so that now the rum running was vital if they wanted to eat.
They considered themselves fortunate indeed that they still owned the lugger grandpa had built, still had the cottage overlooking the beach, and were still masters of their own destiny. The boy’s Pa was from a long line of proud Cornishmen, so had given his first born son a suitably Cornish name, Joff Owens. Joff was born into footsteps that cast long shadows.
There were four families like theirs in the village, boat owners living in cottages that had been passed down through the generations. They considered themselves fortunate, most of their friends and neighbours were in much less agreeable situation. Yet good fortune brought with it responsibility. Miners, villagers, workers in the fields, all relied on the benefits, the treats and bonuses smuggling provided and it was up to the skippers to ensure all were included.
But of course if all are to benefit then it is only fair that all should be involved in the risks. As the lugger rapidly approached the shore, Joff knew men, women and children were all waiting, ready to play their part.
The fishermen were standing by for the dangerous job of rowing the cargo ashore.
The fit, young men were hidden on and about the beach ready to load the barrels onto their broad shoulders and get them out of sight as soon as possible.
Old ladies and children were spread out along the cliff tops, ready to light the warning fires at the first sign of trouble.
Whilst the old men sat in the Sloop Inn, ready, willing, and able to provide alibis to any who might need them, and Betsy would be sitting by her window gazing out over the stormy sea and no doubt praying for his safe return.

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