Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Smuggler's Life for Me (Part 2): Guest Blogger Jo Ann Brown

Today we welcome back Jo Ann Brown, author of A Bride for the Baron, who has some interesting tales from the smugglers of the Yorkshire coast.

Smugglers developed unique and intriguing ways to bring their illicit goods ashore and to their customers. In some communities, there were elaborate methods developed to hide the merchandise from excise officers. Robin Hood’s Bay, a tiny village south of Whitby in North Yorkshire, is a prime example of such a town. Set on a cliff in a broad cove, it offered smugglers an excellent view of the sea as well as plenty of hiding places.
Many of the smugglers in Robin Hood’s Bay were also in legitimate businesses like fishing. The local fishermen used a deep, oared boat called a coble, which could just as easily carry illegal goods. The smugglers rowed out to a waiting ship and loaded the cargo into their cobles and brought it ashore.

Many of the residents of the bay village were eager participants in the smuggling trade. The houses, which were built into the steep sides of the cliff, often had places hollowed out beneath them to stash contraband. This happened in many villages, but the smugglers of Robin Hood’s Bay took it a step further.
The village built a tunnel beneath its steepest street. Ostensibly it was intended to channel the stream coming down the cliff so it could reach the sea without eroding the cliff and endangering the structures along it. However, legend has it that the tunnel had a more unlawful purpose. 

Houses were constructed over the top of it, making it invisible from higher on the cliff. The tunnel opened at the foot of the street, and the water from the stream trickled out to meet the sea. However, the tunnel was tall enough for a man to walk without bending, far taller than a conduit would need to be. It is rumored that doorways once opened off from it into cellars of the nearby buildings...including the parish church when an 18th century parson was counted among the smugglers.

Though it sounds like fiction, it may all be the truth. According to the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre, the smugglers in Robin Hood’s Bay confronted excise officers on several occasions, usually to the officers’ detriment. One raid was on the home of the owner of a local inn. Brandy and weapons were found, but the excise officers were driven away by a large group of smugglers who came to their comrade’s assistance. On another occasion, the battle was at sea, and the excise officers’ ship was forced to retreat.

Today, Robin Hood’s Bay is a sleepy tourist town, but the cobles and the tunnel are still there...to remind visitors of a time when strangers who liked to look around and ask questions would not have been so welcome.


Jo Ann Brown has been creating characters and stories for as long as she can remember. Her earliest stories starred her friends and sisters. She wrote her first novel in high school, and it happily resides in the very back of her file cabinet. Fast forward through college, serving in the US Army as a quartermaster officer, getting married, and increasing her blessings with three children...and Jo Ann sold her first book (a western historical romance) in 1987. Since it was published in 1988, she has sold over 100 titles and has become a best-selling and award-winning author. Romantic Times calls her "a truly talented author." She writes romance, mystery, and paranormal under a variety of pen names.  

Her books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages and are sold on every continent except Antarctica. A sought-after speaker, she has been teaching creative writing for over 20 years, and she established several popular fiction courses at Brown University.  She has always lived on the east coast, but now resides in Nevada with her husband, who is always her first reader, and a chubby tiger cat.  You can reach Jo Ann at her website: www.joannbrownbooks.com or by email: jo@joannbrownbooks.com. A Bride for the Baron is her March 2014 release.

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