Friday, October 25, 2019

Tall Tales of Smugglers, and Napoleon

File:Smugglers-resting-1833-smal.jpgI’m researching smuggling along the Dorset coast of England in the early 1800s. (Lovely, lovely research!) My next self-published series will be set in the area in the days leading up to the Battle of Trafalgar. If you’re interested in the subject, I recommend Smuggling in Hampshire and Dorset 1700 to 1850 by Geoffrey Morley. Fascinating stories! I expected to find tales about secret tunnels and midnight raids, but some of the stories are so amazing, I couldn’t wait to share them with you.

Legend has it, Isaac Gulliver, called by some the King of the Smugglers, once covered his face with the white chalk of the Dorset soil and laid in a coffin to hide from the Excise Men. But legend also has it he foiled a plot to assassinate King George III, who praised him and vowed to let him smuggle all he liked. Smuggling increased dramatically in the area of Weymouth whenever the King came to visit.

Another story tells of two Preventers, as the Customs Officers were known, who were caught spying on a smuggling gang. The gang hung them by their feet over the edge of a cliff, then proceeded to unload their cargo in full view. When the smugglers were finished, they hauled up the officers and dumped them bound in a nearby field, where their colleagues would eventually find and release them.

And then there’s the story about a Dorset farmer’s wife, who happened to be French. She vowed she’d seen Napoleon standing on the headland not far from her home in 1803, studying the English defenses. This was at a time when England’s fear of invasion from across the Channel was at its highest. According to the legend, Napoleon looked down the coast, compared what he saw to a map in his hands, rolled up the map, uttered the word, “Impossible,” and was never seen again.

That one’s going in my book. 😊

1 comment:

QNPoohBear said...

I love smuggling stories! I liked this post a lot. The story behind the story is always fascinating and sometimes even better than fiction.