[From Letters from IoM 1846]
" I fear not the monarch, I heed not the law,
I've a compass to steer by, a dagger to draw ;
And ne'er like a coward or slave will I yield,
While my gun carries shot, or my belt wears a steel.
Quick, quick! trim her sails, let the sheets keep the wind,
And I warrant we'll soon leave the sea-gulls behind.
Up! up! with my flag, let it wave o'er the sea,
I'm afloat! I'm afloat! and the Rover is free." ELIZA COOK.
" Our people are mightily intent upon enlarging the harbours of Peel, Ramsey, and Douglas, but the iniquitous trade carried on, to the injury and damage of the Crown, will hinder the blessing of God from falling upon us."-BISHOP WILSON'S LETTER TO HIS SON.
A COMPANY of adventurers from Liverpool landed at Douglas, in 1670, where they took up their abode for the purpose of smuggling. So great were the profits of this trade, that many of the most wealthy of the Manks were in duced to engage in it. The island, we are told, " soon became the great storehouse and magazine for the French and Dutch to deposit vast quantities of Indian goods, which were carried off by the islanders, in wherries built for the purpose. The losses to Great Britain and France in consequence, were inexpressibly great."1 Owing to the convenient situation of the island, the goods landed were soon exported into Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland. In a memorial laid before the Lords of the Treasury by the " Fair Dealers of Cumberland," the injury was stated to be very considerable ; by other accounts it was estimated at half a Million sterling! In the beginning of the reign of George I., an act was passed to prevent East India goods being landed in the Isle of Man, 2 except when direct from a British port, upon pain of forfeiting the ship and cargo. This law not being found so efficient as was anticipated, another was passed in the same reign,3 enacting that no goods, not the growth, produce, or manufacture of the Isle of Man, could be imported into Great Britain under pain of incurring heavy penalties. Other laws were enacted for a similar purpose, but these proving abortive, it was soon perceived that the arm of power alone could extirpate those men who had taken up their abode in the island. Waldron, the historian, then residing on the island, thus describes the protection that was afforded to these smugglers4 by the Manks: "His Majesty of Great Britain is master of the seas, yet the Isle of Man has the jurisdiction of so much round the island, that a master of a ship has no more to do than to watch his opportunity of coming within the piles, where he is secure from any danger from the king's officers."
No name is, perhaps, so well remembered in the island as that of the daring smuggler, Francois Thurot, who, about the year 1742, when fifteen years of age, left Dunkirk with an Irish smuggler, and resided in the Isle of Man. In 1752, he went to reside at Boulogne, and "his daring experience," we are told, " soon raised him to eminence as a successful smuggeer."
His vessels ran immense quantities of goods between the French, Manx, and English coasts; and on the breaking out of the war with Eng land in 1755, he joined the privateers at Dun kirk, when he became noted for his daring exploits. He was afterwards appointed by the French government to the command of a frigate, and soon afterwards of a small squadron, and fell in action, off the coast of Man, in 1760.5
Yawkins,6 a Dutchman, commanding a smuggling lugger, called the " Black Prince," is also celebrated by the Manks
for his daring exploits in the following lines:-
The thunder boomed loud and the lightning was strong,
As the Buckkar of Yawkins went serieving along;
The mountain-like billows that washes the shore,
Where Roeberry's turrets stood frowning of yore;
The king's men were foiled when she left the Isle Bay,
With a cask at her main-top in vaunting array.
The sails of the Cutter spread fast in the wind,
But the Buckkar of Yawkins soon left them behind.
Ah 1 what could the Buckkar of Yawkins assail,
If there is at all any truth in the tale ;
That Satan, for guarding her claim'd as his due
When landing his cargo-a tithe of her crew;
But this might be said just because she could sail
When no other vessel could ride out the gale,
Because Skipper Yawkins could take any bay,
Any creek in the Solway by night or by day, &c.
* * *
Oft at the Ross with Yawkins and with Doal 7
And Manksmen gabbling from the manor hole;
What noggins have I drank of smuggled rum,
Just from the little ' Isle of Three Legs' come."
Two revenue cutters once hove in sight, as Yawkins was landing his cargo. He instantly weighed anchor, and bore down between the cutters so close, that he tossed his hat on one deck, and his wig on the other, hoisted a cask on his maintop, to show his occupation, and got away without any injury, under an extraordinary pressure of canvas. On one occasion, when Yawkins cast anchor, a tide-waiter, supposing the " Black Prince" to be a timber-ship then expected, went on board alone. He was not permitted to land till the vessel arrived at Amsterdam, when he was set at liberty uninjured. Many skirmishes took place between the king's men and the smugglers, and many secret places were constructed for securing the contraband goods from the revenue officers , and an immense quantity of these goods were occasionally concealed in caves and among the rocks on shore. A royal proclamation was issued, on the 30th March, 1778, offering the king's free pardon to every person who had been engaged in the contraband trade, who, " within six weeks thereafter, should enter his Majesty's service, either as a sailor or a soldier." Upwards of five hundred smugglers,8 it is said, surrendered themselves in consequence of this proclamation, and were incorporated with the army and navy.
1 Scots Magazine, vol. xiii. p. 225. 226.
2 Statute 7 Geo. 1. cap. 21, sec. 9.
3 Statute 12 Geo. I. cap. 28, see. 21.
4 " Such advantages were held out by these illicit traffickers to merchants engaged in the foreign trade, that many ships laden with the produce of the East and West Indies touched at the island and met with a ready sale for their cargoes." BULLOCK's HISTORY.
5 A correspondent of the Scots Magazine for February, 1760, says, " On receipt of the news of Thurot's being brought into Ramsey Bay, I went there to see the ships ; on getting on board the Belleisle, I was struck with astonishment; turn which way I would, nothing but scattered limbs, and dead and dying men met my view. The deck and sides of the ship could only be compared to a slaughter-house, there being nearly 200 men killed on board the Belleisle, besides what the other two ships lost. The French must have plundered all before them at Carrickfergus, for I saw one of them who had eight women's shifts on him. They had plenty of children's clothes, shoes, caps, rules, buttons, thimbles, and pins, with a store of grey yarn. The English seamen looked upon the Frenchmen as a parcel of poltroons by their behaviour."
6 The Dirk Hatteraick of Sir W. Scott's " Guy Mannering. " " I sent Sir W. Scott," says Mr. Train, " an account of Yawkins, as related to me by an eye-witness, which be has acknowledged with his usual kindness."-Vide " WAVERLEY NOVELS," Vol. iv. p. 374.
7 A smuggler.
8 On the appearance of excisemen, particularly if attended by military, it was usual to ring the nearest church bell very violently, to alarm the neighbourhood, and to give the people time to conceal the smuggled goods.