[From Atholl Papers - AP 40B-6]

[Reply from Edinburgh re smuggling from Isle of Man, 1764]

To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury

The Commissioners of the Customs in Scotland

Humbly represent

That in pursuance of your Lordships commands, signified by Mr Whately in his letter dated the 11th of last month, they have made the most strict enquiry into the smuggling trade carried on between the Isle of Man and Scotland, and endeavoured to procure as exact account as possible of the several kinds of goods imported into the said Island and of the duties payable to the proprietor for the same ; and the result of these enquiries, as directed by the said letter, is humbly submitted for your Lordships consideration.

That this pernicious trade is carried on in the west of Scottland by boats of all sizes, and by wherries of different dimensions to the burthen of seventy and eighty tons well manned, and adapted for expeditious sailing ; and on the south west coast, particularly in the Solway Frith, by open boats belonging to the Island of Man generally about four or five tons burthen, navigated by eight or nine men.

The farmers, their servants, and the lower sort of people in general, are adventurers or avettors of the smuglers, and on the particular parts of the coast at which any wherries or boats are expected to arrive a great number of people with horses do assemble, and as fast as the goods are landed they are put upon the horses, two ankers of spirits slung on each horse, and so according to the weight and package of other goods, and a man is seated upon the goods on each horse, and in this manner, escorted by a number of the principal smuglers, they proceed up the country, and in to the north of England through moors and unfrequented roads and then dispose of the goods to shop keepers, carriers, and other persons by whom they are circulated under all the methods and modes of concealment which can be devised.

That ships inward and outboard bound from and to foreign parts, and coasting vessels touch at the Island of Man, where stores for the seamen, or any other commodities, either for use or by way of merchandize, are received on board.

That in the course of the enquiries which have been made on this occasion information has been received that large warehouses are established in the Island of Man, and well furnished with such articles of commerce as are necessary for the trade on the coast of Africa, and that ships fitted out from Britain for the said coast do touch at the Island, and receive such goods on board as may be proper for compleating the assortment of their cargoes.

That the goods imported into the Island of Man consists of spirits and wines of all kinds, grocery goods, spices, silks, tea, coffee, china, cambricks, soap, oil, and in general of all sort and species of goods which pay high duties on the importation into Britain, or which are absolutely prohibited, or can only be imported under certain restrictions ; and also Tobacco which had been exported from Britain and the duties drawn back.

That the duties payable to the proprietor of the Island on goods imported, according to the best information, are for arrack two pence per gallon, all other spirits one penny @ gallon, wines ten shillings @ ton, tobacco one half penny @ pound weight, and all other goods two and one half @ cent of their value, according to the invoice to be produced and authenticated on oath by the importer of the goods.

That the duties mentioned in the preceding paragraph are according to the currency of the Island, which compared with the money of Britain is in the proportion of six to seven.

That your Lordships may have some idea of the audacity of the smuglers, and their associates assembled for the purpose of smugling or to oppose the officers of the revenue in the prosecution of their duty, (on which occasions to render them fitter for desperate and lawless acts they are generally intoxicated with liquor) it may not be improper to lay before your Lordships the following late instance of their pro[torn]

Mr Colin Campbell commander of a wherry in the se[rvice] of the the revenue receiving information that a very large quantity of spritits had been recently smugled at Old Kirk, in the river Cylde, about four miles below Greenock, he proceeded immediately to Greenock and procuring the assistance of a party of soldiers, the King's boatmen and a number of sailors belonging to a cutter in his Majesty's service, in all, including his own crew, about forty men armed, he directly went to Old Kirk, and began to make a search, and secured about seventy ankers of spirits, whereupon the church bell was rung by way of alarm, and a great mob armed with flails, pitch forks and sticks assembled, who by every method attempted to intimidate Cambbell and his party, and finding that ineffectual they assaulted them in such a manner with stones, and sticks &c, that Mr Campbell and several of his men were much bruised and hurt, and then they inclosed and pressed upon Mr Campbell and his party in order to rescue the goods, so that in their own defence they were obliged to fire sharp shot, by which several of the rioters were wounded, some of them,a according to report, mortally, which creating a little suspense Mr Campbell was glad to take the opportunity, before the rioters should collect themselves, as they were preparing to and return to the charge, to put the goods on board the Cutter, and embark with his party. On an enquiry, by way of precognition, seven of the principal rioters have been discovered and apprehended, and by the advice of the King's Counsel they are to be tried immediately at Edinburgh before the Court of Justiciary.

That many unsuccessful attempts have lately been made particularly on the Borders, by Mr David Douglas Surveyor General at Annan, an enterprizing and resolute officer, in order to intercept the smuglers in the act of conveying goods, but frequently to little other purpose than getting himself and assistants on horse back severely beat and abused, the parties of soldiers employed on such occasions being foot, and not able to overtake, or keep up with the smuglers, who are generally well-mounted, for which reason Light Horse, when such were cantonned on that coast, were found fittest for the service, and most formidable to the smuglers.

All which is most humbly submitted

George Clerk Maxwell
Basil Cochrane

Customhouse Edinburgh 7th June 1764


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