Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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The Sussex Smugglers.                      79
The Hawkhurst gang was thus broken up—some of its leaders " hanging up in the sweet air," and others seeking safety in flight to France or Holland. But the "trade" still went on; its profits were too great to be given up, and to some wild spirits it had an attraction even in the perils that attended it. So for nearly another 100 years—nearly, in fact, up to our own time—smuggling was carried on, with more or less success, along the Sussex coast; and there were few persons who 30 or 40 years ago were not brought, in some way or other, in contact with the men who carried it on. Stories of them and their adventures were a staple topic of conversation, and smuggling anecdotes—the good-luck or ill-luck of former townsmen—still live in the memories of Sussex men of this generation. It is amusing to find Mr. W. D. Cooper, himself a Hastings man, whilst recording some of the doings of his smuggling fellow-townsmen, in the Sussex Archaeological Collections, not 20 years ago, cautiously explaining that " it would be improper to enter into any details which might involve the characters of those still alive!" We ourselves have a vivid recollection of an incident which our immediate predecessor in the proprietorship of the Brighton Herald was in the habit of narrating. He was taking a stroll along the Shoreham-road somewhat late at night when he suddenly heard the tramp of horses and saw a long file of mounted men approach him. He stood still in wonderment, not unmingled with alarm, when one of the riders, quitting the ranks, rode up to him and presented a pistol at his head. At that moment the hero of the adventure recognised the horseman as an intimate acquaintance and uttered his name. At the same moment the leader of the smugglers—for it was a large body of these men engaged in " running " the contraband cargo of a vessel off the coast—
recognised him and exclaimed, " By -----, if you had not
spoken,-----, I should have shot you." They had taken him
at first for a Revenue officer, and if he had been one it would have gone hard with him. As it was, there was a laugh, a shake of the hands, and the party rode off.
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