Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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his opposition to that gentleman's proposed union with his deceased wife's sister, it was Collins's gang who invaded the chapel, ejected the new minister, replaced Mr. Betts in the pulpit, and mounted guard round it while he continued the service. Mr. Betts was equal to the occasion: he gave out the hymn " God moves in a mysterious way."
Collins terrorised the country-side for some years (except upon the score of personal bravery and humorous audacity, I doubt if his place is quite on the golden roll of smugglers) and was at length brought within the power of the law for sheep-stealing, and sentenced to seven years. The last of his gang, Bob Hall, died in the workhouse at Eastbourne in 1895, aged ninety-four.
Sussex may always be proud of her best smugglers. There were brutal scoundrels among them, such as the men that murdered Chater and were executed at Chichester in 1748 (the report may be read in Mr. H. L. Stephen's State Trials, vol. iv.); but the ordinary smuggler was often a fine rebellious fellow, courageous, resourceful, and gifted with a certain grim humour that led him, as we have seen, to hide his tubs as often in the belfry or the churchyard as anywhere else, and enough knowledge of character to tell him when he might secure the silence of the vicar with an oblatory keg. The Sussex clergy seemed to have needed very little encouragement to omit smuggling from the decalogue. It is, I think, the late Mr. Coker Egerton, of Burwash, who tells of a Sussex parson feign­ing illness a whole Sunday on hearing suddenly in the morning that a cargo, hard pressed by the revenue, had in despair been lodged among his pews. But the classical passage on this subject comes from Cornwall, from the pen of R. S. Hawker, the vicar of Morwenstowe and the author of "The Song of the Western Men." He was not himself a smuggler, but his parishioners had no scruples, and his heart was with the braver side of the business : —
It was full sea in the evening of an autumn day when a traveller arrived
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