Wayfarer Column- Smuggling was an activity to bring in extra income

Each morning heralds a new day with many new adventures to look forward to.

All these new adventures provide us with experiences that help to make up a life that is more interesting and provide tales to fascinate the listener.

In the years prior to television many an activity such as smuggling not only provided entertainment but also a welcome income. Take Culzean Castle the seat of the Kennedys, a family renowned in earlier years for their smuggling exploits amongst many other even more notorious affairs. The caves under the castle used to be linked with the castle but became blocked when Robert Adam in building the present castle had to erect a large pillar in the caves to support its foundations. When the caves were excavated for the television programme ‘Extreme Archaeology’ many glass bottles used for carrying brandy etc. were found confirming its use for landing and storing illicit cargoes. In 1777 a wherry full of contraband became grounded on the shore and before it could be unloaded was discovered by a patrolling revenue cutter. A short battle ensued with the smugglers being taken prisoner and the contraband confiscated. However on handing over the contraband to the authorities it was discovered that a lot was missing, taken by the excise men crewing the cutter. This was serious but before action could be taken against the men it came to light they were only paid sixpence per day and were obliged to turn out at a moments notice during the day. They were keeping the contraband in order to earn a decent wage for an unpopular and dangerous job. The actual smugglers all escaped custody perhaps due to a sympathetic gaoler who may have been on a promise. The ancient name for Culzean was Coif or cove but was changed to Culzean by the then laird who perhaps felt it more suitable to be known as the Laird of Culzean rather than that of Coif. Not only were the caves suitable for smuggling but the power of the Kennedys was such as to brook little interference. No-one was above the law and even more were they not above the powers of nature as in 1726 a boat carrying contraband from the Isle of Man sank in the Firth of Clyde. The Ayrshire coast was a popular spot for smugglers. The tenacity of the excise men against the devious exploits of the smugglers must have provided quite a profitable entertainment for all involved.