With over 40 smuggler scarecrows dotted round the village, the artistic abilities and sense of humour of their creators was evident. And as the Festival week unfolded people of all ages joined in the fun, joining the Exciseman, the Judge and local children as they tracked down and tried the culprits who had been colluding in the smuggling of contraband.
Starting with a “Smugglers Trail” on Wednesday afternoon, local children mapped the locations of all the smuggler scarecrows after being sworn in as temporary members of the local excise by The Judge and The Exciseman (aka Dennis Reid and David Hunter).
This was followed by a fascinating book launch with Frances Wilkins whose new book “Ballantrae’s Smuggling Story” provides an insight into Ballantrae’s past as a landing point for illicit cargoes of whisky, wine, tea and silk from the Isle of Man and beyond.
On Thursday the film night and whisky tasting went down very well as the village prepared itself for the big trial on Friday – with local miscreants including the local minister and doctor brought in front of the Judge. Audience members were selected as a jury but appeared to displease the The Judge by finding some of the accused “Not guilty” - a verdict which the Judge quickly overturned in favour of public floggings, time in the stocks , banishment to New Cumnock and even an expedient shooting “to save the price of the wood for a gallows and the expense of bringing a hangman all the way from Edinburgh”
The week culminated with a very busy Village Fayre during which the smugglers met their fate and visitors were entertained with stalls, games and entertainments. The evening wound down with a packed out Folk Night, teeming with local talent, bringing to an end a highly successful inaugural Smugglers Festival.
Andy McAlpine, convener of the Smugglers’ Festival Organising group said: “We’ve had a fantastic week. Seeing the look on faces of the children as they searched for smuggler scarecrows made all the hard work worthwhile. The launch of the book by Frances Wilkins entitled “Ballantrae Smugglers’ Story” was very informative and well attended.
The “Court of Justice” where smugglers and local collaborators were tried and sentenced was a sell-out. The Village Fayre on the Saturday afternoon during which the smugglers were punished was well supported by locals and visitors and the Folk Night with performers from the Girvan Folk Club was a very informal, enjoyable evening – again with a good turnout.”
“This was our first Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival and we are grateful to all those who helped to make it a success which exceeded our expectations. We are hoping to have another festival next year and would welcome comments via our website firstname.lastname@example.org from those who attended.”