Exhibition shows a snapshot of smuggling

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An exhibition in Girvan’s McKechnie Institute provides a snapshot of the planning that went into the delivery of contraband to Ballantrae in the 18th century.

The year is 1779 and John Coulter of Ballantrae and his cronies are sitting at a table with a map of Ballantrae and the surrounding coastline set out in front of him.

Also on the table are a small bottle of brandy (half empty) and a pistol – both within easy reach. They are planning the next delivery of tobacco, tea, brandy and fine wines from Holland to Ballantrae on Friday 5 August. In the middle of the table is Coulter’s vision of the ship that will bring the shipment of contraband.

A separate delivery of salt from Ireland is also expected soon. In the background are the villagers, ready to help unload the cargo when it arrives on Ballantrae beach. Whose horses and carts can be used to take this from the beach?

But who’s that in the corner?…. It’s the Customs Officer Robert Cheshire! His eyes seem to follow your every movement….. Will Cheshire and his colleagues try to foil the smugglers’ plans?

On the walls you can read Ballantrae’s Smuggling Story and the role Girvan played in the smuggling trade.

Elsewhere in the room you will find books that tell that story – two of them written by the children of Ballantrae and Colmonell Primary Schools. A short video loop plays the highlights of previous Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festivals. The pictures from the Girvan Old Burgh Collection add atmosphere to the room.

This FREE exhibition for the whole family is organised by the Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival in partnership with the Friends of the McKechnie Institute and is open until 16 July.

For details of this year’s Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival go to www.ballantrae.org.uk/smugglers.