Keeping the smuggling story alive for adults and children

Michael and Ewan Andrews thought the scarecrows were cool.
Michael and Ewan Andrews thought the scarecrows were cool.

La Malouine, a twin masted French Brigantine tall ship, sailed from Dumfries to Ballantrae last week to herald the start of the village’s second Smuggler’s Festival.

Ballantrae’s Smugglers’ Festival is organised by a group of local volunteers. The village’s smuggling history of landing salt, tobacco, tea, brandy and wine is well documented and each year the locals bring different aspects of the story to life with smuggling-related activities and re-enactments that keep the story alive for children and adults.

Andy McAlpine, of the Ballantrae Development Group which organises the Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival said “It has been a great privilege to have La Malouine and her Master Roy Kerr play a part in this year’s festival. She’s a beautiful ship and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her in the waters from Dumfries up Scotland’s west coast in the months and years to come. We had hoped, on this occasion, she would be able to take visitors on board but sadly, because of issues beyond our control, that hasn’t been possible.”

This year’s Festival got off to a great start in fabulous weather on Sunday with the Smugglers’ Market – visited by over 800 people, including visitors from Spain, Canada, and England as well as locals from South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway who were able to sample and purchase great Ayrshire food and drink. Monday’s “Smuggler Sam’s Children’s Day” was also voted a great success by the children and their parents who attended. Storytelling, “Scaling the cliff”, and lots of other games and activities related to pirates and smuggling were the order of the day.

Still to come in this year’s Smugglers’ Week are the skiff activities at Ballantrae Harbour, the launch of 4 Smugglers’ Trails, a Smugglers’ Supper (adults only), “Music, Poetry and Smuggling Stories” (a family event) and the Craft Fayre, Strongman Competition and the Lighting of the Beacon to close the Festival on Saturday.

Today (Wednesday 19th August) the Customs Officers and Excisemen will continue to search for hidden contraband and in the afternoon there will be another “Come and Try” coastal rowing session at the harbour.

At 6pm the four crews from the Irvine, Troon, Girvan and Carrick Coastal Rowing Clubs will compete for the Ballantrae Smugglers’ Chase Trophy.

On Thursday 20 August three new “Smugglers’ Trails” around Ballantrae will be launched - routes of varying degrees of length and difficulty from 1 mile to 9 miles each of which has a smuggling story. Throughout the day, the children of Ballantrae and Colmonell Primary Schools will be taking part in a variety of activities and events across the village.

At 7pm a “Smugglers’ Supper” will be held in the “Smugglers’ Arms (The Community Hall) with sampling of the recently delivered contraband (whisky and wine), a two course supper and entertainment. The winner of the adult Ballantrae Smuggling Short Story Competition will be announced tonight. This is an event for adults.

On Friday 21 August - during the day - locals and visitors will enjoy one of the new Smugglers’ Trails and spot the Smuggler Scarecrows - many of them made by local children - positioned around the village to confuse the Excisemen. At 7pm the village will celebrate with “Music, Poetry and Smuggling Stories” (a family event) in the Smugglers Arms, including smuggling songs performed by the children and other local entertainers.

The winners of the Childrens’ Smuggling Short Story Competitions will be announced.

Saturday 22 August – the final day of the festival - starts at 11am with a Craft Fayre in the Smugglers’ Arms. At 6pm teams of 2 from the village and the surrounding area will compete in the “Strongman Challenge”. At 9pm the festival concludes with a “Scarecrow Gathering”.