The Ballantrae Smugglers were delighted to hear that La Malouine, a twin masted French Brigantine tall ship, had managed to slip unseen into Ballantrae Bay with tea, tobacco, brandy and fine wines from Holland on Friday 5 August.
On a windy and overcast night - just perfect for smuggling - the villagers were ready with their small boats, and their horses and carts to spirit the contraband away through the village to Craigiemains where it was to be stored in preparation for onward transportation inland. But the Excisemen and the Army had other ideas.
The locals were ambushed shortly after they arrived in Craigiemains but it was the womenfolk of the village who stood up to officials intent on seizing some of the goods for themselves. When flattery and compliments about how handsome the officers were had no effect, weapons were drawn, the officials were soundly beaten, and the women won the day!
Andy McAlpine of the Ballantrae Development Group which organises the Smugglers Festival said: “In the 18th and 19th centuries, we are told the women of Ballantrae were a fearsome lot and we were not surprised they were able to see off the Excisemen on Friday evening.
“Although the festival is organised by a small group of volunteers, we could not do it without the help of the local children, their parents and friends who make up the cast. Our Festival Partners from outwith the village also play a key role.
“For the Landing of the Contraband that included Roy Kerr the Skipper of La Malouine; the Coastal Rowing Clubs of Troon, Carrick and Givan who brought the contraband ashore in their skiffs under the watchful eye of the Glenapp Castle (our safety boat) and the Ballantrae Coastguard; Ailsa View Equestrian, Oldspittal Equestrian, Supreme Equine Services and Noel Porter who provided the horses, carts and carriage; the Carrick 800 re-enactors; and Criagiemains Home and Garden Centre.”
This year’s festival was a bit different to previous years and spread over three months June to August. Still to come is the “Smugglers’ Supper” in the King’s Arms Hotel, Ballantrae on Saturday 13 August (Adults only) - tickets price £12,50 and the “Ballantrae Smugglers’ Chase” on Sunday 14 August at 2pm at the Harbour (FREE). More details on www.ballantrae.org.uk/smugglers.