Brethern o the Coast
by: Leighton, Marischal
At the tine o’ the union o’ the crowns, that’s tae say aboot the early 1700’s, as ye micht understand, the powers that be were a’ mixed up fit wi’ ae thing an’ anither an the administration o’ Customs an’ Excise wis nae exception. Now a’ this hid a great effect on the seafarin’ communities a’ alang the coasts o’ the Mearns an’ Angus. Fit kin’ o’ an effect ye micht weel ask, weel, I’ll jist tell ye.
For a lang time, an fin I say a lang time I mean for centuries, there his aye been that element amon the fishertoons that wid not turn up a snooty nose at a bit o’ smugglin’. An awfa lot a’ fowk hiv this misteen idea that ony smugglin’ worth mentionin’ wis atween France an’ the Sooth o’ England. I hiv tae hasten tae assure ye that up in this pairt o’ the Warld there wis an afa weel organised trade in contraband. Nae only ‘at bit the main bit o’ t wis centred on Bervie. Hard tae believe, weel maybe, But jist wait ir I tell ye. Jist tae lat ye ken the extent, there wis ae nicht a ‘run’ wis made atween Johnshaven an’ Montrose an it teen nae less than fifteen horse cairts tae get a’ the goods awa an’ hidden afore daylicht cam in. This wis a fair operation an teen an afa plannin’ oot.
The boat concerned wis nicknaned ‘The Bervie Sloop’ but the real name o’t wis the ‘Peggy’ o’ Johnshaven, an’ it wis built in Montrose. Jist somethin’ else aboot Montrose that I’ll came back till maybe anither tine, an that is, at ae tine there wis mair than thirty Montrose registered ships a’ involved in fit wis ca’ed the ‘Triangular Slave Trade’, a very sad an nae a fine thing tae be mixed up in, but, very profitable for than that wis. 0nywye, the Peggy wis owned by twa lads in Bervie, an they were Messrs Sime an’ Napier. Now they hid a factory in Gourdon far they made cigars an different kinds o’ pipe tobacca. A’ very much above board and legal. Fit wisna legal wis the fact that they masterminded the maist a’ the a’ the ongans in the smugglin line fae Stonie doon till ‘The Reed Lichties’, that is Arbroath for them that dinna ken.
Ye’ll be thinkin’ noo far did a’ this contraband come fae an’ fit did it consist o’. Weel this is far we touch on the Triangular Trade I mentioned. At the time I speak o’ Rotterdam wis ‘the’ port far aa the ships in the slave trade come intil an sailed fae. Jist tae pit it a nutshell, they sailed fae there for West Africa laden wi goods tae buy slaves wi’, syne efter loadin’ slaves they sailed for America or the West Indies and selt the puir craters intil a life o’ misery, makin a good profit in the meantine wi nae a thocht for the fowk fa’s lives were connached. An syne sailed back tae Rotterdam tae realise the worth o fit they hid traded the slaves for. So that wis far the contraband I goods came fae.
Now fit did it consist o ? Weel tobacco of coorse an’ brandy an Dutch Gin wis an afa popular thing. They wid speak aboot ‘mats’ o’ tobacco an hogsheids o’ spirits, but besides a’ that kin’ o’ thing, soap wis smuggled in, gie hard tae believe but there you are, it wis a case o’ far there wis a poun’ or twa tae be made, anything wis fair game. Things cam’ till a heid in Bervie fin the aforementioned Sime an’ Napier bribed the sergeant in charge o’ the sodgers stationed in Bervie tae turn the ither wye fin contraband wis bein’ handled. Now this wis a great idea an fairly worked until some smartie in Stonie gaed the game awa. The upshot o’ a’ this wis that the sergeant was reduced tae the ranks, got a lickin’ wi the birch an’ the local customs man wis oot o’ a job. However the strange thing aboot a’ this is the fact that naewye will ye see far the heroes, Sime an’ Napier, were ever brocht tae book. Very clever, very sleekit that twa mannies. Mair aboot this sort o’ thing later on. In the meantine gie up fags an’ drink wir ain whisky, its safer…by the wye, mine’s a straicht malt!