Smugglers: brutal thugs or jolly free traders?

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For much of the 18th and early 19th century, Britain’s coasts were the setting for a vast smuggling industry. In some areas huge gangs of men regularly unloaded contraband in full view of the outnumbered and outgunned customs authorities. Whole communities shared in the risks and profits of these illegal free trade enterprises.

The traditional story-book image of smugglers is of generous, jolly, harmless chums who just enjoyed a drop of untaxed brandy and used peaceful persuasion to get the co-operation they needed. But just how accurate is this cosy stereotype? Were real-life smugglers actually more like today’s Mafia or Triads?

In an illustrated talk at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at 6.30pm on January 28th, Richard Platt will compare the grim facts with the romantic legend.

Richard is the author of two books on this topic Smuggling in the British Isles and The Ordnance Survey Guide to Smugglers’ Britain.

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NMMC photographic exhibition of working Newlyn fishermen

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malcolm-deckhand-cook-on-pz198 joey-catching-mackerel

barrie-gutting-monkfish-on-pz198 Newlyn: Fishing for a Living

Sample images from Newlyn: Fishing for a Living – click on the
thumbnails for much larger images

A dramatic National Maritime Museum Cornwall exhibition by photo journalist Vince Bevan explores the working lives of fishermen at the port of Newlyn, Cornwall, from January 7th.

The images taken from a photo essay titled Newlyn: Fishing for a Living provide an insight into the highs and lows of contemporary fishing life, and echo the work of the Newlyn School artists, who depicted the harsh realities of life in this Cornish port at the end of the 19th century.

‘With rising fuel cost and the restrictive quotas placed on fishermen it seems as though every other day we read about the pressures faced by fishing communities,’ says Bevan. ‘These photographs portray a way of life that is increasingly under threat.’

Newlyn is the largest fishing port in England and has a strong and proud community, supplying livelihoods to many who are fiercely loyal to their profession; however, commercial fishing is still one of the country’s most dangerous industries, and even with modern boats and equipment serious injury and loss of life are common, and vessels are regularly lost.

The exhibition is supported by the Arts Council England.

Campaign now to save the City of Adelaide

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The clipper City Of Adelaide, later renamed HMS Carrick, and finally SV Carrick.
The hull is visible on a slipway at the Scottish Maritime museum, Irvine, North
Ayrshire, Scotland. From the Wikimedia:the original author is Rosser1954.
Click on the photo for a larger image

City of Adelaide again. Photo courtesy of Paula Palmer of
the National Historic Ships

I imagine many readers have been troubled by the condition of the passenger clipper City of Adelaide as she moulders on a hard at Ayr. The following communication from National Historic Ships director Martyn Heighton makes it clear that we now have an opportunity to make our point heard, and to make a difference. Martyn’s email is below – please do what you can to put our message across.

‘Heritage protection Bill – Latest News

Dear Supporter,

You will be aware from our website and newsletters that the government will be considering a new bill in Parliament later this year which is designed to strengthen the protection of the UK’s heritage assets. As things stand, historic vessels are not included in the bill going before Parliament. National Historic Ships has responded formally to these serious omissions, and has published our case on our website. I have also been in correspondence with Margaret Hodge, who until recently was the Minister with responsibility for Culture and have received the letter set out below from her before she left office. A copy of the Ministers letter is attached, which I urge you to read.

Although this letter contains some encouraging statements on the future of historic ships, there is still no proposal to bring these vital heritage assets into the provisions of the Bill. Our earlier response to the Draft Bill raised many valid issues which in the end focus on 3 key matters

1. The Bill does not recognise National Historic Ships, the Advisory Committee which governs it, or the National Register of Historic Vessels (NRHV). The Bill makes specific reference to the registers run by English Heritage and Cadw. It is crucial that the NRHV, for which National Historic Ships is accountable to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is recognised in a similar way.
2. Historic Ships are exposed to loss by neglect and demolition, with recent high profile examples such as
City of Adelaide and HMS Stalker. Thankfully the demolition of the City of Adelaide has been slowed down due to the fact that she is one of only 2 ships to enjoy protection as listed buildings. No such protection applies to HMS Stalker and we fear she will soon be nothing more than a memory. Something needs to be done to prevent the tragic loss of more of our significant historic ships. Where vessels in the National Historic Fleet (that is the Core Collection and Designated Vessels) are presented in a static form – either dry or afloat – they should be subject to similar protections as those applied to historic buildings. It is more complicated for those vessels which operate and move from port to port, but the Bill could at least recognise the issue and pave the way for further work.
3. The Small Grants scheme which we run has had positive impact far in excess of the amount of monies disbursed. We need to find ways to expand this scheme, especially for the Registered Vessels. The Draft Bill is concerned primarily with physical protection rather than funding. Nevertheless aspects of funding are referred to in the Bill and this needs to be recognised with regard to ships. Relatively small sums can be made to go a long way.

Robert Prescott, the Chair of National Historic Ships and I are in touch with Barbara Follett, the new Minister for Culture, Media and Tourism, and are asking for an early meeting so that we can set out our concerns and ambitions for historic ships in the UK. We need to know your views on all this, and are keen to hear from you. Please go onto our website –, and click onto the heritage protection bill thumbnail, read our submission in full online, and let us know what you think by email

We really do want to hear from you
Warm regards
Martyn Heighton
Director & Secretary to the Advisory Committee
National Historic Ships

For more on National Historic Ships:

For more on the City of Adelaide:

For more on HMS Stalker:

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