All About Looe


Cornish Smugglers and Wreckers



A  Poem by Rudyard Kipling


A Smugglers Song


IF YOU wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by

Five and twenty ponies,

Trotting through the dark—                

Brandy for the Parson,

’Baccy for the Clerk;

Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again—and they’ll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining’s wet and warm—don’t you ask no more!

If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you “pretty maid,” and chuck you ’neath the chin,
Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house—whistles after dark—
You’ve no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie—
They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!



If you do as you’ve been told, ’likely there’s a chance,
You’ll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood—
A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!

Five and twenty ponies,

Trotting through the dark—                

Brandy for the Parson,

’Baccy for the Clerk;

Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie –

Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

The rugged Cornish coastline was a haven for smugglers, the narrow inlets, long shallow creeks and numerous caves made this area ideal for the trade.  Remote and impoverished, this region was a perfect distribution point for cargoes of wine, spirits, tobacco and bullion that had reached its shores.


The nearby coastal village of Polperro, is situated just along the coast from Looe, and was known to be a particular hot bed of smuggling.


Despite being a man of the clergy, the Reverend Richard Dodge of the nearby parish of Talland was quite heavily involved in smuggling, and he even spread stories of ghosts and demons around the village to keep prying eyes away from his illicit activities.



Smuggled contraband would often be hidden in church crypts, bell towers, pulpits and even tombs.


It has been estimated that between 1780 and 1783 as much as 2 million pounds of tea and 13 million gallons of brandy were smuggled into the country. Smuggling was a dangerous business and the penalties for being caught harsh, including heavy fines and, at one point, even death for those caught either smuggling or harbouring smugglers. Preserved in Talland Church is a memorial with a rhyming epitaph which tells of the sad death of Robert Mark of Polperro, who was shot at sea by Customs Officers on the 24th January 1802.

In prime of life, most suddenly,
Sad tidings to relate;
Here view my utter destiny,
And pity my sad state.
I by a shot which rapid flew,
Was instantly struck dead.
Lord pardon the offender who
My precious blood did shed.
Grant him to rest, and forgive me
All I have done amiss;
And that I may rewarded be
With everlasting bliss.



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