The Coastguard Cutter Vol6 No 6

The Coastguard Cutter
June 08 Edition
Vol 6 No. 06.

"The Lady Margaret"




Hello Friend,

The Customs Officers and Coastguards had  formidable enemy's in many smuggling gangs who made huge amounts of money running contraband into the country. The Smugglers did manage to coerce, with bribery, some officials to look the other way.


Bribery in the 1830's.



Bribery was the most common weapon used by the Freetraders and instructions were circulated to the Chief Officers of Stations giving advice on ways of preventing collusion. They were directed to � try and discover a bribed man amongst the crew which can with ease be effected by looking to the mode of living of the men and by ascertaining if the men off-watch are really in their beds, as a case lately came to knowledge where a bribed character (a Deal Boatman) actually assisted the smugglers in working a cargo of fifty tubs upon the guard of one of his messmates after he had been relieved from daywatch, and of course supposed to be in bed, for which he received a bribe of ten pounds, and returned to his quarters ready for midnight relief�.

It was not always money that was offered and another temptation for the unwary Coastguard can be imagined from the order in the Brighton district of 1831. �There being reason to fear that an attempt will be made to corrupt our men through the medium of females, it is my direction that patrols hold no communication with any person either male or female.


Smuggled Goods. 1824.

On Thursday was tried before the Sub Commission of Customs, Sylvester Cullen, of Ballyvalden, for, on the 20th September 1822 offering a bribe to Mr.William Biddick, (the Chief Officer of the Preventive Service, on the Blackwater station), to allow the landing of smuggled goods. The trial was put off on a former occasion, and on the present, the defendant, (Sylvester Cullen) was fined �500. Mr.Biddick attended from Cunnemara, in the Co.Galway, in which he is stationed.   (Wexford Herald)

Ref: Freemans Journal, 16 March 1824.

Smuggling at Morston. 1830.

In 1830 the Morston Coastguard seized a 30-ton fishing vessel, �believed to have been involved with the recent smuggling� It was in that same year that the Chief Officer of the Morston Coastguard was reduced to the rank of Boatman and posted away for negligence; in that he �went into� a band of smugglers without having his cutlass drawn or his pistols ready (and so was overpowered). Coastguard House was built in 1836 for Morston�s new Captain of the Coastguard, Lieutenant George Thomas, and the watch-house on the Point was built from the same delivery of stone.

Spout LanternA spout lantern. Made by local craftsmen, these lanterns enabled the smuggler to direct a beam of light at the incoming vessel by uncovering the opening briefly.

The brig "Good Hope" 1855.

March 21 � The brig �Good Hope�, of Waterford, ran ashore and was wrecked on Helwick Head, in an E.S.E. gale. A boat, manned by eleven fishermen, and Samuel Pill, Chief Boatman of the Coastguard, proceeded at much risk, through a heavy sea to the aid of her crew, consisting of five persons, whom they landed in safety. Reward, �14.

Ref: R.N.L.I. The Life-Boat, April 1856.

Bribery and Collusion. 1836.

Yarmouth 12 March  (Isle of Wight)

Lieutenant Dornford of the Coast Guard, and his boatmen at Freshwater-gate Station, were investigated on charges of bribery and collusion with smugglers. Inspecting-Commander of the station was Captain Deare, who had been informed that a boatman named Thomas had accepted a bribe. William George Sullivan was the only boatman at Freshwater-gate not accused. He was the informant. Another witness against the accused was Mr.Harland, Supervisor of Excise. Lieutenant Johnston of Bembridge station, and Lieutenant Vacary of St.Lawrence station also gave evidence for the prosecution. Lieutenant Jenkin, Chief Officer of the Sconce station was another prosecution witness. All these, however, praised Lieutenant Dornford, and aimed their charges at his boatmen. Isaac Young and John Rochford were ex-boatmen at Freshwater who testified against Dornford and his men, but both were shown to have been in trouble with the authorities themselves and to have been dismissed the service.

Ref: The Times, London, 22 March 1836

100 years ago... DOOM of the COASTGUARDS. 1908..

We live in piping times of peace and need no longer fear the armed invader. The Martello towers that dot the coast are for sale, and now it is proposed to abolish the Coastguard service, which has existed for nearly a century. The Matrtello toweres were of somewhat earlier origin, having been erected at the time of the scare produced by the assembling of  Napoleon�s Army of England. But when Napoleon had tired of that game of bluff and moved his army off to the Rhine England found herself threatened by another and a more dangerous enemy. The depredations of the smuggling fraternity, Englishmen as well as Frenchmen and Dutchmen, were severely felt by the Revenue authorities during the Napoleonic wars and a force called the Coast Blocade was organized and located in the Martello towers.

This was in turn succeeded by the Preventive Waterguard, administered by the Customs authorities, though with naval officers in control of the local stations. Then in 1860 the Coastguard was absorbed by the Navy, and at that date formed the only reserve for the British fleets. Now the Navy has other reserves, and the Coastguard, according to the proposal of the Inter-Departmental Committee, is to be gradually reduced by stopping all further entries, while the Board of Customs is to take over the revenue and other extraneous duties hitherto performed by the Coastguardmen. The Admiralty will retain certain naval Coastguard stations, which in Ireland will be restricted to the requirements of naval signal and wireless telegraphy stations.

Ref: The Irish Independent, 20 June 1908.

Lighthouse Focus


Coming Soon....

Announcing a new mini-series coming from July to the "Cutter"...

The Lighthouse Focus.

We will be featuring a series of reports on Irelands lighthouses, many of which have a Coastguard connection.


Watch this space...


As always, we welcome all input and feedback from our members.

Nautical  Terms

Aboard ship, a booby hatch is a sliding cover or hatch that must be pushed away to allow access or passage.
Using a buoy to raise the bight of an anchor cable to prevent it from chafing on a rough bottom.

 Revenue Fleet NewsRevenue Fleet News
Revenue Armed Cutters. 1824.

As late as in the year 1824, the last of the armed cutters had not been yet seen, we call attention to the information which was sent to the London Custom House through the Dublin Customs. The news was to the effect that in February of that year there was in the harbour of Flushing, getting ready for sea, whither she would proceed in three or four days, a cutter laden with tobacco, brandy, Hollands, and tea. She was called the Zellow, which was a fictitious name, and was a vessel of 160 tons with a crew of forty men, copper-bottomed and pierced for fourteen guns. She was painted black, with white mouldings round the stern. Her boom also was black, so were her gaff, and masthead. The Officers were warned to keep a look-out for her, and informed that she had a large strengthening  fish on the upper side of the boom. Twenty cloths in the head, and twenty-eight in the foot of the mainsail. It is reported that she was bound for Ballyherbert,(Ballyhalbert ?)  Mountain Foot, and Clogher Headin Ireland, but if prevented from landing there she was consigned to Ormsby of Sligo and Burke of Connemara. In the event of her failing there she had on board two �spotsmen� or pilots for the coast of Kerry and Cork.

There was also a lugger at the same time about to proceed from Flushing to Wexford. This vessel was of from 90 to 100 tons, was painted black, with two white mouldings and a white counter.

UK CG NewsCoastguard News from England

Sandown Rescue. 1866.

During a strong gale three vessels were driven into Sandown Bay and were likely to be driven ashore. The Sandown Coastguards fired signal rockets to warn the ships of the danger; all three turned away but a Swedish brig, carrying a crew of twelve struck. The crew cut away the masts to try and save the vessel. The Sandown Coastguards decided to try and mount a rescue, there was a problem as Chief Officer Bunt had sent two Coastguards to Culver Down to confirm the other two vessels cleared Culver headland. He was therefore two men short for a full crew. He sought volunteers from the local fishermen to no avail. Some men volunteered but were refused, as the Chief Officer wanted men accustomed to heavy boat work. Fortunately, a Coastguard arrived from the Shanklin Station, Richard Hurley and two volunteers John Hyde and John Raynor, made up the crew, which consisted of John Bunt, Robert Hoar, John Moran, William Jennings (Sandown Coastguards) Richard Hurley (Shanklin Coastguard) and the two volunteers. The Coastguards made two unsuccessful attempts to reach the brig and about 1.30 am the brig started to break up.  The Coastguards made a third attempt and rescued one man. On a forth attempt six men were rescued but on the return some planks on the boat were stove in and the boat filled with water, however, it managed to reach the shore safely.

A small fishing boat under the leadership of  Francis Hayden, was launched and after two attempts rescued four more men, a third attempt rescued the twelfth and last member of the crew. It must be stressed that the Coastguard boat, although seaworthy was not designed as a lifeboat. There was a large crowd watching the unfolding events and a huge cheer went up as the last man was rescued. A collection was taken and the fishermen given £4-10-0 each. The Coastguards were looked upon as doing their duty and received nothing. The Chief Boatman John Bunt and the fisherman Francis Hayden were awarded the Silver medals of the Royal National Institute for the Preservation of life from Shipwrecks.

Ref: "Coastguards of the Isle of Wight" by Tony Gale. 2005

Eight Lives Lost. 1913

Ship Wrecked off the Tyne.

Eight lives were lost in the wreck of the Russian barque California off St. Mary�s island, about six miles north of the Tyne, early yesterday morning. The vessel left Shields Harbour about 5 o'clock on Tuesday evening in tow of the tug Plover. The weather was then moderate, but about 10.30 a terrible gale from the south-east sprang up suddenly, and caused the tow rope to part. The vessel began to drift towards the north-west, until she at last struck on a rocky bottom a quarter of a mile south of St. Mary�s Island.

The crew, numbering 16, finding she was rapidly going to pieces, jumped overboard and made for the shore. Coastguard Harmer, who had arrived with a rocket brigade, and two other men, James Ingram and Charles Major, put on life-belts and went to sea, and managed to secure five of the swimmers, three others being picked up by the rest of the party. The survivors, who included the captain, were taken to the lighthouse-keepers dwelling on St. Mary's Island.

Ref: "The Irish Independent" 16 January 1913.

 Coming in July Edition.

 Ninety nine years ago the Coastguards at Dover were among  the few who saw the arrival of the first aeroplane to cross the English Channel piloted by Louis Bleriot..


"Lighthouse Focus"





With more and more people enjoying the beach and sea, the RNLI has never been busier - rescuing an average of 22 people every day. It now costs over �330,000 a day to run this essential service - to train their volunteers and maintain their craft and equipment. So however you choose to support them, every penny really counts.

To donate to the RNLI, simply call 0800 543210 or visit
(for Republic of Ireland call (01) 800 789 589 or visit



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