On this Day 2nd July 1831

Smugglers taken at St Ives

On 2 July 1831 John Tregerthen Short of St Ives recorded in his diary that,

A smuggler, with ninety-nine tubs of spirits and a crew of six men, was captured by the Preventive-boat belonging to this station.

Eleven days later, on 13 July 1831, he reported that,

The smugglers were tried. One Frenchman cleared as a passenger, but five Englishmen condemned to imprisonment and a fine of £100 each.

The Royal Cornwall Gazette also covered this incident on 9 July 1831. We learn that the vessel concerned was a smack called Truro which was registered in London and had on board 100 tubs of spirits, a chest of tea and two hampers of glass, five Englishmen and one Frenchman. The goods were stored in the St Ives Custom House and represented the second capture of smuggled goods to be landed in St Ives in the last two months. The successful Preventive Service action was led by Captain Moses Martin.

All well and good except for the fact that John Tregerthen Short records the capture of the Truro as being on 2 July 1832. He describes the vessel as a sloop with a crew of five and says she was captured off Gurnard's Head. The other details are as given in the Gazette. Another error of the same kind appears in Tregerthen Short's coverage of another successful action led by Moses Martin. According to Short, Martin captured a smuggler with 339 tubs of spirits and a crew of eight on 4 December 1832. The Gazette reported this action on 10 December 1831 naming the vessel as the French cutter, Elizabeth, laden with 338 kegs of brandy and gin plus three packages of manufactured glass. Something has clearly gone awry with John Tregerthen Short's diary keeping, possibly in transcription from hastily written notes or maybe when the diary was being prepared for publication. The original diaries are held by Cornwall Record Office so the mystery may be solved there.

The account in the Gazette is much fuller than Tregerthen Short's. The capture was effected after a very active pursuit by Mr Moses Martin, chief officer of the Coast Guard stationed at St Ives, in conjunction with the custom-boat, and was taken about six miles from the coast at three o'clock on the Sunday morning. It is supposed that her cargo was to have been landed at Hayle or Gwithian. As she was observed the first night standing into the bay under full sail, when she warned of her danger by the smugglers fires, and stood off again. The Gazette also names the two Englishmen in the crew as being named Higgins and Bawden.

H.M. Coastguard had been in existence for nine years by 1831 and for Moses Martin and his preventive men it seems to have been an exciting year. Moses had been at St Ives since July 1826 having transferred from Mousehole. As Chief Officer he had five men below him. The men of the coastguard service tended to move around a lot, seldom staying in one place for very long but in July 1831 the records show that, in addition to Moses Martin, the St Ives man were: Jonathan Frazier, Chief Boatman who had been at St Ives since August 1829; William Treloar, Commissioned Boatman, at St Ives May 1831 having transferred from Prussia Cove; Thomas Connolly, Boatman at St Ives since May 1831; Archie Beith, Boatman at St Ives since May 1831; and Edward Arthur, Boatman, who had joined on 4 June 1831. In addition, the 69 ton cutter, Dolphin, and her 18 man crew was also attached to the St Ives station.

Moses Martin next appeared in Gazette in 1848 when his retirement was announced in the 16 June edition. Moses would have been 57 when he retired, he was born in Tintagel in 1791 but unlike many in the 19th century he lived to enjoy a long retirement, not dying until 1872 at the age of eighty.



Diary of John Tregerthen Short of St Ives

Royal Cornwall Gazette (as noted in text) searched via the British Newspaper Archive

National Archives, ADM 175 Admiralty, predecessors and successors: Coastguard and predecessors: Records of Service. These records are available free of charge via http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk


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