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The sergeant sent for aid, but before that arrived the women of Beer rushed in with an artful story of shipwreck, attracting the soldiers' attention. Rattenbury, seizing the opportunity, dashed among them, half-naked, and escaped to the beach, where he hastily took boat and went off to his own vessel, and safety. In 1806 he, his crew, and his cargo of spirit-tubs were captured by the Duke of York cutter, when returning from Alderney. He was fined £100, and with his companions was sentenced to the alternative of imprisonment or service on board a man-o'-war. They chose the sea, and were accordingly shipped aboard the brig Kate, in the Downs ; but soon, while the officers were all more or less drunk, he found an opportunity of escaping, and was presently home again.

 

The smuggling exploits of this master of the art were endless. Perhaps the most amusing to the reader, at any rate, is that incident at Seaton Hole, where, one dark night, going up the cliff with a keg on his back, one of a cargo he had just landed, he was so unfortunate as to stumble over a donkey, which began to bray so horribly that, what with his trumpeting and the noise of the smuggler's fall, a Revenue officer, sleeping at the post of duty, was aroused, and seized forty kegs, nearly the whole of that run.

 

After serving three terms of imprisonment for smuggling, and for being unable to pay a fine of £4,500, Rattenbury's many adventures came to an end in 1833. His later years were devoted to fishing and piloting, and between whiles, to composing his reminiscences. In those pages you read this rather pitiful little note : ' The smuggler gratefully acknowledges the kindness of the Right Honourable Lord Rolle, who now allows him one shilling per week for life." What lavish generosity !

 

A winter's day on the beach at Beer

A winter's day on the beach at Beer

© Richard J Brine

 

 

 

 
 
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