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Kernow a'gas dynergh

The Cornish Guide - Cornwall / Kernow

The Cornish Guide - Cornwall / Kernow

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Sea-faring Tales from Cornwall

Cornwall is renown for it's sea-faring and smuggling history. This doesn't necessarily mean Cornwall was more of a hub for smuggling than the rest of the UK, it just seems that it has been documented far more along our coasts.


Below you will find a few short sea-faring and smuggling stories based on actual events.

Pirate small HMS Association

HMS Association

Year: 1707


The Royal Navy's biggest peacetime disaster with a loss of around 1,500 sailors and four ships; HMS Association, HMS Eagle, HMS Romney and HMS Firebrand. Legend has it that Sir Clowdisley Shovell, commanding the fleet, made mistakes with longitudinal positions and Association was wrecked on the Gilstone losing all crew - some 800 hands. Eagle & Romney also went down with all hands bar one after striking either Pednathise Head or Daisy. As a result, Parliament passed the Longitudinal Act of 1714.

Smuggling lottery sign reward

The Lottery

Year: 1798


Polperro cutter which had long been a target for customs. Chief customs official Ambrose Bowden rounds up 4 men into a rowing boat at confronts the Lottery at Penlee Point. Shots rang out and one of the revenue crew, Humphry Glinn, is shot dead. The Lottery heads for Guernsey and wasn't picked up again until May 1799. The crew jumped ship and eventually Thomas Potter was sentenced to be 'hanged by the neck until you shall be dead and your body will be dissected and anatomised..".


Black Joan

Year: 18th & 19th Century


Ruthless smuggler of spirits known to have killed a Jamaican sailor in a pub brawl. Black Joan used St George's Island (Looe Island) and its maze of tunnels to hide their illegal alcohol before bringing ashore. Legend has it that a local farmer, also in on the smuggling, used to ride a white horse across the beach to let Black Joan know if it was all clear and free from customs officials. Despite many witnesses, she was never convicted of the murder.


Henry Cuttance

Year: 19th Century


Local smuggler Henry cuttance was awarded a Silver Cup by the King of Norway for saving the lives of a number of Norwegian sailors. The crew of the Elizabeth, from Bergen in Norway, ran aground close to the cliffs of Gunwalloe. After rescuing the captain and three of his crew, Henry searched the nearby cliffs and came across three more sailors huddled in a precarious position. After providing them with coffee & bread they then hauled them all to safety using a chair tied to a rope. Proper Job!

Cruel Coppinger

The Cruel Coppinger

Year: 1792/3


Even to this very day the mystery of who actually was the Cruel Coppinger remains. Legend had it that he cut off the head of a revenue officer and was known to capture anyone who offended him and forced them to carry out his orders until he deemed the ransom paid. A well built man, apparently he swam ashore in the middle of a storm too! Smuggled copious amounts of Brandy, chests of tea and other types of booty. Later declared bankrupt and sent to King's Bench Prison.

King of Prussia

The Carter Family

Year: 1770-1807


Operating in the Mount's Bay area, nr Penzance, brothers John 'King of Prussia' and Harry Carter (who went on to write 'The Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggler') were regarded by many as the most fearsome of them all and also held in high regard too. John was said to be an honest, godly man and another story tells of how he broke into a customs holding pound and only took the tea that was confiscated from him personally - he took nothing that wasn't his own.

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