Standing atop the hills above the Ship inn at Satlburn, you can see why it was a smuggler's hideaway, the hills around are steep and anyone trying to catch you would be easily out run.
It was there that an eerie experience happened a while ago.
I was standing watching the bay, with its shallow beach strewn with pebbles, when I noticed what I thought was the sea mist rolling in. This was different to the usual sea mists as it was a lot mores dense.
I was just about to go and investigate, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Tha don’t want to go down there laddy.”
Turning I saw and old man, with a grizzled face wearing a sailors cap and an old rope knit sweater, as they used to at sea long ago.
“What do you mean?” I gingerly asked.
“You think, yon mist is from the sea, well if you look and listen, you will find out.”
‘I did wonder why it looked more dense, and grey than any mist I had encountered before.’
Listening carefully I could hear what at first sounded like a roaring tide, but having been told to listen carefully I opened my mind. “Am I right, that sounded like cannon fire?”
“Tha’s right there young man, now watch and I will tell you the story later.”
As I stood watching, two ships came around the headland, one flying a strange flag, the other flying the flag of the excise men of the King.
With cannons firing the King’s ship was forcing the other one further into the shallows, knowing how treacherous the beach I waited. And there it was, the sound seamen hate, no matter what country. The sounds of your ship running aground, the timbers tearing apart as waters flooded the lower decks. As I watched, from the smuggler's ship; I assumed it was smugglers otherwise why would they have been run aground. Five men came running ashore, wading slowly through the waters. The King’s ship sent two longboats ashore to chase down the men.
As the men stumbled up the pebbly beach, feet slipping on the wet rocks, they were met by a hail of musket fire, from the soldiers of the crown, all five lay dead on the rock strewn beach, blood washing to and fro in the water.
“Finally got you, Will Harrison,”the captain of the guard called.
Turning around to go back to the longboats, the soldiers were met by a volley of pistol fire from the inn, the ensuing fire fight last only a few minutes, as the men inside were not going to expose themselves to musket fire, and the soldiers could not possibly take the inn, without a siege as it backed on to the steep cliffs behind, and the men inside had a clear field of fire, any assault was just madness.
“That was the end of that,”the seaman said.
“How do you know it so well?”I queried.
“I ran the inn for the next 40 yrs, my ghost is still here.”
“So you are…”
“Yes. None other than John Andrew, ‘Big Jack’, ‘King of the smugglers’and he most feared of all smugglers in the area.”
A day or two late I was standing looking out across Satlburn bay, I could see what I thought was the sea mist rolling in, with the rip tides and shallow beach, Satburn is a death trap for unknowing seamen, as it is so easy to go aground on the shallows.
“Not again,” I muttered as I looked at the mist.It appeared to thickening into the same grey, cloying fog that had hid the ghosts of the past last week, as they had chased the smugglers ashore. “It can’t be happening again,”I muttered thinking nobody was in earshot.
“Aye laddie, it is,”came the voice from behind me. “Surely it is.We call them 'Smuggling fogs' they cling to the shoreline, only a true seaman from the area or someone desperate, would try to get to land in them.”
Vaguely in the mists, I could make out the shape of a vessel approaching the headland. “If I am not wrong, isn't that the Prospero heading ashore.”
“No, lad, you are right, she is coming in.”
“ The story is she was lost at sea in a storm, only John Andrew survived.”
“That was his version to hide the truth.”
“What did happen then?”
As I watched the mist, the Prospero came closer inland, still wide of the headland point and in full sail.Then there was a terrible wrenching sound, as she hit the hidden rocks and keeled over. Men were trying to get to the boats and above all else one man stood taller.
'Mad Jack’as he was known, stood on the gunnels and shouted to the crew.”Any man that follows me will be killed.”
Knowing his reputation, the crew stayed still, even though they out numbered him.They had seen him take four or five men down at a time in a fight, and were not keen to risk their lives.
As John Andrew aka ‘Mad Jack’leapt for the only boat and made for land. A gun fired on the ship, and a crewman fell to the floor.
“Right lads, we can’t chase him down but we will catch him one day.”Mason Friggett, the Prospero's mate said.
“John Andrew, may you and you your family be cursed by the Ship Inn, and may your spirits never leave the house,”Richard Jacklin, the coxswain yelled at the back of the rowing boat.
With the mist clearing, I could just make out the shapes of men climbing the rocks on the headland and coming around the point. Misty shrouds were now moving towards the inn, engulfing the whole bay. “What is happening now?” I asked.
“History is folding, in the mists, you are getting a chance to see the real John Andrew.”
“Andrew, we want's ours,”called one voice.
Another yelled, “If you don’t give it to us, we’ll take it by force this time.”
A voice from the inn yelled “Simon Miggins, you always were a hothead, you can't get me.”
“This time John Andrew, we are prepared for your treachery.”
“Jacklin, might have known, you would be here, never did trust you.”
There was an unearthly roar as the Prospero let off a broadside. The four cannons fired, although landing short of the target, the cannonballs had the desired effect. Unsettling Andrew for a short while, but adding to the mists with a powdery haze that hid the men as they crept up the pebbled beach. The windows were rocked and cracked by the shockwaves. The men opened fire at the front, where Andrew was holding ground, firing at will but with deadly accuracy, one shot caught Andrew in the shoulder, and spun him to the floor.
“Right, get him,”shouted Jacklin.
The crew rushed forward and dragged the bleeding and severely wounded Andrew from the house.
“Where's our share of all the loot, Andrew?”asked Miggins.
“Everything is tied in to the house now, you cannot get it,”Andrew laughed.
“Right men, we can’t have the money he owes, so we’ll take it out of him,”called Friggett. “Rope him up, we’ll take him on the Prospero.”
Remembering his strength, Jacklin made sure Andrew was semi-conscious as the crew tied him up, and dragged him to the boat, heading out to sea and the Prospero.
“Okay me hearties, we’ll keel haul him then,” Friggett yelled, as one length of rope was handed to young Paul Marler, as he swam under the Prospero, a short while later emerging smiling.
The crew tied both arms to the ends of the rope, as they pushed Andrew to the gunnels, and hurled their injured former captain overboard..
“Heave to lads,”called Miggins.”We don’t want us to be outdone by him dieing on us.”
The laughter I heard was like an evil wind going over bones of the long dead.
I watched both in horror at this cruel punishment; which involved the man been dragged under the keel of the ship, barely able to breathe. Andrew seemed to be still breathing, despite the gunshot wounds and the keel-hauling.I guessed the crew were counting on his immense strength to get him through, as part of the punishment. Barely breathing, he was dragged out the last time. Untied and sent ashore in his boat, it hit the pebbles, and tipped him onto the beach.
“ Right lads, set her sails for the seas, we have had our day finally,”Friggett called.
Turning to query what had gone on, all I saw was a whiff of pipe smoke, as the old sailor disappeared.
Seeing my puzzlement, one gent said “That were Paul Marler, you were talking to then.”
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