The Smuggler’s Leap
“Near this hamlet (Acol) is a long-disused chalk pit…known by the name of ‘The Smuggler’s Leap.’ The tradition of the parish runs that a riding officer from Sandwich, called Anthony Gill, lost his life here…while in pursuit of a smuggler. A fog coming on, both parties went over the precipice…The spot has, of course, been haunted ever since”. [Lewis’s History of Thanet, by the Rev. Samuel Pegge 1796] This historical note inspired Rev Richard Harris Barham (Born 6 December 1788 – Died 17 June 1845) to write his poem, The Smuggler’s Leap, which appeared in the ‘Ingoldsby Legends’
The fire-flash shines from Reculver cliff,
And the answering light burns blue in the skiff,
And there they stand,
That smuggling band,
Some in the water and some on the sand,
Ready those contraband goods to land:
The night is dark, they are silent and still,
— At the head of the party is Smuggler Bill!
‘Now lower away! come, lower away!
We must be far ere the dawn of the day.
If Exciseman Gill should get scent of the prey,
And should come, and should catch us here, what would he say?
Come, lower away, lads — once on the hill,
We’ll laugh, ho! ho! at Exciseman Gill!’
The cargo’s lower’d from the dark skiff’s side,
And the tow-line drags the tubs through the tide,
No trick nor flam,
But your real Schiedam.
‘Now mount, my merry men, mount and ride!’
Three on the crupper and one before,
And the led-horse laden with five tubs more;
But the rich point-lace,
In the oil-skin case
Of proof to guard its contents from ill,
The ‘prime of the swag,’ is with Smuggler Bill!
Merrily now in a goodly row,
Away and away those Smugglers go,
And they laugh at Exciseman Gill, ho! ho!
When out from the turn
Of the road to Herne,
Comes Gill, wide awake to the whole concern!
Exciseman Gill, in all his pride,
With his Custom-house officers all at his side!
— They were called Custom-house officers then;
There were no such things as ‘Preventive men.’
Sauve qui peut!
That lawless crew,
Away, and away, and away they flew!
Some dropping one tub, some dropping two;–
Some gallop this way, and some gallop that,
Through Fordwich Level — o’er Sandwich Flat,
Some fly that way, and some fly this,
Like a covey of birds when the sportsmen miss;
These in their hurry
Make for Sturry,
With Custom-house officers close in their rear,
Down Rushbourne Lane, and so byWestbere,
None of them stopping,
But shooting and popping,
And many a Custom-house bullet goes slap
Through many a three-gallon tub like a tap,
And the gin spirts out
And squirts all about,
And many a heart grew sad that day
That so much good liquor was so thrown away.
Sauve qui peut! That lawless crew,
Away, and away, and away they flew!
Some seek Whitstable — some Grove Ferry,
Spurring and whipping like madmen — very —
For the life! for the life! they ride! they ride!
And the Custom-house officers all divide,
And they gallop on after them far and wide!
All, all, save one — Exciseman Gill,–
He sticks to the skirts of Smuggler Bill!
Smuggler Bill is six feet high,
He has curling locks, and a roving eye,
He has a tongue and he has a smile
Trained the female heart to beguile,
And there is not a farmer’s wife in the Isle,
From St. Nicholas quite
To the Foreland Light,
But that eye, and that tongue, and that smile will wheedle her
To have done with the Grocer and make him her Tea-dealer;
There is not a farmer there but he still
Buys gin and tobacco from Smuggler Bill.
Smuggler Bill rides gallant and gay
On his dapple-grey mare, away, and away,
And he pats her neck and he seems to say,
‘Follow who will, ride after who may,
In sooth he had need
Fodder his steed,
In lieu of Lent-corn, with a Quicksilver feed;
— Nor oats, nor beans, nor the best of old hay,
Will make him a match for my own dapple-grey!
Ho! ho!– ho! ho!’ says Smuggler Bill —
He draws out a flask and he sips his fill,
And he laughs ‘Ho! ho!’ at Exciseman Gill.
Down Chislett Lane, so free and so fleet
Rides Smuggler Bill, and away to Up-street;
Sarre Bridge is won —
Bill thinks it fun;
‘Ho! ho! the old tub-gauging son of a gun —
His wind will be thick, and his breeks be thin,
Ere a race like this he may hope to win!’
Goes the fleet dapple-grey,
Fresh as the breeze and free as the wind,
And Exciseman Gill lags far behind.
‘I would give my soul,’ quoth Exciseman Gill,
‘For a nag that would catch that Smuggler Bill!–
No matter for blood, no matter for bone,
No matter for colour, bay, brown or roan,
So I had but one!’ A voice cried ‘Done!’
‘Ay, dun,’ said Exciseman Gill, and he spied
A Custom-house officer close by his side,
On a high-trotting horse with a dun-coloured hide.–
‘Devil take me,’ again quoth Exciseman Gill,
‘If I had but that horse, I’d have Smuggler Bill!’
From his using such shocking expressions, it’s plain
That Exciseman Gill was rather profane.
He was, it is true,
As bad as a Jew,
A sad old scoundrel as ever you knew,
And he rode in his stirrups sixteen stone two.
— He’d just utter’d the words which I’ve mention’d to you,
When his horse coming slap on his knees with him, threw
Him head over heels, and away he flew,
And Exciseman Gill was bruised black and blue.
When he arose
His hands and his clothes
Were as filthy as could be,– he’d pitch’d on his nose,
And roll’d over and over again in the mud,
And his nose and his chin were all cover’d with blood;
Yet he screamed with passion, ‘I’d rather grill
Than not come up with that Smuggler Bill!’
–‘Mount! Mount!’ quoth the Custom-house officer, ‘get
On the back of my Dun, you’ll bother him yet.
Your words are plain, though they’re somewhat rough,
‘Done and Done’ between gentlemen’s always enough!–
I’ll lend you a lift — there — you’re up on him — so,
He’s a rum one to look at — a devil to go!’
Dash’d up the hill,
And mark’d not, so eager was he in pursuit,
The queer Custom-house officer’s queer-looking boot.
Smuggler Bill rides on amain,
He slacks not girth and he draws not rein,
Yet the dapple-grey mare bounds on in vain,
For nearer now — and he hears it plain —
Sounds the tramp of a horse –‘Tis the Gauger again!’
Dashes round by the mill
That stands near the road upon Monkton Hill,–
‘Now speed,– now speed,
My dapple-grey steed,
Thou ever, my dapple, wert good at need!
O’er Monkton Mead, and through Minster Level,
We’ll baffle him yet, be he gauger or devil!
For Manston Cave, away! away!
Now speed thee, now speed thee, my good dapple-grey,
It shall never be said that Smuggler Bill
Was run down like a hare by Exciseman Gill!’
Manston Cave was Bill’s abode;
A mile to the north of the Ramsgate road.
(Of late they say
It’s been taken away,
That is, levell’d and filled up with chalk and clay,
By a gentleman there of the name of Day,)
Thither he urges his good dapple-grey;
And the dapple-grey steed,
Still good at need,
Though her chest it pants, and her flanks they bleed,
Dashes along at the top of her speed;
But nearer and nearer Exciseman Gill
Cries ‘Yield thee! now yield thee, thou Smuggler Bill!’
Smuggler Bill, he looks behind,
And he sees a Dun horse come swift as the wind,
And his nostrils smoke and his eyes they blaze
Like a couple of lamps on a yellow post-chaise!
Every shoe he has got
And sparks round his ears snap, crackle, and play,
And his tail cocks up in a very odd way;
Every hair in his mane seems a porcupine’s quill,
And there on his back sits Exciseman Gill,
Crying ‘Yield thee! now yield thee, thou Smuggler Bill!’
Smuggler Bill from his holster drew
A large horse-pistol, of which he had two!
Made by Nock;
He pull’d back the cock
As far as he could to the back of the lock;
The trigger he touch’d, and the welkin rang
To the sound of the weapon, it made such a bang;
Smuggler Bill ne’er missed his aim,
The shot told true on the Dun — but there came
From the hole where it enter’d — not blood,– but flame,
— He changed his plan,
And fired at the man;
But his second horse-pistol flashed in the pan!
And Exciseman Gill with a hearty good will,
Made a grab at the collar of Smuggler Bill.
The dapple-grey mare made a desperate bound
When that queer Dun horse on her flank she found,
Alack! and alas! on what dangerous ground!
It’s enough to make one’s flesh to creep
To stand on that fearful verge, and peep
Down the rugged sides so dreadfully steep,
Where the chalk-hole yawns full sixty feet deep,
O’er which that steed took that desperate leap!
It was so dark then under the trees,
No horse in the world could tell chalk from cheese —
Down they went — o’er that terrible fall,–
Horses, Exciseman, Smuggler, and all!!
Below were found
Next day on the ground
By an elderly Gentleman walking his round,
(I wouldn’t have seen such a sight for a pound,)
All smash’d and dash’d, three mangled corses,
Two of them human,– the third was a horse’s —
That good dapple-grey, and Exciseman Gill
Yet grasping the collar of Smuggler Bill!
But where was the Dun? that terrible Dun?
From that terrible night he was seen by none!–
There are some people think, though I am not one,
That part of the story all nonsense and fun,
But the country-folks there,
One and all declare,
When the ‘Crowner’s ‘Quest’ came to sit on the pair,
They heard a loud Horse-laugh up in the air!–
— If in one of the trips
Of the steam-boat Eclipse
You should go down to Margate to look at the ships,
Or to take what the bathing-room people call ‘Dips,’
You may hear old folks talk
Of that quarry of chalk:
Or go over — it’s rather too far for a walk,
But a three-shilling drive will give you a peep
At that fearful chalk-pit — so awfully deep,
Which is call’d to this moment ‘The Smuggler’s Leap!’
Nay more, I am told, on a moonshiny night,
If you’re ‘plucky,’ and not over subject to fright,
And go and look over that chalk-pit white,
You may see, if you will,
The Ghost of Old Gill
Grappling the Ghost of Smuggler Bill,
And the Ghost of the dapple-grey lying between ’em.–
I’m told so — I can’t say I know one who’s seen ’em!
And now, gentle Reader, one word ere we part,
Just take a friend’s counsel, and lay it to heart.
Imprimis, don’t smuggle!– if bent to please Beauty
You must buy French lace,– purchase what has paid duty
Don’t use naughty words, in the next place,– and ne’er in
Your language adopt a bad habit of swearing!
Never say ‘Devil take me!’
Or ‘shake me!’–or ‘bake me!’
Or such-like expressions — Remember Old Nick
To take folks at their word is remarkably quick.
Another sound maxim I’d wish you to keep,
Is, ‘Mind what you’re after, and — Look ere you Leap!’
Above all, to my last gravest caution attend —
NEVER BORROW A HORSE YOU DON’T KNOW OF A FRIEND!!!