OF THE WIGHT - SMUGGLING YARNS
Many times have I heard expressions of regret
that some of the tales of the Old Island smugglers
have not been recorded ere they Crossed the Bar.
As a descendent of them, I have in this small
book endeavoured to set down a few of the yarns as
told to me by my Father, Grandfather and others of
the last generation, in the hope that they may
interest others and, perhaps, foster in the young
that spirit of adventure and bravery which not only
gave us smugglers but men who were, and are, ever
ready to man the lifeboats and succour those in
distress round the storm swept shores of the Wight.
20th January 1932
concerning Old Joe Bastiani.
No smuggling yarn would be complete without
mention of a noted tub runner who lived at
Atherfield, Chale, and Totland Bay.
Joseph Bastiani or 'Old Joe', as he was
usually called, was half Italian, half English. He was an ingenious and persevering character, and about
1853, lived in a rough shanty, built of shipwreck
timber, on the cliff at Atherfield.
Here, could usually be found a drop of ale,
and at times, smuggled liquor, as Joe was by trade,
sometimes fisherman, smuggler, poacher, or farm
labourer, according to wind and tide, and he also
had a keen eye for fossils, for which the cliffs a t
Atherfield have long been famous.
Owing to his poaching propensities, the
farmer, his landlord, gave him notice to quit.
After leaving there, he came to live at ,
Chale in a house called Poor-House, close to the
still his enemies, the farmer, parson and squire
pursued him, especially when he started dispensing
smuggled liquor under their noses.
He soon received notice to quit, but took no
notice of it, nor many subsequent ones.
Eventually he was evicted, his furniture
etc., being placed out by the side of the road. If Joe had enemies, he also had his friends, and a
house was soon found for him at Chale Green.
Not long after his eviction, Poor-House was
burned down, and many times have I played over the
ruins when a schoolboy.
It was only recently that I heard the story
of the fire. It
seems that Joe and his pals were spending a
comfortable evening at the Clarendon, when, after a
whispered consultation, one of the younger members
of the party left the tap-room, and he was back
within a few minutes, his absence not having been
however, the cry "Fire," was heard
outside, and Poor-House was soon gutted.
Joe had carefully prepared the bonfire, and
his pal, Tom, applied the match.
After leaving Chale, Joe went to live at
Totland Bay, where he died.
One night, Joe and two of his boys were
crossing to Cherbourg, in a small open boat, for a
cargo of kegs, and when about halfway across, a
large ship bore down on them.
Joe saw the danger, and with great presence
of mind, put his helm over just in time, as the
ship, going about nine knots, grazed down the side
of his boat. Joe's
boys, breathless with terror, lay down in the bottom
of the boat, but Joe never turned a hair, and just
carried on, reaching Cherbourg in safety, and home
with a full cargo.
amusing extract concerning the Totland smugglers.
While thinking of Totland, a most amusing
tale of that part, told me by my father-in-law, has
come to my mind. A well-known Island policeman, who
died a few years ago, captured three smugglers near
Totland, and, when they appeared before the Bench at
Newport. their solicitor asked him how he could
capture three men single-handed. Being Irish, and
with a good brogue, he replied: "Och, sure, I
surrounded them, Sor." Rumour has it that this
capture was arranged to enable the main body, with a
heavy cargo of tubs, to get away in safety.
go down among the needles rocks and put them all
again to Cherbourg and take some more, Oh!