BACK OF THE WIGHT - SMUGGLING YARNS
By F. Mew.
 
Preface
 
   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.
 
                                                                                                                                  F. MEW
                                                                                                                                  20th January 1932
 
 
 
Extract 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 church.   But 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 noticed.  Soon, 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.
 
 
Another 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.

We go down among the needles rocks and put them all ashore, Oh!
Back again to Cherbourg and take some more, Oh!
 

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