Waterford Harbour

Waterford Harbour
Cheekpoint village 1940's

Friday, 21 April 2017

Chasing the Smugglers - Waterford harbour Coastguards 1822

The HM Coastguard service was created in 1822 when the Revenue Cruisers, Riding officers, and the Preventative Waterguard were amalgamated into a single force to try tackle incidents of smuggling and to enforce the collection of taxes. Waterford was in the top three ports of the country and required a significant force to patrol the coast and the harbour entrance. The administrative base for the port of Waterford and New Ross was the city, but the operations were at their busiest at Passage East and Ballyhack.
Passage East and Ballyhack on the opposite bank
via Paul O'Farrell
We saw in my cousin James Doherty's guest blog a few weeks back, that smuggling was a constant issue for the crown in the waters around Waterford, and indeed Ireland. It was seen as a legitimate way to do business and it could be argued by local merchants as a legitimate way of engaging in trade when seen against the harsh taxes and controls placed on irish merchants by the crown. The smugglers used a variety of methods; hiding contraband in legitimate cargo, running ship loads of illicit cargo, transferring cargo to others such as fishing boats or calling to out of the way drop off points along the coast and harbour to off load part of their cargo. The enforcement of tax collection and the prevention of smuggling then, required a vast force.

A government paper1 of the time gives a list of the roles, the numbers employed and the costs associated with maintaining the Coastguard service at Waterford and New Ross.  In total, 92 men were employed.
A well armed preventative man!  Accessed from
http://hastingschronicle.net/features/hastings-coastguards-and-smugglers/
The top was shared by two positions the Collector and the Comptroller, their chief duty seems to have more to do with keeping each other in check, than overseeing the collection of tax (a seemingly regular enough practice within the structure of the organisation). Under them were several clerks, storekeepers and surveyors to ensure the smooth administration of a vast network of river related roles.  The Office of Waterford was housed in the customs house, based on the quays but we can see from the document a sub office in New Ross, and a presence at Dunmore, Cheekpoint but principally at Passage East, and I presume Ballyhack.

Passage and Ballyhack are an obvious site, due to their strategic location. Ships could reach the villages under sail without too much difficulty and there anchor to await unloading by the lighter boats, sailing when tide and wind allowed and/or towing to ports by the hobblers.  First aboard was the Tide Surveyor (earlier called tyde) to check the manifest and cargo and ensure all was in order. The particulars of the ships cargo and journey was taken for record. A Tide Waiter (wayter) was left aboard the ship to ensure that nothing was removed from the vessel and he would stay with the ship day and night. The Waiters would leave if the cargo was moved to a lighter, or remain aboard and travel upriver if the ship headed to Waterford or Ross. Once arriving in port, the waiter presented himself to the custom house to account for the cargo, the unloading being carried out by porters, supervised by landing waiters, and these under the supervision of Land Surveyors.

A fleet of boatmen and craft serviced the coastguard, ensuring ease of transport to and from vessels and between the lower harbour and the ports.  Meanwhile along the coastline further watchers were stationed.  These included coast officers and walking officers and also men on horseback known as riding officers. Between them they would keep a watch on approaching ships and would effectively follow them along the coast to Passage or Ballyhack, handing over responsibility and providing any observations to the Surveyor on duty.

The total cost of the operation at the time was £8,005 which I presume was for the year. The most numerous employees were working as tide waiters and supernumerary tide waiters which numbered 42 men alone.
An advert to twart the smugglers
Accessed from: http://jennywattstreasure.com/
history-of-smuggling-in-ireland-bootlegging/

I was interested to note that there was a also a Tidy Surveyor in position at Dunmore East.  It must be presumed this role was the oversee the Mail packet station as it operated from here at the time. Contemporary and historical works suggest the Packet service in general was a regular method of smuggling, either in the ships manifest or by individual crew.

Try as the coastguard might, the numbers of vessels and the ingenuity of sailors and merchants, created a constant supply of smuggled goods. It would take a fundamental shift in government policy towards free trade and fairer taxes later in the century before the problem started to be effectively addressed.2
  
For more on this subject The Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society's next lecture is on 28th April at 8 p.m. in St Patricks Gateway, Patrick St, Waterford,  The lecture is "The Forgotten Force." by Mr James Doherty and will look at H.M. Coastguard in pre-independence Ireland. Regulations, Roles and Responsibilities.  €5 for non-members, free for members

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can connect with me to receive the blog every week.  Simply email me to request to be added to my email list at russianside@gmail.com.


1. Detailed Account of Establishment for Collection of Customs and Ports of Ireland 1821-22.  Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland

2. King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855, by E. Keble Chatterton

Here's some very interesting information on smuggling and the Coast Guard service from West Waterford via the county museum:  
http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web/Display/article/369/6/Ardmore_Memory_and_Story__The_Sea_The_Coastguard_Service.html

For more on the operations at Waterford and specifically Passage, see Decies #31 by Francis Murphy
http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ejournals/100748/100748-1.pdf

2 comments:

  1. Great to read. Funny how the task names have evolved. Another great read and I look forward to Fridays.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Eamon, the names have long standing and have evolved over centuries as have the duties

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