Saturday, 8 October 2011


In February 1821 the mate of the revenue cutter 'Scourge' , at anchor in Lyme Bay, managed to lure the notorious and seasoned smuggler 'Jack Rattenbury', then 42 years of age, aboard his vessel by telling him that there was a spyglass of his on board the cutter which Jack might like to collect by rowing out.

Jack Rattenbury should have known better but he rowed out to the cutter to collect his spyglass. He took with him his two little boys, one five, the other nine years of age. Once aboard he found not only the mate of the 'Scourge' but also the captain of the 'Lyme Packet', who was a fellow smuggler turned informant, and a deputation officer waiting there to arrest him.

Jack Rattenbury later wrote:

"It is impossible for me to describe my feelings on finding myself trepanned in such a manner and when the deputation officer desired me to go below I positively declared that I would not; and when one of the men asked me what I was going to do with the boys... being goaded to madness by the question, I replied in a rage, 'Throw them overboard if you like, and drown them, for you might as well do so as to take their father from them in such a clandestine manner.'"

But the officers did not drown the young Rattenburys. They set the boys ashore and half an hour later the 'Scourge' made sail for Exmouth with Jack aboard. At Exmouth a coach was waiting to carry him under guard to Exeter and so to prison.

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