Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival 2014

smugglers 2014Those who live in Ayr and think that Girvan is foreign parts have obviously not ventured as far south as Ballantrae, the land of cannibals (at least in the 15th century), RLS heroes and Smugglers.

To celebrate this last aspect of their heritage, the village enjoyed its second Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival in August, when contraband was landed, hunted by excise men and eventually brought to The Smugglers’ Arms (usually the Community Hall) on the Friday night for an evening of entertainment. Around the village scarecrow smugglers were planted to put the excise men off the scent and the Hall, sorry, the pub was filled with nets, creels, and other paraphernalia of sailing and smuggling.

A new venture this year was a Creative Writing Competition, whose winning and highly commended entries on the topic of ‘Smuggler!’ were read out during the evening and prizes presented by one of the judges, Ann Burnett of Ayr Writers’ Club. The winner of the senior competition, James Rose, and one of the two Highly Commended entries, Pat Young, are both from Ayr Writers’ Club. The submissions were, of course, anonymous! Other entertainment was provided by local folk singers, fiddlers, a children’s choir and a dramatic two-handed reading of Tam O’Shanter.

Before closing time was called, it became clear that the parson, local doctor, ship’s captain and publican were leading members of the smuggling gang and their denials cut little ice with the exciseman, who was not to be distracted by the most provocative of doxies. Radical action was called for and the evening ended in mayhem, murder and more double entendres than a Round the Horn radio show.

Next year’s festival will be one to look forward to.


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