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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Teesside

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Myths and Legends
Saltburn smugglers: local heroes or violent criminals?

The activities of the Saltburn smugglers and the life of John Andrews provide a curious contradiction. Legend and folklore portray the smugglers as lovable rogues, with whom we empathise as people who ‘get one over’ on the establishment. However, primary source material tells a very different story, one of men prepared to assault and bludgeon those whose job it was to prevent their illegal trade. The likelihood is that both contrasting depictions contain an element of truth, each owing its existence to perspectives on either side of the smuggling trade.

Coatline around Saltburn by the Sea
© Ian Britton,
To understand the development of the legend, we should consider those responsible for keeping it alive: the community of Saltburn itself. Given that the legend of Saltburn’s smugglers has survived and developed within the community, it is hardly surprising that, over the years, the legend has discarded its more unsavoury, violent aspects. Among that community must surely be descendents of the legend’s smugglers and descendents of those who pitched in to help the smugglers. These descendents are more inclined to remember their famous ancestors as daring heroes of the common people, rather than vicious criminals protecting a lucrative, illegal trade.

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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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Internet Links
Smuggling: The house detective
Trade and the British Empire
Saltburn Smugglers Heritage Centre
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