One of the many things take makes the British Isles such a special place, is that it is stooped in so much history. So I have decided to add another prong to my substantial lack of talent and try my hand at explaining a little of this history to you, as I go on my travels. I apologise in advance...lol!
Today's history lesson came to my mind whilst I was contemplating a suitable photograph for this months "Moon" photo challenge. It takes us back around 500 years and is based in my very own county of Wiltshire.
Before I go any further, I would like to formally introduce you to Wiltshire, by showing you where it is situated. The main image on the map below is the United Kingdom and the smaller map on the top right hand corner highlights the county of Wiltshire.
Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries the wool produced from the English County of Wiltshire was known and prized all over Europe because of its superb quality. Dutch and Flemish merchants had permanent headquarters in the Wiltshire town of Swindon (my home town), attracted there by the high profit obtained from the wool trade.
But there was a problem!
The merchants had a reputation of being rather partial to a regular drink of Brandy and Holland's Gin, but this came with a high duty tax. The local folk came up with a solution and began to smuggle the barrels of spirit into the county to avoid paying the import duty.
By the mid-sixteenth century they had established a smuggling operation that would run for more than 200 years. The barrels of spirit were landed in quiet coves on the Hampshire coast and brought up to Swindon by night and hidden within church crypts, fields and cellars throughout the surrounding villages.
But one night it all went wrong. A group of smugglers were forced to hide their loot in a pond, the Crammer, when they were tipped off that the Revenue men were waiting in ambush. They returned on the night of a full moon to the Crammer with rakes. This again attracted the attention of the Revenue men. When asked what they were about they pretended that they were raking a cheese, the moons reflection, from the water. No doubt the Revenue men walked away shaking their heads at the stupidity of the ‘simple’ Wiltshire folk leaving them to recover their contraband at their leisure.
This legend has become firmly embedded in the folklore of Wiltshire and the natives of Wiltshire were known. The name "Moonrakers" has spread throughout Wiltshire with pubs, clubs, hotels and even learned societies named after them.
Below is a photograph that I took this afternoon, of the plaque on the bank of the Crammer pond.
The plaque reads:
"The CRAMMER AND ITS LEGEND
The origin of the Crammer is not known and neither is its name, which was probably derived from Cranmere. Meaning Crane Pond. However it has often been associated with the famous Wiltshire Moonraker legend, bestowing this nickmane on the county's inhabitants.
The story goes that some Wiltshire smugglers who had concealed kegs of brandy in the pond were observed by excise men in the moonlight in the act of trying to retrieve the kegs. The moon was reflected on the water and the smugglers said they were trying to rake out "Thik gurt yaller cheese." Convulsed with laughter, the excise men rode on. While the smugglers chortled, "We were too vly for they. There baint no vlies on we."
The pond is owned by Devizes Town Council.
This plaque was the gift of Mr John Drake, Mayor of Devizes in 1972/73. Who was made an honorary freeman of the town in March 1996."
You may be familiar with another usage of the term "Moonraker". Moonraker was the third novel by the British author Ian Flemming, based on the fictional British Secret Service agent Commander James Bond (007). Set completely in England, it follows Bond's mission to stop an industrialist Hugo Drax from destroying London with a nuclear weapon. The novel's name was used in 1979 for the eleventh official film and the fourth to star Roger Moore as James Bond. However, the film was significantly modified so as to include outer space.
It poses no surprise that Ian Flemming used the term "Moonraker" in his work, as he lived and died in the village of Sevenhampton, just outside my hometown of Swindon.
And here endith my history lesson.