Smuggling across the Border
Smuggling of cattle
started around 1932 when the British government imposed a tariff on cattle coming out of the South. People along the border started to smuggle them. Police started to take stock of cattle on the land, age and colour and check them going into Fairs in the South.
Smugglers then started to drive them at night through fields and across mountains up to 10-12 miles away from the border. If the police caught you: cattle was seized and drover would be sentenced from a month to 6 months in jail or a heavy fine. A lot of men went to jail as they could not afford the fines.
The cattle was brought to the local Barrack Yard until they would be brought to Enniskillen where they would be pounded and auctioned at a later date. The man that owned the cattle usually bought them back later and cheap as nobody would bid against him.
Men would do sentry watching for a patrol by foot or by bicycle. They would let a Boo out of them to get smugglers to move the cattle and act quickly if a patrol was about. Sometimes a man would be charged with doing scout for the smugglers if he was caught in the border area without a light on his bicycle.
Smuggling cattle across the lough
by boat was very hard work. First the cattle had to be caught one by one and haltered.
The boats were a bit out from the shore as cattle don’t swim until they lose their feet. Men would drive them until they lost their feet and pull them by the halter till their heads were almost in the boat.
You had to keep the rope tight so cattle wouldn’t jump up into the boat. When they started to swim they were easy enough pulled. They had to be haltered before they got near the shore on the other side. The men would get out of the boat and drive in to the shore.
The oars man always stayed in the boat. Very few of these men could swim.
was done in a big way and into the fifties but you had to be very cool as you lived on your nerves, in case they would squeal Then people learned that if you give them stout to drink, they would sleep a lot. Sure enough it worked
When the second world war broke out a lot of things were smuggled. Flour, tea, bread electrical goods were smuggled into the South.
Whiskey, cigarettes, sugar, butter were smuggled into the North. There was always a safe house either side to leave goods until they were collected.
Women became very involved in smuggling around that time (walking over from Blacklion to Belcoo) until the customs got lady searchers and that stopped women smuggling.
Many a milk lorry had more bottles of whiskey than milk in their cans.
From Ted DeLacy, Belcoo
Extracts from "If Only" - Historical Sketches of the Belcoo Area.