"The Boy Who Led Them" by George Chittenden I was struck by how real and alive the story was so I emailed the author to ask for some background. I asked him:
The book FEELS like it contains a lot of historical fact about
smuggling. Is it researched or just your expected way things were done
(I believe you teach history?)
Is the tale entirely fictional or does it contain either historical or legendary references?
When I received the reply I was so struck by it I asked if I could share the contents and he kindly agreed.
The town I'm from, Deal, was notorious for smuggling. So much so that
the prime minister William Pitt the younger sent soldiers to the town
where they proceeded to burn every sea-worthy vessel in an attempt to
destroy the industry that was costing them a fortune in lost revenue.
This tactic was only ever employed in Deal. Unfortunately if you
weren't a smuggler you were a fisherman so this technique destroyed the
towns livelihood. It was this event that initially inspired me to write
The old part of town which is now named Middle Street is
littered with underground tunnels leading from basement to basement and
into the cellars of pubs, of which Deal famously had one for every day
of the year. The smuggling gangs used these tunnels to ferry cargoes
and even local churches were used to store contraband. With regards to
actual smuggling techniques I carried out lots and lots of research to
guarantee they're accurate. The maritime museum exists and as a child,
like Stan, I spent many summer days fascinated by the unusual artefacts
such as spout lanterns and brandy tubs. I'm now a member of the
museum and I support them via donations and community events.
history to the younger generation has taught me that it's essential to
make it entertaining and engaging. As a result I decided to weave a
fictional plot around the towns heritage. As a result the characters
are fictional. However all of the locations exist and are as accurate
One of my aims with the book was to bring the museum to the public's attention and it's working slowly.
He was also kind enough to send me a link to the museum and I was a little surprised that it looks exactly as I imagine it from the description in the book. A visit would hardly break the bank so next time I'm in the area I will be looking in. It sounds fascinating and I wonder if I'll meet Reg?