The History

Towards the end of the 16th century, the boat builder John F Parkin was living at Cawsand Bay in East Cornwall. Parkin had a reputation for building fast coastal craft. During his work life he built revenue, privateer and smuggling vessels, and the Grayhound was most probably built in Cawsand as a Revenue Lugger in 1776.

After the Grayhound was launched, she worked as a Revenue Lugger and was commissioned by the collector of customs of St Ives. As a Revenue Lugger her work involved patrolling and chasing smugglers. On catching them, the crew of the Grayhound would have impounded the smugglers vessel and its´ goods, which then was sold at auction. Speed was therefore crucial for a Revenue Lugger in order to catch smugglers.

But of course, the Revenue Luggers were built by the same builders who built the smuggling luggers. Cornwall was rife with smuggling at this time, Cawsand and Kingsand became an important first land fall where the smuggled goods were then transported over to Plymouth. Ports within close distance of the Channel Islands were also busy with smuggling activity. Eventually, the three masted luggers were banned by the government to try a put a halt to the smuggling trade. The reason for this was their superior speed. Since they were so fast, they were very hard to catch. We believe this law no longer exists.

The first owner of the Grayhound was probably Mr John Knill who became a collector of customs at St Ives in 1762. He owned and managed many vessels like the Grayhound. 

However, evidence suggests that Grayhound’s terms of duty as a Revenue Lugger were short lived. As conflict arose due to the Declaration of Independence by the North American Colonists in 1776, privateering in the English Channel and beyond became common place. The Grayhound, being a well armed and fast ship became a successful privateer vessel.

A privateer vessel was a privately owned armed vessel granted a warrant by the government to wage war on enemy ships. As a Privateer the ship would carry a Letter of Marque issued by the government. During Grayhound’s privateering days 30 men were needed to work the vessel, another 30 men were onboard to act as return crew for any captured vessels. Grayhound carried eight cannons and can do so today.

The final fate of the original Grayhound is uncertain, but we are convinced that she was sunk in a glorious battle, heavily loaded with salvaged treasure on an unknown spot, marked on a map that we soon will obtain.

“The smuggling traders in these parts are grown to such a head that they bid defiance to all law and government. They come very often in gangs of sixty to one hundred men to the shore in disguise armed with swords, pistols, blunderbusses, carbines and quarterstaffs; and not only carry off the goods they land in defiance of officers, but beat, knock down and abuse whoever they meet in their way; so that travelling by night near the coast, and the peace of the country, are become very precarious; and if an effectual law be not speedily passed, nothing but a military force can support the officers in the discharge of duties.”

Philip Taylor, Collector of Customs at Weymouth from 1716 until some time in the 1720’s

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