Tuesday, 15 April 2014

M is for Moonrakers

Here are the dialect words to start ... do you know what mind means? How are you feeling if you are miz-mazed? What does most-in-deal mean?  The answers are at the end of the post.
Today we are going 13 miles east of Trowbridge to the town of Devizes so that I can tell you the origin of this rhyme and the reason that Wiltshire people are proud to be called 'Moonrakers' :
Wiltshire born, Wiltshire bred,
Strong in the arm but thick in the head.
We used to chant it when we were children, a rhyme passed on through generations, but to understand why we'd be proud of a rhyme which questions our intelligence you need to hear the story of the Wiltshire Moonrakers .....
.... Back in the 17th century, smuggling was not restricted to coastal activity but stretched across the entire country as contraband was moved along little used tracks and pathways; Wiltshire had its fair share of secret routes with entire villages being involved in the smuggling - it was a major source of income!   There are numerous versions of the Moonraker story but they all start in the same way -  that some local men were smuggling barrels of brandy and that they hid the barrels in a pond.   The reason for them hiding the barrels in the pond is where the version differ, ranging from they were being chased by the excisemen and to avoid capture they hid the barrels in the pond, or that the cart broke and the barrels fell in the pond, or that the donkey pulling the cart kicked back at the shafts, broke the cart and the barrels ended up in the pond. The location of the pond is generally accepted as being the one in the following photograph, the Crammer which is now in Devizes but before the boundaries were changed would have been in the village of Bishops Cannings.

So, however they got there, the barrels of brandy were hidden in the pond.  Some time later the men returned at night, with large wooden rakes, to try to recover them.  They were caught in the act by the excisemen and when asked to explain what they were doing they pointed to the reflection of the moon and replied that they were trying to rake in the big cheese. The excisemen thought they were simpleminded and went on their way, leaving the smugglers free to recover the barrels of brandy.  Again the versions of the story differ, some saying that the excisemen had been tipped off so were waiting for them, other versions saying that the smugglers had been warned and so had their story ready.  The end result is that the smugglers had the last laugh and weren't quite as stupid as they seemed!
There is no evidence that it is anything more than a story but the tale has existed since before 1787 when a version of it was first published.  Devizes definitely claims the story as its own and this plaque is on the Green beside the Crammer.

You may like to listen to a poem of this story.  The poem was written by Will Meade and read by Mervyn Grist.
There is also a poem written in the local dialect - The Wiltshire Moonrakers written by Edward Slow and published in the 1890s. 

I'm finishing with the meanings of the dialect words:
  • mind - (depending on the context) to remind, to remember and to be inclined to do something
  • miz-mazed - completely puzzled, stunned
  • most-in-deal - generally, usually
Hope to see you again tomorrow for the letter N. 


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, A Bench with a View, and your comment. This was interesting to read the story about the brandy barrels and the picture of the lake is just stunning! I had not ever heard the word miz-mazed, yet knew what it meant, so I learned something new while visiting with you today :)

    May it be a nice day!


  2. Very cool "M" post! New follower here. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge, and I look forward to visiting again.


  3. Following from Blogging AtoZ.
    I'm writing "Things My Husband Has Broken" A to Z at http://AMomsPointOfView.com
    Come by and check it out.