Anything to Declare sir? I’ll just have a look in your luggage please…

William Hartey probably rode his luck once too often. These days we have become fairly used to the concept of Duty Free shopping at airports and ferry terminals, and of course the ‘booze cruise’ to Calais has been a popular pastime for Brits in the last few decades. Perhaps not for much longer after Brexit, who knows?


Hartey was he second steward on a ‘Boulogne boat’ which docked in London at the West Wharf in August 1868. The Customs officer went on board the boat as he was required to do, to check what it was bringing in from the continent.

The second steward was asked to produce his stories and so Hartey showedhim 25 cigars he had with him. “Is that all?” Robert Sharp asked him. “Yes” the sailor told him.

The customs officer was clearly suspicious, and inspected the boat. In the pantry he found 200 more cigars, concealed ‘behind a drawer’. The duty owing on them was £1 but the magistrate had the power to fine Hartey ‘single, double, or treble duty’.

But he must have been feeling charitable on this occasions. He said he would ‘not be hard upon him this time, but he must not be brought there again’. He fined him 20s and confiscated the cigars.

[From Reynold’s Newspaper, Sunday, September 20, 1868]

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