Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Phantom Smugglers on Romney Marsh, Kent

If there is one character who can be said to encapsulate the atmosphere of the misty landscape and equally misty past of wild Romney Marsh in his persona, it is Doctor Syn. This 18th century rector had a secret nocturnal life as the dashing leader of a gang of smugglers who brought brandy, lace and other luxuries into England illegally over the marsh. He fell in love with the daughter of a local squire and launched into a famous romance.

These days the life of Doctor Syn is celebrated in local fetes and festivals. The main event is held every two years when the activities are co-ordinated into the appropriately named “Days of Syn”. The erstwhile clergyman was actually a literary creation of local writer Russell Thorndyke and is entirely fictional. His story is, however, based on the real life escapades of Romney Marsh smugglers in days gone by.

One such smuggler was less fortunate that the fictional Doctor Syn. He ended his days on a gibbet just outside the village of Brookland after being caught by the revenue men. After his body had been left to rot for some weeks, his remains were cut down and buried by the roadside. Ever since then he has returned to pace restlessly around the site of the now-vanished gibbet. Perhaps he seeks a decent burial, perhaps he returns to atone for his sins. It is unlikely we will ever know for as soon as a witness gets within a few feet of him, this phantom vanishes abruptly.

This is an extract from HAUNTED PLACES OF KENT by Rupert Matthews

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