Running liquor into the Maritime Provinces has become a hazardous business since the new Government Preventive Service was inaugurated
The Rum Patrol
Running liquor into the Maritime Provinces has become a hazardous business since the new Government Preventive Service was inaugurated
THERE are thirsty souls a-plenty in the Garden of the Gulf; there’s an aridity in the Maritimes such as the Bluenoses never knew before.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have undertaken to keep Prince Edward Island dry, and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick only just as moist as the liquor laws allow.
Are they doing it? An old Maritimer answers the question.
' Boy, are they doing it? The Mounties have police and planes and ships co-operating, and up in Cape Breton they
are making moonshine in the hills because they can’t get the stuff ashore. In New Brunswick they’re shipping alcohol in from the United States to mix with beer from Quebec.
“You still have the government stores?”
“Yes; in these hard times. Listen. Whisky over the side of a rum runner is $20 a case. The liquor stores charge $4.50 to $6 a bottle. We used to be able to get a keg of rum over the side for $4.50 to $6. I hate to think what the vendors would charge.” “Then the R. C. M. P. are really stopping the rum running?”
“The R. C. M. P. and the depression both. We can’t afford liquor store prices, and this new blockade stops our cheap liquor. There are ships standing off the coast right now and have been for days waiting to get a chance to land their stuff. They may have to cache it, jettison it. or even take it down to Rum Row off New York and take what it will bring."
I talked all this over with Major-General J. H. MacBrien, C M.G., D.S.O., commissioner of the R. C. M. P. “Why not run down there and see our fellows at work?” he said. So I went.
The Board of Strategy
T HERE'S a shy brick house in a shy street in a shy neighborhood in Moncton, N.B., whose walls are papered with maps and charts, whose furnishings are locked desks and files. It is no different externally from the other houses in that residential district. Looking for the house, I passed it three times
before I was at last able to find it.
This is the headquarters of the R. C. M. P. in the Maritimes. I found the Maritime Board of Strategy in session. At the head of the table was Assistant Commissioner Christian Junget, veteran of the old R. N. W. M. P.— a shrewd, placid-appearing old-timer with a twinkling eye but a firm fist. On his right sat Commander J. E. W. Oland, R. C. N., poring over naval charts, and on his left Squadron Leader F. C. Higgins, R. C. A. F., with a sheaf of coded telegrams in his fist.
I sat in. Higgins had the floor.
“Flight Lieutenant Coghill reports the schooner Sally Ann off Tracadie, the Martha May east of Souris, the Lizzie Jane standing off Murray Harbor, and the Mary S. north of Richibucto.”
The assistant commissioner nodded, and the commander pricked the locations off on his charts. I got a little map and marked them down too, for Maclean's Magazine is sitting in on this conference, there being a mutual understanding that no real names of ships, rum runners or preventive cruisers be revealed, or the date which this twenty-four hours of activity covers.
The squadron leader has been reading the reports of Flight Lieutenant F. S. Coghill, whose air base is strategically situated for his patrols of the Miramichi-Pictou littoral of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the circling coasts of Prinqj Edward Island. Up on the Gaspé Peninsula. Flight Lieutenant A. II. Hull and his detachment have their Dase, and down near Halifax Flight Lieutenant A. Lewis and his men are local«!. These seaplane bases are exceedingly movable. They change as the rum runners, abandoning a hopeless task in one area, try their luck in another. But all report to that quiet house on a side street in Moncton.
The air commander has the floor again.
“Hull rejxirts the Minnie McQ off Trinity Bay and another schooner near Pointe des Monts. Lewis has located a liquor mother ship southwest of Lunenburg, N.S., and a schooner going out from Mahone Bay for supplies. The Dorothy X is standing off Joli Head.”
That’s the day’s scouting—-eight rum runners, known or suspected, spotted by the air.jiatrols. Already the provincial superintendents of the R. C. M. P. have been notified at Halifax, Fredericton and Charlottetown, and tonight all roads in the nam«l vicinities will be patrolled.
But the rum is not yet ashore.
Commander Oland leads the way to his office upstairs. On the big charts he points out to the commissioner the location of the rum runners; then spots the ten cruisers under his command and explains his proposed tactics. The commissioner nods, makes a quiet suggestion here and there, and the second pitase of the day’s work is on.
Chasing the Rum Runners
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND is chiefly threatened. The island is still under prohibition, and rum-running rewards are consequently great. The coast is riddled with indentations, quiet coves, hidden bays where fast motor launches may play hide and seek with the law.
The air reports show one rum runner coming in from the north, one on the west end of the island and two on the east. They plan to reach the three-mile limit as darkness falls.
Even as they dance over the sunlit waves in the late afternoon, the wireless is tapping out code orders to four preventive cruisers. Their bases, too, are ever-changing, so it will do no harm to name their harbors that July afternoon, though the ships’ names are fictitious.
The little steel grey cruiser Pursuit is at Shediac. a smart little craft with twin Diesel engines and a chief engineer who was chief on a famous British submarine during the war. Her captain is a smart young French-Canadian. They bend over the chart in the wheelhouse and decode the orders from Moncton.
The neat black cruiser Quarto is spending a quiet afternoon in a little cove near Malpeque Bay, which lias of late years been more famous for rum running than oysters. The
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Largesse is in Pictou Harbor, and the Acadie is coming down from Chaleur Bay. All have their orders by wireless.
They are only little ships and it promises to be a wild night; no moon and scudding clouds. I asked the engineer of the Pursuit how often he got ashore.
“Three times in a month,” he said. “It’s a strenuous life.”
The Sally Ann is off Malpeque Bay before midnight. The Mary S. has veered round the end of the island and is somewhere near Sally. She wanted to land her cargo off Richibucto, but the Pursuit has nonchalantly appeared and is too close for comfort. Both rum runners are outside the three-mile limit, so cannot be seized.
Sally Ann turns tail and sails northward, feinting to draw the Pursuit off shore, so Mary can unload. With a quiet smile, the skipper of the Pursuit seemingly falls for the bluff. Mary edges inshore, and a fast motor launch spurts out. There is no time to be lost. Already the Mary has loaded a dory with liquor. ’ It slaps down to the water, the motor boat grabs the line and streaks for shore.
But bootleggers’ luck is out tonight. The Quarto has left her quiet anchorage at Malpeque and is thrashing under every ounce of power to cut off the motor boat. Hampered by the dory, the launch is being overtaken. With a curse, its crew finally cut their tow and streak for safety. Their speed gets them away, but the dory falls a prize to the Quarto. Next morning, flying with the air patrol, I saw the Quarto standing out to sea to take a look at another
suspected schooner, and the dory was perched on her foredeck, full of precious liquor.
The same manoeuvres are being carried out on the east end of the island and off the southeast Nova Scotia coast by Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. Where Captain Kidd and his pirates matched wits with the British navy, the Nova Scotia rum runner is playing hide-and-seek with the Canadian Navy, the Canadian Air Force and the R. C. M. P. And losing.
That night not a single rum runner of the eight landed a bottle or keg on the coast. There used to be a well travelled rum route from the Richibucto littoral down through New Brunswick to the State of Maine. It is no longer a rum road. The shore and land patrols of the R. C. M. P. see to that.
A Battle of Wits
' I 'HE MARITIME rum runners are Canadians, and, generally speaking, good sportsmen. They will tolerate no American gunmen in the game, so that there have been no shooting affrays between the runners and the preventive officers. Rather it is a battle of wits they are playing. Formerly the rum runner held the high cards, but General MacBrien has drawn a couple of aces by adding the navy and air branches to his operations.
I met an old rum runner off the Gaspé Coast. He had rum to sell. I was not interested in his rum, but how7 he got it ashore. It w7as easy, he said. This was in the days when the preventive cruiser de
luxe Margaret was the flagship of the preventive service.
“That Margaret,” he said, “she don’ know nodding. We go out, twenty, thirty launch, to the rum runner. We load up, then all togedder we go lak’ h— for shore. The Margaret she chase us. We go twenty way, the Margaret she only go one way.” “But she’s sure to catch somebody.” “Oh, sure,” he said casually. “But it don’t do her no good. Whoever she catch up wid throw the liquor overboard, and the Margaret she can do nodding.”
“But he loses the liquor.”
“No, he don’ lose nodding. The liquor she’s in sacks and all tie togedder wid rope. A long rope is tie on wid a buoy. He go out and pull her up.”
“Well, why doesn’t the Margaret find the buoy and pull up the liquor?”
“When de Margaret she’s dere, de buoy she’s not. When we trow de buoy overboard we tie on de sack of salt. That sink the buoy. Two, tree day the sea she’s wash away the salt, the buoy she’s come up.” Down by Malpeque Bay they throw the liquor over with the buoy on a short rope at high tide. When the tide goes down the buoy show's up. They drop liquor down in lobster traps, and an inquisitive Government fisheries inspector gets the surprise of his life when, pulling up a trap that appears to be catching lobsters out of season, he finds the sort of cheer that usually accompanies lobsters.
This caching of liquor under water, however, is not as good a trick as it used to be. Flying over Malpeque Bay, I saw the oyster beds beneath the water, and a patch which had been scooped out by a dredge. I recalled the war discovery that submarines could be located by airplanes and underwater things are visible from a height.
“That’s so,” confirmed Major Higgins. "We have located liquor caches that way.” The seaplanes cause more uneasiness to the rum runners than anything they have previously known. The plane swoops down out of a clear sky, sweeps past the suspected ship; a camera clicks and the suspect is in the rogue’s gallery. Recently one ship threw a tarpaulin over the name on its stern. The baffled plane went up and disappeared in the clouds. Soon afterward she came back, out of sight over the clouds. The pilot shut off his engine, and with a noiseless dive swept past the schooner before the crew knew she was there. The picture went into the files and that same schooner was carefully watched thereafter.
Thirsty souls ashore sometimes get impatient about the nonappearance of the local bootlegger, and sail out and buy their own liquor “over the bar.” This has also fallen into the category of unpleasant events. A plane sweeps down and photographs the scene, and the thirsty one may later have
to do some explaining to his wife when the picture is published.
Twelve-Mile Limit Needed
7 I 'HE new preventive service is only in its infancy, but the results are selfevident. There’s a new resourcefulness brought to the job. When General MacBrien wanted to add an air arm to his force, he came up against the stone wall of Government economy. He cast around for ways and means.
He found the Margaret, the handsome cruiser which gained some notoriety during the famous customs probe. Consulting his naval adviser, General MacBrien found that the Margaret cost as much to keep in commission as a warship with a crew twice the size, spent twice as much on stores as a destroyer, and was nothing more than an expensive luxury. He had her ordered out of commission.
With the money saved on the Margaret, General MacBrien has financed his air patrol. Commander Oland carried the economies further. He put his ships on a naval basis. Squadron Leader Higgins also found the pinch in many needful things, but devised original methods of communication to replace the wireless his planes needed but could not afford.
The greatest need of the new preventive service just now is the twelve-mile limit. Canada agreed to the twelve-mile limit which her ships must submit to in United States waters, but handicaps her own preventive force by maintaining the three-mile limit off her own coasts. Even the Bay of Chaleur and Northumberland Straits are extra-territorial with only the three-mile limit, but the Bay of Fundy, more expansive than either, is territorial with no limit. Parliament may be asked next session for the twelve-mile limit, in which case the rum runners’ number is up.
More and faster ships are also needful, for there are only ten cruisers and about fifteen motor boats to patrol a 2,500-mile shore line. Seaplanes with greater range and equipped with wireless must eventually be provided. Then, given a wireless station at Moncton, the entire Maritimes coastline will be protected against smuggling and mm running to a greater measure than ever before.
When I first dropped in at Moncton the Board of Preventive Strategy said:
“You’re too soon. We can’t show you much yet. We’re only just organizing.”
I sailed out on a cruiser and flew with the air patrol. When that trio gets really organized I expect to see men with tin cups in Charlottetown and signs reading “Pity the poor mm runner.” and doleful souls in ship chandlers’ shops lamenting the days that are gone for ever.
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