Brandy for the parson

It was a balmy day. My walk around the valley that lies between Fishguard and Goodwick was full of the signs of spring: chaffinches chirped and a buzzard mewed, bumblebees and even a peacock butterfly were on the wing, the vanilla scent of gorse permeated the air and marsh marigolds gleamed in moist ditches. I always wish it were possible to stop the clock for a while at this point in the year.

The horseback rider was startled to see me lurking in the undergrowth and sped away up the track between these two old gate posts that once marked the entrance to a local domain. The valley, which runs up from the shore to the high ground south of town, was in past times a smugglers' route, hence its name Cwm Brandy (Brandy Valley). Contrabrand would be slipped along a network of shady paths and leafy sunken lanes to the turnpike road above, under the noses but out of the sight of the excise men who levied the custom tolls. Seeing the rider reminded me of Rudyard Kipling's 'Smuggler's Song' in which a little girl is warned by her father to pay no heed to the sound of hooves in the dark.

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street.
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

The rest of the poem can be found here.

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