Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection

Irish Despard Origins

They regarded the pirates as benefactors as they supplied cut-price goods, such as sugar tobacco, silk and spices which people could not otherwise afford. Those who traded in these goods were called land pirates and they carried out this business with impunity due to the absence of proper laws. The English statute of 1536 against piracy made no mention of land pirates. Those who benefited most were those in high office like the English High Admiral and the numerous Vice Admirals stationed in Ireland, who were supposed to suppress piracy.’

And from ‘The King’s Customs’ by Atton/Holland (1967): ‘And the smuggler was quite a popular person….In the time of the Georges it was extremely profitable to live near the coast and be on confidential terms with one’s neighbours. To be able to buy brandy at a third of the duty rate, and tea and tobacco at half price meant much to a man convivially inclined. And the liquor primed one the speedier, the tobacco was the more fragrant, the China leaf tea the more refreshing, that they found in the outhouse at daybreak, and paid for at the back-door on the following night. Of course it was so. Stolen love is sweet; so is smuggled liquor.’

The Board of Customs sent an officer to report on affairs in the south-west in 1704. An Annex to that report headed ‘An Extract of some Informations taken at several times, relating to the Clandestine Exportation of Wool out of Ireland’ has a few interesting points: ‘1. Capt. Joseph Brock, Commander of a privateer of Jersey, proves a constant practice for several years before the late wars with France, of sending wool thither; and that particularly of sending 19 ships into Nantes and St. Malo, 15 of which were brought thither by one Hays and Roach (Roche – active Cork and Limerick merchants and Stuart supporters – a Roche was also a William Kendall shipping agent) of Youghal, and that during that late war, the said Roach brought 9 ships laden with wool, lead and provisions into the said port of Nantes……….3. That Mr. D and Mr. A of Glandore, in the County of Cork do also prove this practice for several years, the latter of whom proves to the value of 1,700L sterling in wool sent out of that port for France, during the late interval of peace, and Mr. D went into France with most of it………(he then describes his tour of inspection around the coast)…..



  1. Please don’t publish my name or email. I have not read everything here, so perhaps I missed this information, but the reason that the Despards in Ireland are traced only to the date you mention is that the family, as Huguenots had fled to Ireland from France after The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

    1. Thank you for that. However – from 1572 until 1692 there are no records showing the use of the Despard or d’Espard names in either Ireland or England. There are no records of the use of that name in France before that date. Balzac, writing in circa 1840 used that name in a coded fashion which I analyse in my article.

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