Probus members enjoy a festive feast

Pictured are Father Christmas with president Sue Sharman and committee members at the lunch.
Pictured are Father Christmas with president Sue Sharman and committee members at the lunch.

SKEGNESS Ladies’ Probus Club’s popular Christmas lunch at the town’s Vine Hotel attracted around 70 members last week.

The group enjoyed an excellent meal with wine.

Party entertainment was provided by Molly Clayton, Beryl Damms, Marjorie Payne and Jayne Turner, and included a visit from Father Christmas - a heavily disguised Tony Crowther - with gifts for all.

“It was a colourful start to the festive season,” said a spokesperson for the club.

“Thanks to the Vine’s staff and the club committee,” they added.

The next lunch will be held on January 26, when Chris Brightmore reveals ‘Secrets of Scotland Yard’.

Meanwhile, at the club’s recent November meeting, members enjoyed a talk by Rod Fanthorpe on ‘Smuggling on the Lincs Coast’.

It brought home how the trade survives in the county, decades and centuries after its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries.

He explained how smuggling thrived on the Lincs coast centuries ago, and enjoyed its own language and customs.

French brandy and German rum allegedly used to come in at Barton on Humber in the days when, in Kipling’s words, it was ‘Brandy for the parson/Baccy for the clerk’.

Smugglers, known as ‘gentlemen’ or free traders, were powerful figures. They lived violent lives, landing vodka, gin and tea and avoided taxes on these luxuries.

In the 17th century smugglers took over Boston docks with impunity, as customers queued for their plunder.

They terrified locals into collusion and their threats scared off the Revenue.

Visitors to the Vine Hotel may have seen the wall niche marking the place where the skeleton of a Preventative Officer, one of the King’s Men, with scraps of his uniform and brass buttons, was found in 1902.

He had been murdered and bricked up in the wall.

Smuggling of old became romantic folklore when the railways brought legitimate goods to the area.

But today cigarettes, rhino horn, ivory and illegal substances have been dropped into ditches by light aircraft, where the hedges are gone.

Tax avoidance and counterfeit goods sustain smuggling in the North Sea.