Owl Hoots, Bee Skeps and Fog

 

Courtesy of the Rye Museum:                http://www.ryemuseum.co.uk/smuggling-in-rye-and-romney-marsh/

If you’re out walking at night in the fictional 18th Century coastal town of King’s Harbour, England, beware the owl hoot. Perhaps it’s just an owl, but it could be a member of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang.  Suddenly the fog rolls up from the English Channel and throws its cold wool blanket over you, and the only way to get home is to feel your way.

Midwife Maggie Wilson, heroine of Mercy of the Moon, Book #1, has some sage advice for you: the less you know about the smugglers, the better.

Travelling is a source of great inspiration for writers, and this month I’ll be talking about travel.

Several years ago, I visited the town of Rye, England, an important port town for centuries. Late one night, I stood alone in the middle of ancient  Mermaid Street, cool air from the English Channel misting my skin. My pulsed raced as the timelessness of the place took hold of my soul; it could’ve been 1300, 1500, or 1700. Long after I went home, the moment stayed with me, and the setting for my Rhythm of the Moon series was born. The more research I did on the charming town, the more the ideas flowed.

Owl hoots could be a signal from a member of the Hawkhurst Gang, a group of notorious smugglers in southeast England in the 18th Century. That’s the way they communicate. No matter how many times Maggie sees them during her nighttime baby calls, she’ll never get used to the glimpses of the men with the bee skeps over their head, holes cut out for eyes, carrying a signal lantern in one hand and a gun in the other. Turn the other way, and speak to no one about it!

Although King’s Harbour is a fictional town, the Hawkhurst Gang was very real. Thanks to research help from Jo Kirkham, and the Rye Museum in Rye in England, I learned that the smugglers donned man made bee hives, with holes cut for eyes, and communicated with owl hoots when on a smuggling escapade.

Smuggling was very common, and important for the economy of the coastal towns, but the Hawkhurst Gang did more than their fair share of nefarious deeds. If you’d like to learn more about the fascinating Cinque Port town of Rye (my inspiration for the setting) or the smugglers,  visit http://www.ryemuseum.co.uk/

You might ask yourself how the Hawkhurst Gang figures into the plot of Mercy of the Moon.

There’s only one way to find out.

Stay tuned for some fun blogs about travelling in far-flung places. What locale inspires you?

 

 

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