Kate looked out of the window at Parlour’s Port. She was anxious to see that the harvest moon, a glorious orange disc at the point of meeting between water’s edge and horizon, threw a clear path of light across the calm water, providing far too much light for what was planned.
As she poked the fire, Kate addressed her younger sister: “It’s the moon I don’t like – if the cloud doesn’t come up they haven’t a hope of getting past the Waterguard – I’m not moving an inch until I know it’s safe”.
The Preventative Waterguard had been installed at Garron Point, a station of twelve men, whose specific role was to catch smugglers. At the least suspicion, the firing of a signal rocket would cause the convergence of other guards from along the coast between Larne and Cushendall – at the very least the smuggled goods would be confiscated and men brought to court, but loss of lives was a real danger.
Finally, checking the mantel clock, Kate said, “It’s time”. The two young women took up their crocheted shawls and, wrapping them over their heads and shoulders to obscure their faces as much as possible, quietly unlatched the door and stepped out into the night.
The path to the caves was not long, but in the darkness it was dangerous, snaking, unprotected at its sea edge, to a junction where one strand climbed at a steep angle to the upper cave while the other dipped down towards the sea. Surefooted as goats, Kate and Annie knew every jagged stone, every crevice of that path. Eying the state of the tide Kate confirmed that tonight’s smugglers would have chosen the lower cave to stash their illicit cargo.
As the boats approached, the team were ready. Crates were silently passed from hand to hand, into the cave and then on up the path. Due to the perfection of their timing that night, they would not have to lie under water, the smuggled goods could be safety transported to Parlour’s Port and inspected that night.
Finally, just before the boats slipped back and away over the dark sea to safety, a familiar figure jumped over the gunnel of one and, deposited a warm kiss on Kate’s cheek. Relieved to know her younger brother Johnny was safe on dry land, Kate turned to follow him up the path, when suddenly, the night turned to disaster. They appeared from nowhere, ugly great Waterguard faces leering at them now in the darkness, as hands were roughly tied and they were shoved up the path.
There they could see the confiscated crates, smashed open and fine contents displayed for all to see, never to reach the market town of Ballymena.
As Kate lay in her cell alone with nothing to shield her from the chill of the stone floor but her thin shawl, she was frantic with worry about Annie and Johnny. Then, in the wee small hours of the morning she heard the peephole in the door of the cell thrust back. “Kate McGavock?” The gruff voice sounded stern and yet there was a friendly tone beneath it. “I knew your mother once – I’m going to release you now through the side door, but don’t let me see you back here again.” Hastily Kate followed the guard and stepped outside into the moonlight to find Annie and Johnny waiting. Kate’s heart soared as the three went down the hill together to put the kettle on at Parlour’s Port and thank their guardian angels for bringing them to safety.