Daniel Coppinger was an eighteenth-century smuggler, boys and girls. Not a very nice man. Cruel Coppinger, the locals called him, a Dane whose ship was wrecked on the north Cornish coast during a bad storm. The coast was lined with wreckers who had gone out to lure any ships in distress onto the rocks. All they got was Coppinger, which was perhaps even worse than they deserved.

A giant of a man, they saw him by lightning-flashes at the wheel of his ship, cursing his crew, until the vessel struck and sank, when he hurled himself into the sea. When he came out of the maelstrom, he snatched a cloak from an old woman, jumped up on a horse behind a young girl called Dinah Hamlyn and galloped to her home.

Coppinger made it his home as well. Farmer Hamlyn took a liking to him, and his daughter fell in love with him. They married, the farmer suddenly died, and Coppinger spent his wife’s inheritance on wild living and whores. The money gone he started a smuggling gang. His headquarters was at Steeple Brink, a precipitous cliff with a cave at its foot that could be reached by sea. He had a short way of dealing with revenue men, cutting their throats or disembowelling them before dumping them in the sea. He was a superb navigator, and one time led a revenue cutter into a death-trap channel that he knew and they did not; it struck the rocks and sank with all hands.

Cruel Coppinger terrorised the district. He was heard to boast ‘I rapes real good when I’ve a mind’; a boast he carried out with sickening frequency. He threatened to kill anyone outside his gang who used the cave or public paths leading to Steeple Brink. When the local parson demanded tithe-money, the huge Dane flayed him with a double-throng whip. He threatened the same treatment to his wife when her mother refused to tell him where she kept her money; Mrs Hamlyn gave in when she saw her Dinah tied naked to a bed-post and Coppinger with his sea-cat out. The people used to sing:

Will you hear of the cruel Coppinger?
He came from a foreign kind;
He was brought to us by salt water,
He’ll be carried away by the wind.

And so he was, on the stormiest night since his arrival. The wreckers were out as usual, and the last they saw of him, in a lightning-flash, was as they’d first seen him, holding the wheel and cursing his crew…


sennen smugglers

The spirit of Annie George has lurked in the shadowy corners of the First and Last Inn* for centuries. She, with her husband Joseph, ran the inn during the early 1800’s. They blackmailed the landlord Dionysius Williams, forcing him to allow them to live there rent free, because of their knowledge of his smuggling business.

However, after a time, Williams decided to bite the bullet and evict the pair. In revenge Annie swore a complaint against William’s who was promptly arrested and placed on trial. Annie went further, and accused others of a variety of crimes: Christopher Pollard of Madron, accused of obstructing and assault on revenue officers, was eventually acquitted. **

Annie had earlier accused her husband’s brother John George of smuggling and wrecking and firing on an excise officer, for which he was (allegedly) found guilty and hanged! ***

But the local people took their revenge on Annie. They staked her out on the beach early one morning at low tide, and, as the freezing water gradually rose around her, poor Annie breathed in salt water and slowly drowned.

Her sodden corpse was latter laid out in her bedroom in the Inn, before she was finally buried in an unmarked grave, in the cemetery, near to the pub.

Since that time, the First and Last Inn has been haunted by the restless spirit of Annie George. Tables move here seemingly of their own volition, glasses fly through the air and pictures fall from the walls. Over the years staff and landlords have been terrified by Annie’s antics: one landlord stayed at the Inn but a single night before shutting up shop, swearing never to return!

Annie’s room in the Inn is now left vacant. She doesn’t like others to sleep there. In the past, people who did sleep in the room had dreams of drowning and of being covered by fishing nets (Annie was held down by fishing nets). They also reported seeing a ‘grey lady’ in the room, and experiencing a terrible, damp chill in the air.


*The Inn was named The Ship Inn on an old map of Norden’s published in the 1700’s. Sometime in the late 1800’s the Inn was renamed The Old Success.

** Cornish historian A. K. Hamilton Jenkin in his book “Cornwall and its People” tells the story which he claims he obtained from a Brief to Counsel which he was shown by Penzance solicitor Mr J. A. D. Bridger.

“The principle witness for the prosecution was a certain Anne George. This woman, it appears, was a person of notorious character. At the time of the trial she is described as being the wife of Joseph George who up to a short time before, had been the keeper of the Sennen inn – a place which had the reputation of being “the resort of all the idle blackguards in the county”. During the time in which he had kept the inn, Joseph George had acted as smuggling agent, for his landlord, a well to do farmer of the parish named Dionysius Williams. Presuming on the secret hold, which they possessed over their landlord, through the knowledge of his illicit transactions, the Georges had for some time refused to pay any rent for the inn, and at length the owner, very unwisely, had decided to eject them. Infuriated by this, the innkeeper’s wife had thereupon turned king’s evidence against Williams, and reaped her revenge in seeing the latter served with a long term of imprisonment…

“Independent of the present prosecution no less than five persons have been capitally indicted by her means, one of whom had already been executed, and so callous is her conscience, and deadly her revenge, that persons who may have given her slight cause for offence are now trembling for fear of the consequences, expecting to be made the next victim of the detestable passion with which she is accursed…”

In reality Williams was found not guilty at his trial. Jenkin is in error (and so is most of the internet).

*** This man’s execution is not shown in any of the local records. However there is record of a thirty year old John George of Polperro executed at Newgate in 1808 for the offence of smuggling – could that be our man?