WINDSOR'S " RUM SMUGGLERS' TUNNEL"
There have long been stories in the Hawkesbury that the Macquarie Arms Hotel at Windsor, which dates from 1815 in Governor Lachlan Macquarie's time, is reputed to have a tunnel to the Hawkesbury River built for the purpose of smuggling.
R. M. Arndell, in his book Pioneers of Portland Head, first published in 1976, recounted that a rumour of an 8ft. x 10ft. brick tunnel was built from the river to Andrew Thompson's store to deliver the casks of "illicitly brewed" rum from Thompson's and Solomon Wiseman's still on Scotland Island into the stores cellars. Arndell reported a similar tunnel, which led from another hotel opposite the foot of Baker Street, on the south side of Macquarie Street, to South Creek.
Tales of such tunnels seem to abound for there is also reputed the be a tunnel linking the Macquarie Arms Inn, previously known as the Blighton Arms, at Pitt Town to the Bird in Hand Inn, according to some members of the Johnston family. It should be remembered that the Bird in Hand was actually on the opposite side of Bathurst Street to the hotel currently bearing that name, which was actually the Maid of Australia. The exact location of the supposed tunnel, and its purpose, remain a mystery.
Tales of the "Rum Smugglers' Tunnel" can be traced back to the early days of the Hawkesbury. It was discussed by George Reeve in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 18th January, 1924:
Come we now to John Howe's being the trusted clerk for Emancipist Andrew Thompson. I will go back to a period of about 10 months before Thompson's death. It would appear that Thompson's many ventures and interests were growing too fast for himself alone to handle. For in the 'Sydney Gazette' of December 3rd, 1809, appears the following advertisement:
'John Howe begs leave to inform the public that he keeps and carries on the extension house and business of Mr. Andrew Thompson, at the Green Hills, Hawkesbury, with every respectful attention, and now has on sale a valuable assortment of Woollen and Linen Drapery, Haberdashery, Hosiery, Stationery, Grocery, Drugs, Cutlery, Ironmongery, Saddlery, Chaise, Cart and other harness in sets or otherwise, Men and Women's Shoes, Shoemaker's Tools, Dressed Leather of all kinds, Salt Pitch and Tar, Large Brass Locks, Copper, Copper Pump Works, Leadon Pipes and other Brewing Utensils, with a variety of other Goods of the best quality and at the most reduced prices for ready payment only. All persons indebted to Mr. A. Thompson are once more requested to make good their payments without delay.'
From the foregoing it will be conceded that Thompson, aided and joined by Howe, must have had very large stores, and also had a very large turnover in stores stock. Thompson himself appears to have conducted the sales of and manufacture of spirits, especially rum and whisky. Andrew Thompson was known to have a distillery for rum at Scotland Island, at the mouth of the Hawkesbury. There is no doubt whatever in the writer's mind that the large bricked 8 x 10 conduit or tunnel leading from where Thompson's store site was to the river, parts of which can still be seen by an observant eye was constructed specially to draw up the barrels containing the rum which was illicitly manufactured on a wholesale scale, Thompson's vessels bringing the grog to the foot of Thompson Square, near the old Windsor wharf. An old Hawkesbury native, by name William Smith, has said to the writer, that when he was a boy in the "twenties" of the last century, he distinctly remembers the long, shingled structures that used to go down to the river bank from where the remains of Thompson's large store once stood. The time of which he spoke would be the "twenties". We can now quite understand the reason for the construction of the underground brick tunnel, which most people erroneously think was a drain to carry away waste water from the old gaol..
Let us now examine the facts as they can best be determined.
ANDREW THOMPSON ( 1773-1810) :
Born in Yetholme, Scotland, Andrew Thompson was transported for fourteen years in 1792 after being convicted of being in possession of stolen goods. Having spent a year in the men's provision store, he joined the police force, serving at Toongabbie. In 1796 he moved to Green Hills and was made constable. He was pardoned in 1798 and rapidly rose to the rank of chief constable.
Thompson purchased 120 acres fronting South Creek and named the property "West Hill Farm". It was here that he built the Red House. Governor Hunter granted a lease of one acre at Green Hills in 1799. This was situated on what is now the northeastern side of Thompson Square. Here he constructed a house and a general store and later an inn. In 1802, he constructed the first toll bridge over South Creek.
Salt was a rare necessity in the colony as it was required both for preservation of meat and in the sealskin trade. Thompson established a salt manufacturing plant initially at Mullet Island and later at Scotland Island at Broken Bay. Governor King permitted him to establish a brewery on South Creek in 1806. Thompson controlled a barge for ferrying passengers across the river. He also established a tannery at the Red House.
Thompson built four ships, the 'Nancy', 'Hope', 'Hawkesbury' and 'Governor Bligh'. He also bought the 'Speedwell' from Captain Grono.
On Bligh's arrival in 1806, Thompson was the largest grain grower and wealthiest settler in the colony. He had acquired in 1804 a grant of 278 acres of fertile riverbank land which he named Agnes Banks and a further 260 acres adjoining Nelson Common, which he named "Killarney". Over the next two years he added another 30 acres to West Hill. He purchased Baxter's 50 acre farm upstream from Agnes Banks, naming it "Wardel Bank", and Bayliss' 150 acre farm nearby, naming it "Glascow".
Bligh purchased two farms at what is now Pitt Town and appointed Thompson to manage them as model farms.
Following the removal of Bligh from office in the "Rum Rebellion" on 26th January, 1808, Thompson was dismissed as chief constable at the Hawkesbury. As reward for his efforts in rescuing victims of the devastating 1809 floods, Thompson was granted 1,000 acres at Minto. His previous leases at the Green Hills and Scotland Island were converted into grants.
When Macquarie arrived in 1810, Thompson was ill as a result of immersion in the 1809 floods. Macquarie appointed him Magistrate at the Green Hills and as a trustee on the new turnpike road between Parramatta and the Hawkesbury. However, Thompson's health deteriorated rapidly and he died of tuberculosis on 23rd October, 1810. His was the first burial in what would become St. Matthews churchyard. He left an estate estimated at the time to be worth 20,000 Pounds.
SOLOMON WISEMAN (1777-1838)
The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 26th December, 1924, reported:
It was in the spacious days when England was at death's grip with Napoleon that Solomon Wiseman first became notorious. He was captain of a small sloop cruising in the English Channel, and he and his vessel had a romantic career. He was employed by the British Government to carry spies to the French coast - a highly dangerous occupation - but he added to the adventure of his life by carrying other dangerous cargo in the shape of casks of rum and brandy on his return to the shores of England ...
But in 1806 he was chased and caught by revenue officers off the Isle of Wight, and when they boarded his sloop they found not only contraband spirits and cigars, but certain passengers who turned out to be French spies making their way to England.
For this business Solomon Wiseman was convicted and sentenced to death, but in consideration of his services to his country in connection with the secret intelligence department the sentence was commuted to that of transportation...
The basis of this story would appear to from Reminiscences of New South Wales, by Judge Therry, who had been a guest of Wiseman at Cobham Hall.
In reality, Wiseman had been convicted on 30th October, 1805, at the Old Bailey for feloniously stealing 704 pounds weight of Brazil wood, of the value of 24 Pounds, from a lighter in the Thames. His death sentence was commuted to transportation for life, and he arrived in the colony on the Alexander in 1806. (Details can be found in the J.R.A.H.S. - vol. 17 - p350 - James Jervis - Solomon Wiseman and his Ferry.)
Wiseman received his ticket-of-leave in June, 1810, and his absolute pardon in February, 1812. Following difficulties in the shipping trade, Wiseman was granted 200 acres on the Hawkesbury near Benjamin Singleton's property. By 1828 he had increased his holdings to 1100 acres. He established his ferry in 1827, having built his residence a year earlier. He died at Wisemans Ferry on 29th October, 1838.
THE RUM TRADE
During the years up to 1795, the colony was under martial law. The officers obtained a virtual monopoly of all spirits entering the colony. They were able to dispose of these in barter with the settlers at enormous profit. By 1806 rum had become the only currency. Mrs. Elizabeth Macarthur wrote: The officers in the colony, with a few others possessed of money or credit in England, unite together and purchase the cargoes of such vessels as repair to this country from various quarters. Two or more are chosen to bargain for the cargo offered for sale, which is then divided amongst them in proportion to their subscriptions. This arrangement prevents monopoly, and the imposition that would be otherwise practiced by the masters of ships. (Early records of the Macarthurs of Camden p. 51)
GOVERNOR WILLIAM BLIGH. (1754-1817) :
Bligh was born at Plymouth, England, on 9th September, 1754. He joined the navy on 27th July,1770.
Having been given command of the Bounty in order to procure breadfruit for the West Indies, he sailed on 28th November,1787 and reached Tahiti eleven months later. Soon after leaving, the crew mutinied. Bligh was able to use his seamanship to navigate the 23 feet long open boat across the 3618 miles to Timor.
As the result of Joseph Banks assistance, Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales. He reached Sydney on 6th August, 1806, but did not assume office for a week. In the interval he received a grant from Governor King of 240 acres at Camperdown, 105 acres near Parramatta and 1,000 acres near Rouse Hill on the Parramatta - Hawkesbury Road. Bligh, in January ,1807, granted Mrs. King 790 acres, which she called "Thanks". There was no mention of these grants in despatches, despite instructions that the approbation of the Secretary of State was required for grants of that size. (H.R.A. ser. 1, vol. 4, p. xv)
Upon Bligh's arrival he was presented with an address of welcome on behalf of the free men by John Macarthur. The Hawkesbury settlers took umbrage and drew up their own address of welcome, pointing out "the invasion of their rights and privileges as British subjects" by "John McArthur Esq."
Governor Bligh received the following request :
We look upon your Excellency in wisdom to put in practice such means as may be for the salvation, honour, and interest of the colony, and for averting the approach of famine and distress to its inhabitants -
• By restoring the freedom of trade.
• By permitting commodities to be bought and sold at a fair open market (by all the inhabitants).
• By preventing that painful monopoly and extortion heretofore practiced.
• By protecting the merchant and trader in their properties, and the people in general in their rights, privileges, liberties, and professions, as by law established.
• By suffering the laws of the realm to take their due course in matters of property without controul.(sic)
• That justice be administered by the Courts authorized by His Majesty, according to the known law of the land.
• By causing payment to be made in such money or Government orders as will pass current in the purchase of every article of merchandize without drawback or discount.
(H.R.N.S.W. vol. 6, p. 190-92)
Soon after his arrival Bligh purchased three farms at what would become Pitt Town. These comprised three grants, viz., one of 110 acres to James Simpson (made by Governor King on 31st March, 1802) and two to Thomas Tyler, one of 60 acres (granted by Governor Hunter on 1st May, 1797) and one of 110 acres (granted by Governor King on 12th April, 1803). All were purchased by Governor Bligh from the original grantees. (HRNSW vol. 6, p. 262) [ It should be noted that most of this property was above what is now the one in a hundred year flood level.]
He appointed Andrew Thompson to manage the farms as "model farms" to demonstrate what could be achieved by "good management and persevering industry". These farms benefited considerably from the Government flock and stores. For example, Andrew Thompson wrote to Bligh on 16th October, 1807, stating:
I beg leave to inform your Excellency that I went into the Toongabby yards and exchanged eight of the inferior cows, with the bull, and obtained good and sufficient ones in their room, which will fully answer the purpose and make a great difference and advantage in your Excellency's flock, which, from pasturage and attention, will be one of the best in the colony to their number, the cows now being again all in calf.; also, all the other stock is in a prosperous state, as per the returns inclosed. I did not get up your Excellency's pigs from Castle Hill, as one of them had just farrowed and could not travel, but I will on Monday next. We are planting the maize to the best advantage by manuring all the upper lands, &c., which will be done in a day or two, when we will turn our prompt attention towards the buildings and inclosures until harvest, that will shortly come on, as all your Excellency's wheat in the upper lands is now in ear, which, with the general crops in this extensive settlement, has every appearance of giving a plentuous and joyful harvest to make the people happy under your Excellency's auspicious and benign government, the beauty and gratification of which would be highly enhanced should your Excellency, amidst your many and important duties, be pleased to visit our ample plains in the full fruition of harvest.
( H.R.N.S.W. vol. 6, p. 307-8)
Andrew Thompson again wrote to Bligh on 19th December, 1807. He advised that the Governor's expected total profit for the following year would be 1,065 Pounds. Included was an estimate for "The house and improvements intended and set on foot for this year will be worth and enhance the value of the estate to 400 Pounds." Thompson concluded with "N.B. - But it may be observed that a common farmer who has to pay for everything would by no means have such profits."
(HRNSW Vol. 6, p. 389-392)
Promissory notes served as currency and were generally expressed in bushels of wheat. One such note was held by John Macarthur from Andrew Thompson. Following the flood of 1806, the price of wheat rose from 7 shillings per bushel to 30 shillings. Macarthur demanded payment in wheat. Bligh issued a proclamation on 1st November, 1806, stating that all promissory notes were to be "payable in sterling money":
GOVERNMENT AND GENERAL ORDER
1st November, 1806.
...Whereas the term currency made use of in this colony seems not to have carried its proper signification in the small notes generally circulated, it is hereby declared that its meaning is only applicable to money, and not barter in goods; so that if any note is made payable in copper coin or the currency of the colony, it is to be inferred that money only is the means by which it is to be liquidated.
And whereas the good faith of individuals is not to be perverted, it is hereby declared, that on or about the first day of January, 1807, all checks and promissory notes issued shall by public proclamation be drawn payable in sterling money; and that after the proclamation is publicly declared, all outstanding notes payable in copper coin or Colonial currency shall or may be sued for as if the term "copper coin or Colonial currency" had not been expressed. The value of coins already established to be in full force.
(HRNSW vol. 6, p. 198)
Following the floods of 1806, Bligh provided supplies from the Government stores to the Hawkesbury settlers (HRNSW vol. 6, pp.. 176 & 186) and offered to take wheat from the next crop into the Government stores at 15 shillings per bushel (Sydney Gazette 21st December, 1806). This delighted the settlers, resulting in strong loyalty to Bligh even after the events of 1808.
Bligh was determined to stamp out the barter of spirits for goods or labour, commenting on 7th February, 1807:
It is absolutely necessary to be done to bring labour to a true value and support the farming interest... In addition to the reasons already given to prohibit the barter of spirits, is the strong temptation it holds out to the settlers and other inhabitants to erect private stills, which tend to destroy not only the grain but the industry and morals of the people. The practice of distillation has been so general that the late Governor found it necessary to prohibit it under certain fines and penalties, and to offer emancipations, free pardons, and pecuniary remunerations to those who would give information of persons employed in this ruinous work ; but the effect has not yet been produced, as this practice still continues in violation of every order and vigilance of the police.
(H.R.N.S.W. vol. 6, pp. 246-52)
This was followed on 14th February, 1807, by the following proclamation:
His Excellency the Governor laments at finding, by his late visits through the colony, that the most calamitous evils have been produced by persons bartering or paying in spirits for grain of all kinds, the necessaries of life, and the labourers for their hire, such precedings depressing the industrious and depriving the settlers of their comforts and wants. In order to remedy these grievous complaints, and to relieve the inhabitants who have suffered by this traffic, he feels it his duty to put a total stop to this barter in future, and to prohibit the exchange of spirits or other liquors as payment for grain, animal food, labour, wearing apparel, or any other commodity whatever, to all descriptions of persons in the colony and its dependencies.
(ibid, pp. 253-4)
Bligh was removed from office by Johnston on 26th January, 1808. After Johnston's trial, Bligh was promoted to rear-admiral, and then to vice-admiral in June, 1814. He died on 7th December, 1817.
The following memorial from John Blaxland was sent to Stephen Rolleston on 7th November,1809, by Blaxland's brother Charles, in preparation for his defence against charges arising out of the Rum Rebellion:
That the Governor took from him ( your memorialist) upward of 500 gallons of spirits, and fixed a price much below its value, which your memorialist was forced to take, whereby his immediate favourites would clear from 2 to 3 Pounds per gallon, amongst whom Andrew Thompson, the Governor's bailiff, no doubt came in for a share, as upwards of 400 gallons have been traced into his possession during twelve months, some of which was given to him at 8s. to 12s. per gallon, which he afterwards sold at 20s. per q. bottle, which, on a moderate calculation, gives him a profit of 1,200 Pounds, a sum which, from its magnitude, no person will suppose that Governor Bligh suffered to go into his servant's pocket, when it comes to be known that Governor Bligh was a peculator and his bailiff one of his subordinate agents.
(H.R.N.S.W. vol. 7. pp. 224-5)
Andrew Thompson undoubtedly had access to the grain, shipping, a large store at Green Hills with the necessary equipment to construct a still,and an isolated site at Scotland Island on which to locate it. In addition it should be remembered that he held position of Chief Constable at the Hawkesbury and was the manager of Bligh's profitable farms at Pitt Town. However, when rumours reached Bligh in 1807 that he was involved in distiling, Thompson vigorously defended his position, writing to Bligh on 27th May, 1807:-
I am greatfully thankful to your Excellency for your justice and goodness respecting the insinuations made against my character in telling you that I was concerned in distilling, to which I again beg leave to pledge my life and property is false, defying any person in existence to prove that I ever spoke or acted against your Excellency's order on this head since the day it was published up to the present moment. But your Excellency is or would no doubt be convinced that the slander of this country would deprive you of the services of honest men if your Excellency's just wisdom and penetration did not counteract such destructive
plans. (H.R.N.S.W.- vol 6 - page 268)
PUBLIC WORKS AT WINDSOR.
Governor Macquarie commissioned many public works at Windsor. The architect for many of these was Francis Greenway. The Australian Almanac and General Directory, 1835 (p. 227) states :
When the Wharf at Windsor, built by contract, by Mr. James Howe was washed away, and Howe's bridge (over South Creek) in danger from the same cause, Mr. Greenway was directed by the Governor to survey the place, and to furnish the plan of a wharf on a more secure principle, and also a plan whereby the bridge might be secured. The new wharf was built; and though not by any means on so efficient a plan as the one proposed, yet it has since stood the effects of some of the greatest floods that have happened in that part of the country. The Government, however, neglected to secure the bridge according to the architects instructions, and the result has been that it was carried away by a flood. Plans were also furnished for a church and parsonage-house, a court house, a barrack, a store, and many other improvements, several of which have since been carried into effect. Many of the windings of the rivers were also surveyed, and places suggested where communications by bridges and other communications might be made, to afford greater security, and to prevent the effects of future inundations by floods. Mr. Greenway's various duties would not allow him time to survey the windings of the River Hawkesbury towards the sea, so as to give a positive opinion as to its capability for improvement.
Macquarie entered into contracts to build a bridge over South Creek, a road to Sydney and a wharf at Thompson Square. The wharf contract included the making of a slope from the wharf to the Government Stores, the filling of Thompson Square, and a sewer for drainage of the centre of the square. Part of the sewer was uncovered during roadwork to realign Bridge Street during the 1930's and this helped promote the local legend that it was a smugglers' tunnel running from the Maccquarie Arms to the wharf.
Copies of the contracts are held in the Mitchell Library. They are dated 8th August, 1814, (M.L. MSS 106, article 37), and 24th April, 1815, (M.L. MSS 106, article 88). The first contract contains the words: To Sink and Erect one Sewer in the middle of the Square with channels leading thereto or to Sink and Erect two sewers one on each side of the Square as laid down in the Plan in the possession of his Excellency Governor Macquarie.
Both contracts were signed by John Howe and James McGrath. Payment for the first contract was to be 350 Pounds and 350 gallons of Bengal rum, and 600 Pounds for the second contract.
The contractors were permitted to make between 120,000 and 150,000 bricks at the new Government brickfields at Windsor.
Payments were made from the Police Fund for 100 Pounds for the quarter ending 30-9-1814, 75 Pounds for the quarter ending 31-12-1814, and 100 Pounds for the quarter ending 30-6-1815. The first payment of the second contract was made from the Police Fund for the quarter ending for the amount of 200 Pounds.
On 14th November, 1816,Governor Macquarie wrote :
In consideration of the greater part of the Govt. Quay or Wharf already erected by the contractors having been carried away or destroyed by the late Floods of the Hawkesbury, I have this day agreed on an estimate made out and submitted to me by Mr. Greenway the Govt. Civil Architect of the additional Expense of repairing and Completing the same in solid and durable material (agreeably to a Plan thereof made out by Mr. Greenway), to allow and pay unto Messrs. Howe and McGrath the additional sum of Two Hundred and Twenty (including Twenty Pounds for Mr. Greenway's trouble in planning and directing the Work) Pounds Sterling; allowing them also for payment such Iron and Spike Nails from the stores as can be spared - with a carpenter and Pair of Sawyers off the store; the Contractors now engaging to complete the said Quay or Wharf in Eight months from this date.
(A773, p. 64, Mitchell Library)
Howe was required to make good the damage caused by the flood. Works were completed by 1820.
Payment of 150 Pounds was made from the Police Fund for the quarter ending 31-12-1816. Final payment was not received until the quarter ending 31-3-1820 for the sum of 316 Pounds 10s.
The wharf constructed by Howe and McGrath replaced the wharf which had been constructed by February, 1795, and referred to by David Collins in An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (pages 340 and 348) as "the store-wharf".
Howe's wharf was used well into the Twentieth Century and can be clearly seen on a number of photographs taken in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century.
The present Windsor wharf was constructed during the 1980's. Remnants of the old wharf still exist and were examined during an archeological investigation of Thompson Square undertaken by Edward Higginbotham.
Brickwork was discovered under the old Boat Club building in Thompson Square in April, 1985. An archeologist, Edward Higginbotham, was commissioned by Hawkesbury Shire Council to investigate the site. Mr Higginbotham advised that the structure located was a brick barrel drain, dated c.1815, similar to one recently excavated at Parramatta. Mr Higginbotham was referring to the brick barrel drain excavated by himself in June, 1981 (Australian Journal of Historical Archeology. Vol. 1, January 1983, page 35-39). The Parramatta drain had been constructed in the 1820's during the Governorship of Macquarie for the purpose of disposing of stormwater rather than sewerage. The Windsor sewer / drain, as can be verified by the contracts and dates of payment, clearly predates it.
Of the Parramatta drain Mr. Higginbotham has stated :
Along its whole course the drain was constructed of a cylinder of brickwork, two courses of c.200mm brick, with an internal diameter ranging from 1200 to 1300mm. The courses of sandstock brick, bonded with lime mortar, were laid parallel with the length of the drain, the sides of the bricks facing the interior of the cylinder. (Australian Journal of Historical Archeology.
Vol. 1, 1983, p. 36)
THE MACQUARIE ARMS HOTEL
In 1815 a "spacious and commodious inn" was constructed by Richard Fitzgerald adjoining Thompson Square and was known as the Macquarie Arms. In order to save Government the cost of providing such a structure, Macquarie had given "Mr. Fitzgerald a large allotment in the square on the expressed condition of his building immediately thereon a handsome commodious inn of brick or stone and to be at least two stories high." ( Macquarie's Journal of his tours- 12th Jan. 1811) The Sydney Gazette of 29th July, 1815, reported:
That spacious and commodious new Inn at Windsor, called The Macquarie Arms, was opened by the GOVERNOR, on Wednesday the 26th instant, when HIS EXCELLENCY entertained at dinner the Magistrates and other principal Gentlemen residing at Windsor, and in that neighbourhood. Mr. Ransom, who has taken on himself the duties of Innkeeper, is, from his experience in the avocation, thoroughly competent to the undertaking, which we are convinced will be conducted on a liberal footing. Its necessity has long been manifest as there was no house of public reception at Windsor capable of accommodating large and genteel companies, whereas the Macquarie Arms from its extent, plan of building, and adequate number of apartments will be doubtless found worthy of the most liberal patronage and support.
The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 5th November, 1980, commented on the tunnel / drain in an article headed :
WHY WORRY ABOUT THE FACTS?
It has often been said that some journalists (certainly not those associated with this paper) never let the facts spoil a good story.
That could well be true, but when it comes to not letting the facts spoil a good historical attraction, said scribblers could learn a thing or two from Windsor Council aldermen.
Now it came about that there was some grant money available from the Heritage Council for a high sounding project known as the National Estate Programme, 1980-81.
With town planners, project officers, and sundry other experts in the grant-getting field on the staff, council is never last in the line when it comes to getting government handouts, so quick as a flash, it digs up no less than nine historic projects, all badly in need of an injection of money.
They ranged from the reinstatement of the balcony on Toxana at Richmond, to a picket fence around Mrs Cope's cottage at Windsor.
All up the cost of the projects was some $94,000, but by far the most fascinating item was $4,500 to investigate and locate a former rum tunnel from the Hawkesbury River to the Macquarie Arms Hotel and "assess present structural condition".
That was how things stood up to the last gathering of aldermen when a wet blanket was thrown on the whole idea by the history pundit Doug Bowd. Doug has been the nemesis of fanciful Oxboro legend-tellers for years and he wasted few words in administering the chop to this tale. He told the aldermen that the tunnel, in fact, was built as a sewer for drainage from Thompson Square to the river by John Howe and James McGrath, and had never been used for smuggling rum or anything else.
The council's reaction to this was akin to a small boy who's had his lollipop taken away. Ald. Sullivan, somewhat hopefully, said he couldn't imagine the tunnel being a sewer on the top of a hill and the Mayor (Ald. Dunn) said it was a pity that there wasn't something factual in such a romantic story.
Ald. Benson said the tunnel created impressions of dark deeds of the past, the Mayor adding that it certainly wouldn't have been the first sewer to be used for other purposes. With visions of another tourist attraction for Windsor, Ald. Sullivan went a step further by suggesting that another sort of spirit might be found in the tunnel.
"After all there is the Fisher's Ghost Festival," he said.
The town planner had suggested that council might delete the 'rum tunnel' item from its submission, but the aldermen decided to give it a fly and leave it in.
And so, another legend is in the making.
Whatever accusations have been made against Andrew Thompson in relation to the illicit distillation of spirits, there can be no doubt that he never smuggled rum into the Macquarie Arms Hotel. Thompson died in 1810, and the Macquarie Arms was not built until 1815.