A smuggling vessel just arrived from Gottenburgh (Gothenburg, Sweden) sent a small boat with six hands towards the shore to appraise the country of their arrival but did not appreciate the violence of the water. Two were drowned while the other four reached shore. Next day the vessel landed her cargo of tea and brandy, which was immediately carried off by the smugglers in spite of several officers of the Revenue being present but who were afraid to intervene as they did not have any military support. Two troops of Scots Greys were ordered to Ayrshire to prevent smuggling in this part of Ayrshire.
In February 1784, the collector and comptroller of customs at Ayr were informed ‘from good authority’ that a smuggling cutter was expected, very soon at Ballantrae, to run her cargo of brandy from France. She was taken at sea.
Thirty horses laden with tea and spirits paused at John McKissock’s house in Ballantrae in December 1784, on their way north from Galloway to Ayr and beyond
The Mail Coach from Stranraer to Ballantrae was robbed and a considerable sum of money taken out of a letter. The robber turned out to be the Post Boy, who was committed to Stranraer Jail.
In March 1786, the customs riding officer, Robert Cheshire, complained about the difficulties of living in Ballantrae because it was impossible for him to keep a horse: neither stabling nor hay was available to him.
John McWhirter was described as a merchant in Ballantrae. With his brother Hugh, he was deeplyinvolved in ‘the trade’, dealing in contraband tobacco and tea from Guernsey. In 1786, McWhirter went to Virginia with carpets and other Ayrshire manufactures hoping to convert these into tobacco. Disappointed by the market there, he contacted Hugh Airken & Co. of Petersburgh. Aitken was in partnership with William Brackenridge of Dowhill and McWhirter’s friend, Valentine Ferguson from Ballantrae, was one of his clerks. McWhirter sold some of his goods to Aitken & Co and left vouchers of his debts owed with Ferguson. It was agreed that Aitken would send the money he owed to McWhirter to Guernsey in the form of five hogsheads of tobacco.
In June 1788, a party of military was due to arrive at Ballantrae in a few days, ‘in order to prevent smuggling upon this coast’`. The riding officer, Robert Cheshire reported on the state of the barracks: there was no coal left and most of the equipment was in urgent need of repair. The following March, Cheshire wrote that the bed sheets and other utensils at Ballantrae barracks were ‘almost wore out and entirely useless’. Although the present military party would be leaving soon, they were to be replaced immediately by another party of soldiers.