As well as being the proprietor of the Jolly Fisherman, John Watts was also involved in smuggling, coffee, tea, silk and brandy from the Isle of Man and selling them in the expanding town of Belfast.
As it did not pay the high duties levied in Great Britain and Ireland the Isle of Man was widely used as a base for smuggling contraband into Ireland and Scotland
Jack Watts did not take an active part in the smuggling but encouraged and assisted his daughter Jenny. Jenny was an excellent sailor (a founder member of Ballyholme Yacht Club?) and skippered her wherry regularly to the Isle of Man port of Peel to obtain duty free wine and brandy to be sold to the growing population of Belfast.
This illegal trade continued for some years and Jenny became a local hero as she shared the proceeds of her activities among the poor in the local community. She had a number of close encounters with the excise men but because of her local popularity she had always managed to avoid capture. The penalties for smuggling were severe ranging from long periods of imprisonment to hanging.
It is not clear how it ended. Rumour has it that one dark November night while Jenny and her crew were storing kegs of brandy in the cave (now known as Jenny Watts Cave) they were surprised by a large number of excise men. It was suggested that she had been betrayed by a local squire whom Jenny had rejected.
The crew managed to escape but Jenny who was deep in the cave when the excise men arrived decided to hide rather than face a long term of imprisonment. Jenny was never seen again and the locals believed she was drowned when the tide came in and flooded the cave. It is also rumoured that she can be seen on Brompton Harbour on the last Friday of November every year.
Former shipmates and now sworn enemies, Peg-leg Antoine once had his booty plundered by Jenny Watts, right out from under his poop deck. The treasure was later smuggled to the coasts of Bangor in Northern Ireland and hasn’t been seen since. Peg-Leg Antoine died soon after suffering from food poisoning from under-cooked rat.