Book Reviews

Book Review: On Both Sides of the Law

As a boy in the 1920’s, the author anticipated every summer when he could sail from Lunenburg to work with his father on cargo ships.

At 15 he quit school to get his “dream job” at sea.

The cargo of ships in which he works carried spirits (mostly rum and whisky) to the U.S.A where Prohibition was still the law of the land.

During Prohibition, many famous families got rich by “running” spirits and whiskies from Canada to the U.S.A..

Occasionally, he sailed to St.Pierre et Miquelon – two islands still belonging to France. Traders and skilled tradesman on both islands benefitted largely from the Prohibition by repairing broken engines, refuelling, and repairing boats.

HuHu Hugh Corkum worked several years on ships involved in dangerous but exciting rum-running vessels, and occasionally was caught by the American Coast Guard, arrested, indicted, and tried, but got off unscathed.

After marriage, upon the insistence of his wife, he gave up working on ships and learned telegraph coding in the U.S.A.

Eventually, he applied to become a policeman in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia’s “ship building” city, where he imposed law and order to “unruly” citizens and foreign sailors.

Over time, he was promoted to the position of police chief of the town. After several years in this position he decided to become the city tax collector, a job he performed successfully because of his intimate knowledge of each family of Lunenburg.

This is a book written in simple, but captivating prose, by a man who has done it all and tells his story well.

It is a gripping, page-turning, very informative and revealing book, depicting how ill-considered laws can create havoc in a society make some people rich while others undertook precarious acts to make make a living, and eager consumers willing to pay inordinate amounts for a few shots of spirits in American speakeasies.

Highly recommended.

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