July 5, 2022

Rum-Running – EHS April 11 Program at Essex Town Hall

Rum-running will be the subject of a short talk and film at the Essex Town Hall, Wednesday, April 11 beginning at 7:30 p.m. The talk is sponsored by Essex Historical Society, as part of their annual lecture series. The public is invited to attend and the event is free to all. Refreshments will follow the program.

Brenda Milkofsky, the founding director and former curator of the Connecticut River Museum will talk briefly about the lower Connecticut River during Prohibition and provide some local context for the film, The Real McCoy: The Legend of Bill McCoy & The Rum War at Sea.

 The film was made largely in Mystic in 2007 by Bailey Pryor of Telemark Films and features Stephen Jones, author of the film, English professor at UCONN, raconteur, and author of the rum-running tale, The Bahama Queen and other marine history works.

In re-creating the Prohibition period from 1920 to 1933 for the film, Pryor was assisted by the Essex Steam Train, Ralph Herman of Antique Auto Services, Inc., Herb Clark, the Connecticut State Police and the US Coast Guard.

Viewers may also recognize Malabar II, Compass Rose, and Ilona all sail boats that play roles as “Rum Row,” the large schooners who brought illegal liquor from Canada and the Bahamas to off-Long Island and anchored three-miles out awaiting the arrival of the fast rum-runners.

Bill McCoy was a very successful and charismatic bootlegger who transported illegal whisky in his fleet of large schooners and reportedly created Rum Row. The book jacket of The Real McCoy, the book from which the film derived, says “For nearly four years he slaked the thirst of the nation while leading authorities on a merry chase. He…built a bootlegging empire that made millions of dollars. In all his dealings McCoy remained personable and trustworthy and true to his standard that the liquor he carried was the best…the real McCoy.”