The riding officer usually experienced an isolated life. He was responsible for collecting intelligence regarding illicit trading and information concerning smuggling. The profession was usually best suited to a man who was recognised as untouchable, for instance coming from the military classes or well-connected to the professional classes and gentry.

Of course, some of the riding officers were working with local networks of smugglers. Other officers made reputations for themselves that local people respected and newspapers wrote about.

But whatever protection the riding officer might find, there were serious threats and physical attacks that could result in death. John Bursey is an example:

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