One of the most extraordinary and fearsome figures in Cornish folklore and legend was Cruel Coppinger. He is thought to have been a real person who attained extreme notoriety through his brutal, criminal behaviour and leadership of a ruthless band of smugglers and pirates, becoming a legend in his own lifetime.
According to Cornish legend, Coppinger was the victim of a shipwreck when a massive storm wrecked his ship off the Cornish coast. As was the practice the local people gathered at the shore to see what they could claim when the storm died down. They watched the doomed vessel sinking and the lightning flashes revealed the dark figure of a huge man leaping from the ship and striding through the wild waves to the shore. On reaching the shore, he roughly shoved an old woman to the ground and stole her cloak. He then leapt on the back of a horse a young woman had ridden down to the shore. With her still sat on the horse and him behind her shouting furiously in some unknown language, the terrified steed fled and made its way back to its home with them both on its back.