Reply To: Brighouse Bay – Hac Noose

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John Shields

From Alan James – 28 March 2020

I’m sure there are, and the history and archaeology of fish-traps along our Galloway coast seems no to have been studies by anyone in much detail, though plenty of sources acknowledge their existence, and importance.

One very interesting recent article about fish-traps on Lough Swilly Co. Donegal includes this observation in the Conclusion, 136-7: The seventeenth century saw significant changes in the political and social culture of Ireland, and the shores of the Swilly were transformed from a Gaelic-dominated landscape to one shaped by settlers predominantly from south-western Scotland, with the Stewart and Cunningham families, from Ayrshire and Galloway respectively, particularly significant.The small communities of their countrymen that followed stood in contrast to the natives in the landscape to the extent of physical separation; as seen from the placenames Scots Aughnish and Irish Aughnish (PRONI D2358/5/1). The Scots arriving in Ulster were familiar with fish traps as a component of their maritime economy — with examples in stone on exposed coasts predominant in Ayrshire and Galloway.

The classic discussion of fish-traps in Scotland, still regularly cited, seems to be: Bathgate, Thomas D. (1949) ‘Ancient fish-traps or yairs in Scotland’. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 83, 98-102 – it’s a charmingly-written account, full of interesting detail.  I attach the pdf. More detail on traps he mentions on Loch Broom and the inner Moray Firth can be found at:

Looking at the maps and photos in those various sources makes me think that ‘hook’ projecting from near the quay at Rockvale could well be a relic of a trap, though probably not a very ancient one – late medieval – early modern. But if ‘Hac Noose’ is < OE haca ‘hook’, I’d still think it referred to the rocks below the field; if it was *hæcc in the sense of a fish-trap, it is very likely that there were traps in this corner of the bay from prehistoric times – while the topography has changed over the centuries, it’s just the kind of spot where the natural rock formations and flow of the water round the bay would have made an ideal location for them.

I’m going to forward this conversation to David Devereux, I think he might find it interesting, and may know of studies that have been done of fish-traps around our coastline.

Sorry to hear of your son’s experience with The Virus, it does sound very nasty, one feels there is a certain English stoical restraint prevailing at the moment, just keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. What our leaders will learn from first-hand experience will shortly become apparent!

Take care